It’s common knowledge that the Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who has been met with a mixed reaction. Portions of the fandom love it and feel it was the direction the show needed to go in following the 50th anniversary, whereas others feel it was too vastly different from what had come before with Tennant and Smith that they were instantly put off. Then there are the unfortunate people stuck in the middle who can see the potential his era has but often feel that the writing doesn’t match his calibre of acting. I sometimes fall in the middle. This article is going to be a defense of certain aspects his era i.e. characters, and I will address some of the criticism which have been aimed towards his time in the TARDIS and hopefully get people to see it from a different angle, and perhaps make people think of giving it another chance.
Okay, so to start off I will address some flaws with his era, there are bursts of brilliance and the ideas are all there but oftentimes the execution of these ideas don’t go all the way. Now, I am one person who does love his era, unlike Smith’s time, there hasn’t been any episode I’ve totally hated. In fact, series 8 and 9 were the most excited I was in YEARS to watch Doctor Who.
I will also say there is a noticeable difference between the consistency of series 8 and 9. The eighth series flowed very well from beginning to end and the development of Capaldi’s character and Clara could be seen throughout. These developments were furthered in series 9, however, there is no denying that season was tonally inconsistent with one story to the next feeling like the characterisation of the Doctor was different. Clara felt like the only consistent in nine, at least to me. However, I found series 9 to actually be incredibly exciting to watch week to week, these flaws only come out on binge viewing.
Certain other criticisms aimed towards series 9 were an underwhelming story arc, and a general sense of hate from a portion of the fandom to the finale. I, for one, do not hate Hell Bent and I genuinely don’t know why so many people like to bitch and moan about it as often as they do and measure the entirety of series 9 based on that episode. The three constant criticisms I always hear about the era in general are these: the characterisations of Twelve, Clara and Missy. Those three things seem to cause a lot of complaints, and that’s where I’m to base my defense. Let me point out again, the execution of these things may not be the best, but when putting some thought into it and looking at the context of what has happened before maybe you can look at these three in a different light. Let’s go!
The Twelfth Doctor
A major complaint for Twelve is how much he changes from series 8 to series 9. Some people prefer the rebel Time Lord while others enjoyed the softened rocker version of the Time Lord a bit more. But we need to ask ourselves why did the change happen? I believe it was done as a way to draw back in those who felt isolated during his first run of episodes, but is this actually a natural progression for the character? I would say yes. When you look at The Time of the Doctor, Eleven knew that his life was going to end. This is where you can argue about the execusion not being the best, because having such a large span of time crammed into 60 minutes means people are generally not going to take this into account. He was in his final regeneration and he had spent hundreds of years on Trenzalore knowing and accepting that he was going to die. And you can see that towards the end of the episode when he climbs the clock tower, he is ready to go… and then he gets a new regeneration cycle. His entire “Am I a good man” character arc is a way of showing that the Doctor is extremely going through an existential crisis. He believed he was going to die, and he prepared for the moment and suddenly he didn’t and he no longer knew who he was, or how to be the Doctor. That was his journey in series 8, remembering how to be the Doctor and to take joy in the wonders of the universe again after hundreds of years of fighting. You can see he continues this fight throughout series 8 with several of his actions, he doesn’t know what to care for anymore and is constantly at odds with someone or something. In Death in Heaven, he finally realises he doesn’t have to be someone else or greater now he has a new lease of life, he just needs to be the Doctor, an idiot with a box.
Throughout series 8, it’s clear that he does soften as it goes along but he is still reserved from everything. In series 9, he truly starts living again. He starts to take joy in the small things like riding a sleigh, or playing the guitar, but he still has the social awkwardness which requires him to have cue cards to help him in tricky situations. The Doctor has lightened because he knows it’s okay now that he didn’t die on Trenzalore. He can finally enjoy seeing new things in the universe and enjoy his life again. The way his character changed felt like an incredibly natural progression to me, and yes throughout series 9, his “lightness” did vary from story to story, but we still got sparks of that darker, more edgy Doctor seen in series 8.
In series 7 people thought she was bland. In series 8, she was annoying. In series 9, she was over powered. It’s safe to say that she was inconsistent throughout her three seasons and maybe people believe Clara was altered to fit the direction the story was going in. The moment this change was really noticed was actually in Deep Breath when the Doctor called Clara a control freak and she had a little hissy fit. Now this felt completely out of nowhere for us, as the once sweet natured Clara had never shown these tendencies… but she actually had. Again this goes back to both the execution of the idea, but also just taking notice of some subtleties to the writing. In series 7, Clara wanted to keep a balance between her home life and TARDIS life, she specifically decided when they would travel together with the Doctor returning her home after every adventure. She was in full control of their travels, and took joy because Eleven was all but willing to go along with this.
Then comes series 8, Clara’s world is turned upside down because she is now faced with a Doctor who no longer knows who he is. She tries to maintain the balance in her life, but throughout the first half of the season he continually pushes her, ultimately reaching it’s breaking point in Kill the Moon when he decides to ditch Clara, an astronaut and a young girl on the moon when it is about to explode. This is when she decides to leave, because she no longer has the control she once enjoyed with Eleven. But then she realises she’s actually become addicted to this life, and then she starts her journey to become more like the Doctor.
To be honest, you could say the beginning of this journey is Deep Breath, having been ditched by Twelve and surrounded by Clockwork Robots, Clara cowers in fear and cries when threatened and alone. From there, like I said, she’s continually pushed, and she knows she needs to change and harden herself, perhaps even think like the Doctor would. She finally gets to put this to the test in Flatline, and it can even be seen a bit during In the Forest of the Night. The moment the change can really be noticed is in Death in Heaven, facing down the Cybermen, this is no longer the same girl who cried when faced by the Half-Faced Man. Following the death of Danny, Clara no longer has anything tying her to her Earth life and goes head first into more exciting yet dangerous adventures with the Doctor taking more and more risks that she think he would take (in The Magician’s Apprentice, Before the Flood, The Girl Who Died) and this takes it’s toll in Face the Raven, which ultimately gets her killed. The once sweet yet subtly controlling girl from series 7 had to change because the Doctor was no longer acting like himself and losing the one grasp she had at normality forced her to become reckless and ultimately ended her life.
Yes you could argue that she was over powered and there was too much fuss made about her on the show, but you can’t deny there is actually a clear set journey for the character from series 7 to 9.
Okay, the change in gender aside, a large complaint with Missy is people just don’t think she acts like the Master. Now a lot of these complaints have to do simply with the fact that she is a woman, but I am going to address more how she is written and look at what has come before her.
Yes… she is flirty. To the absolute extreme! That is all on Moffat for making her that way, but don’t forget the way the lines are delivered are also down to Michelle Gomez, her lines don’t have to be said in a flirtatious way. It’s as much on the performer as it is on the writer. That’s all I’m saying on the matter.
Let’s go back to her not feeling like the Master. I think the direction the character has gone in makes perfect sense, even though again it’s not been entirely executed the best. Cast your minds back to The End of Time, the Doctor is caught in the middle of Rassilon and the Master. He even considers killing the Master because his mind is the link to the Time Lords. But the Doctor chooses to spare the person who was once his best friend and break the link to the Gate instead. The Master, having realised the Time Lords were the source of his trauma all his life then decides to do the right thing and face the Time Lords, saving the Doctor.
So now we have Missy, assuming she is the immediate next incarnation of the Master. She appears in series 8 with this dastardly plan of creating an army of Cybermen from the dead to present to the Doctor. She is still evil and will kill anyone in an instant, as she also displays in The Magician’s Apprentice, but in some weird, twisted way, she genuinely believes that she is doing something nice for her best friend. This is the odd attempt at a redemption arc for the character. Having done so much bad in series 3 and The End of Time, this is Missy trying to return the favour after the Doctor spared her. She thinks this will be the perfect thing to get her best friend back. Then in series 9, this character progression is continued. She joins Clara in the search for the Doctor, thinking she is doing the right thing for her friendship with the Doctor. She saves the Doctor, because to her, after The End of Time and receiving his confession dial, she believes they are back together as friends. But again, she is twisted and believes she can kill Clara and it won’t matter. We’ve now left Missy in an interesting place. Surrounded by Daleks and left for dead by Twelve, I think we will see her return to her truly evil ways. We know she returns in series 10, and I believe she will be out to kill Twelve this time around. Her attempt at a redemption is over now and her main goal will be revenge. Also… the less said about those two kisses they shared, the better.
What do you all think of the points I’ve made in this defense? Have I made you see things from a different perspective or do you have a counter argument for my points? I’d love to hear what every thinks.
Down below find a video from WhoTuber CrispyPro where he also defends Capaldi. Thanks so much everyone for reading this. Love you long time!