It’s no secret that Doctor Who has taken a very different approach this series with the casting of Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor. Gone is the youthful face of a revitalised TV show, replaced by a more measured and seemingly more serious Doctor. But is that all there is to him?
In the first episode of the new series, we’re reminded that “it’s still him. It’s still the Doctor.” But with a tendency to take on many different forms, what kind of Doctor is Peter Capaldi? He’s already been described as 100 per cent rebel Time Lord by show runner Steven Moffat, but I can’t help thinking there’s more to him than meets the eye…
One of the most shocking aspects of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor can be summed up rather neatly – he has no idea who he is. We’re already used to the Doctor being a bit of an enigma. After all, he’s had thirteen lives and hidden countless dark secrets from both the fans and his trusty companions. But while we’re used to being kept in the dark, there’s always the sense that the Doctor himself knows what he’s all about.
“Tell me,” he says to Clara aboard the TARDIS. “Am I a good man?”
And the look on her face says it all. “I don’t know,” she eventually answers. But the fact that the Doctor himself has no idea is the most unsettling. For this reason, Peter Capaldi is without a doubt the most enigmatic Doctor we’ve seen to date. Not even he is sure what kind of man he is… and after the rather brilliant identity crisis in Deep Breath I’m not sure he’s much closer to finding out.
The Many Faces of the Doctor
At the very start of the new series, both Clara and the audience are faced with a dilemma. Who is the new Doctor and do we even like him? Although the episode itself is a bit hit and miss, the notion of image is very important… but it’s not as superficial as it might seem. On the face of it, you could mistake Clara for being a bit superficial. After all, she clearly has no idea how to respond to the ageing Doctor after so clearly falling for his previous incarnation.
But that’s just the half of it.
Clara’s reaction to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor manages to address the concerns of the audience rather neatly. Isn’t Capaldi too old to be the Doctor? How do we react to this huge change in dynamic? And more importantly, how does the Doctor react? It’s clear that even the Doctor isn’t sure what to make of himself. “Why this one?” he asks. “Why did I choose this face? It’s like I’m trying to tell myself something. Like I’m trying to make a point.”
Does this mean a more serious Doctor to suit those impressive eyebrows?
Finding the balance…
Although the Doctor’s immediate identity crisis is somewhat solved by the end of the episode, we’re left with the feeling that he’s still yet to truly find himself… and perhaps that’s the point. This is a new Doctor taking the entire show in a potentially new direction. And with the Doctor’s own existential crisis, we’re reminded that Peter Capaldi himself is allowed some time to settle into the role.
That said, we’re already starting to see some familiar themes. For example, Robot of Sherwood is a much lighter episode than the previous two and opens the Doctor up to a spot of jealousy. The way he interacts with Robin Hood is positively childish… and this young, youthful energy is certainly reminiscent of the previous Doctors.
Of course, this time around the Doctor is a lot more controlled and seemingly more methodical… even if he doesn’t let anyone else know what’s going on in his head. But will Capaldi be able to find the right balance between the ‘angry eyebrows’ and the ‘wibbly wobbly timey-wimey’ stuff?
For now, we’re still exploring exactly who the Doctor is… and just four episodes in, we’re still not entirely sure. There are definitely remnants of his former lives in there somewhere, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that things are very different this time around. Although Capaldi’s Doctor might just retch at the phrase ‘timey-wimey’, the controlled chaos is still very much a part of him.
Perhaps we just need a little more time to figure out who the Doctor really is… and for him to work it out too. But isn’t that half the fun?