This Saturday Doctor Who returns for Series 8 (or Season 34, if you like) and with it we get a new Doctor. I think it's safe to say that the revived series has never had anything like the excitement that is surrounding the debut of Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor. When Christopher Eccleston debuted, no one knew what the new show would bring, then he left so abruptly no one could really prepare for David Tennant. Then, when Tennant announced he was leaving, the huge sea of fans he'd brought into the TARDIS screamed bloody murder.
Matt Smith alone is the modern Doctor about whom people seemed to understand and accept that it was time for him to move on. Not that he was hated or disliked by anyone other than the last of the rabid Tennant fans and the odd classic series holdout that disliked him for his romance and youth. It's just, well, he said it best himself: "Times change, and so must I."
Ever since we all spent Christmas in tears over the loss of Smith, every Whovian has been eager to get as many glimpses as we could of Capaldi's Doctor, and with just days until the premiere, it's clear that he already embodies the best of all that has come before. He's got...
William Hartnell's Résumé As one of the oldest men to be cast in the role, Peter Capaldi has an acting résumé to go with it. He's arguably the most famous actor to take on the role at this point in his career. Like the man who first played The Doctor, Capaldi comes from roles that you wouldn't expect the largely benevolent man from Gallifrey to embody. Where Hartnell had a legion of soldiers, cops, thugs and other heavies on his résumé, Capaldi has Malcolm Tucker. In both cases, it allows us to see The Doctor as an older, powerful figure, but also leaves room for wonderful surprises when we see him as the hero.
Patrick Troughton's Loyalty When most people talk of the Second Doctor, they tend to focus on his cunning mind that was often hidden underneath his clownish appearance. To my mind, though, his defining trait was his loyalty to his friends. No Doctor kept a single companion around for longer than he did, and in the brief glimpses we've seen in the trailer, it's clear that he has no intention of not having Clara by his side. He says they're going into darkness, and apparently he doesn't feel he can go without her help.
Jon Pertwee's Swagger The Doctor's style ranges from unobtrusive to boorish, but the Third Doctor was a man who never let an opportunity to show off his dashing flair go lightly by. While Capaldi's official outfit lacks the frills and cape of the third incarnation, it's definitely all class. He can walk into any room in the universe and people are going to know he's the man in charge.
Tom Baker's Wanderlust In a recent special hosted by Peter Davison, Steven Moffat talked about the difference between Clara's relationship with the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors. With Smith, she was a part-time traveler much like Sarah Jane Smith was for the third. However, that is all changing now. As Baker's Doctor did at the first opportunity, Moffat says, Capaldi is running off and not looking back. These are not going to be quick jaunts with bathroom breaks in modern London.
Peter Davison's Skill In addition to having a bigger résumé than most of the other actors who have taken on the role, Capaldi is arguably the best technical actor to so do. He's certainly the only one with an Academy Award to his name. When Davison came into the role, the show got a dynamic thespian who was in the best years of his career. Capaldi is in the same boat, and even though he's got big shoes to fill after the emotional roller coaster of 2013, I'm willing to bet his abilities will see him through.
Colin Baker's Disdain for Authority The often-overlooked thing about the Sixth Doctor was his amazing counterculture attitude. He never let anyone tell him what to do, and he had absolutely zero patience even with the High Council of Gallifrey. We see that same disdain for authority from Capaldi in the short clips from "Into the Dalek" that have been released. I don't imagine there will be a lot of hands in the air pleading to the folks with guns that dominated the last two Doctors.
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Sylvester McCoy's Ruminations Pronounce that with an awesome rolling R-sound as the Seventh Doctor would. McCoy was the Slytherin of the Time Lords, always keen to consider the depths of evil while staying just on the other side of it himself. In those same "Into the Dalek" clips, Capaldi clearly has those same moments, and uses them to the best of his advantage.
Paul McGann's Courage If all you know of the Eighth Doctor is the 1996 movie, you might have missed this trait, but McGann's incarnation in the Big Finish audio adventures is an absolutely fearless man who exiles himself to a universe without time regardless of the terrible consequences that may happen to him. The Twelfth Doctor is definitely headed someplace just as bad in his quest for the lost Gallifrey, but he's facing it dead-on in a way that even most of the other Doctors could. When he says they're going into darkness, all I can think of is McGann at the end of "Zagreus."
John Hurt's Menace Those countdown trailers they've been doing? They are slightly terrifying. Capaldi's Doctor doesn't look like a hero. He looks like doom incarnate. It's the same way that John Hurt made an entire fandom tremble with one line and brief shot of his face in "The Name of The Doctor." There's just something about both men that speaks of inescapable fate.
Christopher Eccleston's Pain When we met the Ninth Doctor, he was a battle-scarred, PTSD-ridden madman rife with survivor's guilt who felt all alone in the universe. His journey past that pain remains one of the things that made people fall back in love with Doctor Who. Now we have Capaldi, fresh into a whole new regeneration cycle and once again the only Time Lord in the known universe asking Clara if he is a good man. He doesn't know, just as Nine no longer knew who he really was anymore. It's a good flaw for such a powerful entity to have.
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David Tennant's Sense of Adventure The Tenth Doctor started off his life sword-fighting aliens in borrowed pajamas. According to the trailer, Capaldi apparently starts his riding a horse into battle in a dressing gown. That's the sort of wild glee you get from Doctors who have grown up as huge fans of the show. Perhaps the best thing about Capaldi is that like Tennant, he is just so happy to be there.
Matt Smith's Kindness to Children No Doctor since Tom Baker has resonated with children like Matt Smith did. You can spend all day on YouTube watching him interact with children at conventions and never have an unhappy thought before bed. He just got what it was like to have tiny humans love him so. I worried about that when Capaldi was cast. He's older and harder and stranger, but then I saw this footage of him comforting a little autistic girl dressed as a Dalek who was sad Smith was gone. That clip alone shows the reason, among all the others, that Capaldi will be fantastic. See you Saturday.