Finally, after eight excruciating months of waiting, the time has finally come. In a few minutes the world will meet the twelfth (thirteenth? (fourteenth??)) Doctor, this time played by Peter Capaldi.
It’s amazing how the Doctor managed to infiltrate our lives since the show was revived almost a decade ago. He is fast becoming an almost mythical character. Possibly it’s the novelty of a character that constantly changes his face while remaining the same person, the paragon of re-invention. Perhaps it’s the way Doctor Who exploits that most remarkable ability of Science Fiction to use the fantastical to show us our everyday selves in a new light. Maybe it’s just that it’s so incredibly fun, taking geekdom mainstream like Star Trek and Middle Earth has never been able to do.
Whatever it is, people love the Doctor, become fanatical over the various incarnations of the Doctor, and go into something akin to mourning when their Doctor has to regenerate.
I never connected that strongly with Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor, though the wife was heartbroken when he left. Tennant’s departure, on the other hand, hit us both hard. I still tear up during re-watches when he says, “I don’t want to go”. (Including that line in the anniversary special last year was just plain cruel of Moffatt!)
What didn’t help in those two cases was that we were completely unprepared for it. The wife and I only started watching Doctor Who a couple of years ago, so we pretty much watched the seasons up to that point back-to-back. Both regenerations came on us suddenly, unexpectedly, and made the blow that much worse.
The positive was that in both cases we had the pleasure of encountering a new Doctor without any preconceptions. Tennant’s Doctor made it clear that he meant business right from the start, stopping an alien invasion, toppling a government and regrowing a hand all in one episode. And he didn’t disappoint. It has been mentioned numerous times that his was the most human Doctor to date. He felt the same things we feel and felt them orders of magnitude more intensely, so much so that he needed others, above all, to tell him to stop. His departure, while tough on fans, was necessary. That Doctor’s time had come.
And then came Eleven. I still consider that first episode of Matt Smith’s my favourite. In part this is due, I think, to Amy Pond’s police uniform (I am a bloke, after all), but more because that episode set the bar even higher than Tenth’s first episode did. That scene where the Doctor called back the Atraxi and told them to check if Earth is protected. The faces of all the past Doctors flashing across the screen. That incredible incidental music. All of that combined to tell us that this Doctor is going even bigger.
And again he didn’t disappoint. He was definitely the funnest of the three Doctors, that Mad Man with a Box. But this Doctor also became the Lonely God, who erased himself from history so he could change it again and again. Fans at times questioned where Steven Moffatt was going with the show, but the last three episodes of last year, the Name, Day, and Time of the Doctor showed us that Moffatt was working with a plan after all. He was telling a story that began with a crack in the wall of a little girl’s room and ended with that same crack in the sky over Trenzalore, where the Doctor was supposed to die but was reborn instead.
Matt Smith’s portrayal made this Doctor. I still wonder how someone so young was able to show us a Doctor who was so incredibly old. His departure was less traumatic because, watching most of his incarnation in real time, we had time to prepare for his exit. But we will miss Amy’s Raggedy Man with his bow tie and his fez.
And now we have a new one.
I’ve been trying my best to avoid mentions of Capaldi’s Doctor in the media. I didn’t watch the previews when they were released and I didn’t read the articles that were published online. I want my experience of this Doctor to be as fresh and free of preconceptions as with the previous Doctors.
I’m not up to an eight-month social media blackout, so I have seen the mentions that this Doctor is going to be darker than his predecessors and that there will be no flirting between him and Clara (thank goodness for that – can anyone say Nabokov?), but considering the way the story appears to be heading that’s to be expected.
If I may speculate a little, seeing where we ended the previous chapter this Doctor is going to be the first (of the revived series at least) that won’t be flying the TARDIS randomly through time and space. This Doctor has a mission. It actually already started in The End of Time when the first attempt was made to bring back Gallifrey. This Doctor finally knows the truth, that Gallifrey falls no more, but is out there waiting to be found, waiting to return.
Oh, there will still be hijinksery aplenty throughout time and space, I’m sure. But now that the mystery of the crack in time has been solved there’s work to be done.
I could also be completely of the mark.
Nonetheless, I’m excited about meeting the new Doctor. We already saw him, briefly, coming to terms with his new kidneys in The Time of the Doctor. But like I’ll always remember Ten figuring out he is lucky, or Eleven saying “Run!” to a floating eye that mere moments ago was going to destroy the Earth, of Twelve I’ll always remember that momentary flash of his eyes when thirteen Doctors got together to save a planet.
Unless tonight’s episode offers something even better.
My sonic has fresh batteries (even if it’s about to become outdated). I’d say “Allons-y.” I’d say “Geronimo!” But those Doctors have gone. It’s time for something new. Hold on tight!
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