Monday, August 5, 2013

Time for Twelve Part Deux: Presenting the Next Doctor

Yesterday, with much fanfare, the BBC announced on a globally simulcast live TV special that 55-year-old Scottish actor Peter Capaldi with be the Twelfth Doctor. Capaldi will take over the role from Matt Smith during this December’s Christmas special. Capaldi is by no means a stranger to the Whoinverse. He played Roman dad Caecilius in the fourth series episode “The Fires of Pompeii.” He was also coldly calculating bureaucrat John Frobisher on “Torchwood: Children of Earth.” Capaldi is most known, however, for playing foul-mouthed political fixer Malcolm Tucker on “The Thick of It” and its spinoff movie “In the Loop.” Neither of us have seen either of these, but it’s starting to seem like it might be a good idea, because Capaldi’s performance as Tucker seems pretty epic. Capaldi is also old friends with late-night host Craig Ferguson, as they played in the same punk band as teenagers in Glasgow. We can’t wait to see what hijinks ensue when Capaldi makes the American late-night show rounds to promote the new series, as Ferguson is also a massive “Doctor Who” fan.

Here at MTVP, we are decidedly cautiously optimistic about this casting choice. Capaldi is a respected, talented actor, and we have no doubt that he’ll bring as much to the role as he’s able. Just his performance in “The Fires of Pompeii” alone shows his talent at both comedy and drama. Capaldi is pretty much a life-long “Doctor Who” fan, which only bodes good things for his tenure. Capaldi brings gravitas and a little darkness to the role while still possessing the ability to make the most of the lighter moments, too. The BBC posted a video of Capaldi introducing himself to the fandom, and it suggests great things ahead. The only thing that stands in Capaldi’s way is the general writing quality of the show right now, which is arguably not up to par. The mischievous grin at the end of the video embedded below shows a spark that hasn’t really been present for much of the Moffat-era of “Doctor Who.”

One of the great things we’ve enjoyed about the modern era of Doctor Who is that with each new Doctor or Companion comes a new relationship, whether it be platonic or more romantic. We are not ashamed to say we are Ten fans, but Nine and Eleven have each had their fair share of interesting relationships with the (mostly) women taking up residence in the TARDIS. With Nine, we saw the wonder-filled time traveler, who while easily the smartest man in the room, just had this child-like quality about him that drew you (and Rose in). We like to think that Nine just enjoyed Rose’s company as a true companion, a friend. And it appeared that Rose was the one who first developed any sort of non-platonic feelings for the Doctor.

By the time Nine regenerated into Ten, we started to see him form a deeper connection with Rose, so much so that he actually cries when he loses her in the parallel world. We don’t think he intended to fall for her, but she brought out the good in him and he needed that. But a part of him no doubt felt like losing Rose was a just punishment for the atrocities he committed to end the Time War. And thus, he spent the next two series struggling to come to grips with losing her and trying to get her back. There’s not that much to say about Ten’s relationship with Martha as she was the typical rebound relationship. Unrequited attraction from the Earth girl as the Time Lord sought out the one he’d lost. Though, to be fair, Martha was the only one who really had any outside ambition beyond traveling with the Doctor. Perhaps the most interesting platonic relationships was Donna. We both agree that she was extremely unlikable in “The Runaway Bride,” but she was a joy in series four, and it was the first you really saw in the modern era both the Doctor and the Companion really needing the other to find their self-worth and to keep each other in line. It was a shame the way they ended her character arc.

Of course with Eleven, he latches on to Amy and Rory early on and it would appear, he loses some of that mopey quality over Rose. He’s got pals he can go on exciting adventures with and just have fun. However, it appears he had a more mature relationship with River than any other companion in the modern era. Probably because Alex Kingston is so much older than Matt Smith, but River brought a sort of mature quality that clearly said “suck it up and move on, sweetie”. And he did. We are skeptical as to whether being with Amy and Rory alone would have been enough to make him act his age a bit more.

With Twelve, we are hopeful that the slightly flirty relationship Eleven and Clara established will morph into something more paternal, rather than continue on the road to romance. Because let’s be honest, it would just be creepy if Twelve was still flirting with Clara, who is so very young by comparison. Although, it will be a challenge to make the transition of the relationship believable. You never really saw that big of a jump with the previous regenerations. But as we said earlier, we are cautiously optimistic that (barring Stephen Moffat mucking it all up as he bows out) Twelve will bring a new gravitas and depth to the iconic Time Lord and his companion.

As intelligent (or at least we like to think so, considering the multiple advanced degrees we possess between the two of us) female fans of “Doctor Who” and geek culture in general, some of the fan reaction to Capaldi’s casting has been genuinely disquieting and disappointing. A number of the commentariat have said things along the lines of “Yay, since they cast an older guy, those annoying Tumblr fangirls will quit, and we won’t have to listen to them anymore or be bothered by their cooties.” Geek culture is supposed to be a place where everyone is welcome. To loosely paraphrase Wil Wheaton, it’s a place where we come together to unabashedly love what we want to love in the way we want to love it. To suggest that female fans are only in it for the attractiveness of the Doctor and are that fickle goes against everything geek culture is supposed to stand for, and people who have made such comments should just plain grow up. While there may be some fans who abandon the TARDIS as Peter Capaldi takes the helm, we will be staying right where we are, waiting to see where this crazy ride takes us next. We are excited to see the way the relationships grow and change and how he handles the serious and the funny.

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