Saturday, 25 November 2017

Without Hope, Without Witness, Without Reward: A Retrospect of the Twelfth Doctor’s Tenure

by Nicholas Lemieux

Part 1

Christmas Day 2017 marks a major staple point for Doctor Who fans worldwide. The airing of “Twice Upon a Time”, the show’s thirteenth annual Christmas special, marks itself as being not only the final episode of long-running show runner Steven Moffat but also the final outing for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor before turning the reins over to Jodie Whittaker next year. After three seasons and 40 episodes overall, Capaldi announced in January this year that he would be leaving the show following the conclusion of the tenth season at Christmas, to make way for Chris Chibnall of Broadchurch fame to take over as the new show runner in 2018. Having been an avid fan and watcher of the show since 2014, Capaldi was essentially my first proper Doctor and introduction to the show.  Thus, it will definitely be sad to watch him regenerate at Christmas. As a result, this article will take a look back at the Twelfth Doctor’s tenure and his various stories, as well as a slight examination over his character.

Peter Capaldi was first announced as the Twelfth Doctor in August 2013 in a special live show subtitled The Next Doctor. Intriguingly, prior to starring as the Twelfth Doctor, Capaldi had already appeared in Doctor Who before, as Caecillius in the Tenth Doctor episode The Fires of Pompeii, a role addressed in a major plot point over the next two series when the Twelfth Doctor himself tries to find out why he chose this exact face. Capaldi was 55 when he took the role of the Doctor, the exact same age as William Hartnell, the First Doctor, when he first started the show. Following off of the heels of David Tennant and Matt Smith’s youthful and chirpy performances, Steven Moffat intended to have Capaldi act as a throwback to the classic series, being a darker and more serious incarnation of the Doctor, struggling with his own morals, not dissimilar to how the First Doctor started out, an easily irritated professor. After a brief cameo appearance in the climax of the show’s 50th Anniversary Special, via his chilling eyebrows, the Twelfth Doctor made his formal debut on Christmas Day 2013, following the Eleventh Doctor’s regeneration and instantly made an impression by ranting about the colour of his kidneys and the fact that he had no idea how to fly the TARDIS.

For Series 8, the Twelfth Doctor was accompanied by already-established companion Clara Oswald, now working as a schoolteacher, whom at the start of the series is struggling with the Doctor’s new appearance and more callous personality. As Madame Vastra suggests in his opening episode Deep Breath, the Doctor’s more elderly face perhaps truly reflects his true appearance:  A caustic, tired old man who is no longer hiding behind young, attractive faces, still trying his best to protect the universe .A recurring theme of Series 8 focuses upon the Doctor facing his own morality and attempting to work out whether he is a good man. Unlike the more younger manic Doctors before him, 12, at the start at least, before going through some development, was a much more callous and reserved Doctor, as shown by his chilling confrontation with the villainous Half-Faced Man in his opening episode Deep Breath, seemingly throwing him to his death at the climax, his more notable nonchalance to loss of human life around him, which most  of the time he regards as a lost cause, and most notably his immense dislike of soldiers, due to what he perceives as them being irrational, trigger-happy lunatics who always decide violence and conflict is the right answer. This of course results in some major conflict after he meets Clara’s boyfriend Danny Pink, a former soldier in the military. Clara herself continually struggles with the Doctor’s increased hostility to the point that she almost ends up leaving the Doctor after a particularly traumatising incident involving the Moon, when he abandoned her to make an extremely crucial choice for humanity. 

Into the Dalek in particular plays with this theme, in which after the Doctor investigates a case of a seemingly good Dalek nicknamed Rusty, he eventually discovers that it is simply a mechanical programming error and soon enough, after fixing it up, Rusty returns to acting like a normal hateful Dalek. When the Doctor tries to return Rusty back to how he was by letting him peer inside of his soul, Rusty, after initially noting the Doctor’s divinity and beauty for life, instead becomes inspired by the Doctor’s immense hate against the Daleks as a whole, to the point where he declares war against his own people. The end of the episode shows Rusty informing the Doctor that he would make a good Dalek.

The Series 8 two-part finale Dark Water/Death in Heaven brought everything full circle when the Twelfth Doctor faced off against his old enemy the Master, now regenerated into a woman and going by the name Missy, and her mass army of Cybermen. In the climax of the finale, Missy’s true plan is revealed to have been to hand over this grand army to the Doctor so that he can use it as a conquering force to save the universe from tyranny such as those of the Daleks, just as he had always wanted. As Missy herself puts it “Give a good man firepower and he’ll never run out of people to kill”. If the Doctor refuses, every human on Earth will be converted. All of this is for Missy to prove a point to the Doctor that they are not so different. Ultimately however, the Twelfth Doctor comes to a conclusion regarding his morality. In a stirring speech performed exceptionally by Capaldi, the Doctor admits he is neither a good nor a bad man but merely “An idiot, with a box and screwdriver, just passing through, helping out and learning”.  Handing control of the army to Danny, who was recently converted into a Cyberman but was able to overcome his programming due to his love for Clara, all of the Cybermen fly up to the sky and self-destruct, destroying Missy’s cyberpollen clouds, whilst Missy herself is (seemingly) vaporised by the Doctor’s old, loyal friend the Brigadier, also converted into a Cyberman, whom the Doctor sends off by giving him the salute he always wanted.
Overall however, the series ends on a bittersweet note as the Doctor and Clara, traumatised by recent events, decide to part ways, with each lying to each other in order to spare one another their feelings: Clara claims that Danny came back to life and is back with her whilst the Doctor says that he has finally found his home planet Gallifrey at last and is now living with his people. The series ends bleakly, with the Doctor and Clara both alone and back to their boring old lives again. And just then, during the credits, the Doctor receives a surprise visitor in the TARDIS, who insists that everything going on between him and Clara is not right. Cue Santa Claus coming in and asking the Doctor want he wants for Christmas.

To be continued...

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