Hello Twelve, Goodbye Twelve
I lied. It didn’t take me a few days to come up with a longer post. I had this one mostly drafted already, and just finished it.
I will occasionally be sharing totally geeky posts about my favorite franchises on this blog. You have been warned. And while I’m warning people about stuff, please be advised that this post contains spoilers for the past two seasons of Doctor Who.
So, that being said…
THE TWELFTH DOCTOR IS REGENERATING. NOOOOOO. TWELVE, WE BARELY KNEW THEE.
*sniff* I’m fine. Really. Actually, I did try to brace myself for this news to some degree, as rumors have been flying about it for some time now. It’s been murmured that Capaldi (and his yet-to-be-introduced companion, Bill) were both going to be dropped from the program (sorry, programme) to clean house for a fresh start with a younger Doctor. Grrrr. Nerd rage.
I’m not on board with the idea that the Doctor has to be young; the stellar performances of Matt Smith and David Tennant notwithstanding. This is mainly because I’m a major fan of the Big Finish audio dramas, which show that you can still tell fun and engaging stories with the “older” Doctors of the classic era. However, if we’re talking about failings of the current Doctor Who era…well, I have to admit, it’s had its flaws. None of them are Peter Capaldi’s fault. He’s been phenomenal. But looking back, there are a few things that could have been done differently–and which I hope will be resolved in Capaldi’s final series.
1. The regeneration.
Irritating injections of sexual politics aside, “Deep Breath” was perhaps the best regeneration episode in the history of the revived series–if not the entire series. It handled the difficult transition from Smith to Capaldi with skill and sensitivity, gently reminding viewers who and what the Doctor actually is. He’s an alien, and he’s very, very old. He’s not always going to look like David Tennant or Matt Smith. Despite my misgivings about many of his storytelling decisions, I give Steven Moffat full marks for how he dealt with the Eleven/Twelve regeneration.
Full disclosure: Clara will be showing up in the “cons” list as well. In her best moments, however, she was awesome. Her dynamic with Twelve was delightful and refreshing, finally rising above the threadbare “will-they/won’t-they” romance teasing of previous Doctor/companion pairings. She challenged the Doctor without being irritatingly “sassy”…most of the time. And she delivered some of the best acting in the show’s history, especially in the last couple of seasons.
3. Twelve’s characterization…eventually.
It took some time for the Twelfth Doctor to come into his own. I’ll be addressing that later on. But once he did, he was amazing. I know everyone points to his famous “war speech” in last year’s Zygon two-parter as his finest moment. Not my personal favorite, as I don’t completely agree with the politics involved. I won’t deny it was a moment of brilliant acting. But barring something that surpasses it in Series 10, my favorite Twelfth-Doctor scene will always be this one.
4. Series 9…mostly.
I have some big issues with Series 9, even though I consider it to be the revived show’s best year so far. For the most part, however, it was amazing. Nearly all the stories were excellent, and some significant pitfalls from past seasons were finally averted.
1. The regeneration.
The upcoming one, I mean. I know we’ll get a full series before it happens, and I know three series is really the average limit for Doctors to stick around. But all the same, because of some rocky storytelling early on in the Twelfth Doctor’s era, it feels like he hasn’t gotten his due. Perhaps Series 10 will remedy this…though quite frankly, with the tiresome and redundant Nardole tagging along in seemingly every episode this year, my expectations are not particularly high. I hope we won’t always be looking back on Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Who years with regret over wasted potential.
Oh, Clara. Talk about wasted potential. The problems with this particular companion actually stretch back to the Eleventh Doctor era. First, we got fantastic performances from Jenna Coleman as two wonderful characters who each could have been phenomenal companions…followed by her official debut as a companion who was little more than a glorified MacGuffin. Then she underwent some improvement in Series 8, only to fall into the threadbare trope of companions treating their boyfriends like dirt. Then she finally turned fantastic in Series 9, but proceeded to become such a Mary Sue that the whole plot revolved around her when it really should have focused on more important things (*cough*Gallifrey*cough*). The worst part of it is, her exit in “Face the Raven” would have been utterly perfect were it not for her return in “Hell Bent.” Rose Tyler all over again.
Breathe, Kyle. Breathe. *restrains himself from launching into yet another rant about “Hell Bent”*
3. Twelve’s characterization…initially.
Given all the obvious risks involved in introducing a very different Doctor, it’s a shame Steven Moffat chose to give Twelve such bizarre, off-putting character traits in his debut series. Specifically, his outright rudeness to people who didn’t deserve it and his weird, never-explained anti-soldier bias were very problematic. It took me a long time to warm up to Twelve. I’m not sure I actually started to like him until “Last Christmas” (an under-rated gem, in my opinion). As a fan of even the less-popular classic Doctors, I’m perfectly okay with the Doctor having character flaws. But he’s the Doctor. There was no point in baiting people with that weak “Am I a good man?” character arc in Series 8. We all knew he’d end up proving himself to be the decent guy he’s always been. Big waste of time.
4. Series 9…partly.
I think most people would agree that the main arc of Series 8 was pretty pathetic. To this day, Missy’s plan still makes no sense to me. Plus, that year, we got yet another one of Moffat’s humongous retcons (“The Master invented the concept of the afterlife! The Silence were responsible for all human advancement! Now let’s never speak of these massive revelations again, or discuss any influence they might have on established canon!”). But to be honest, Series 9 wasn’t much better on this front. The “Hybrid” arc, overall, was a big fat disappointment. I’m all for ambiguous resolutions when they’re done properly, but this one wasn’t. An arc revolving around something as massive as the return of Gallifrey should have culminated in something much more satisfying than “Hell Bent.”
I just ranted again, didn’t I? Oops.
The most frustrating thing about Steven Moffat’s writing, in my opinion, is that he’s got a knack for creating fantastic characters and an unfortunate tendency to bog them down in convoluted plotting (River Song, anyone?). As a writer, he shoots himself in the foot time and time again. He’s better at writing one-offs (like “Blink”) than big, over-arching stories. That’s not to say I won’t miss him as a showrunner, but ultimately I think I’ll miss Peter Capaldi as the Doctor even more. I hope that Series 10 will avoid past mis-steps and prove to be a fitting send-off for this exceptional actor.
Your thoughts? Feel free to share below.