WARNING: This article contains almost no spoilers!
In the wake of BBC introducing a promising new Companion and the most recent face of the Doctor getting only one more season to play out his amusing blend of mid-life crisis and cranky grandpa (with a healthy dash of teenage angst), I’d like to talk to the Whovians out there about the plot hook that has made it possible for 13 men (15 if we’re looking outside the show canon) to play the role of our favourite TV Doc! (Sorry to all the McDreamies and Quinns and Browns out there).
Regeneration is a HUGE part of the Doctor Who shtick. Yet, so many fans don’t seem to be able to really reconcile the device with their expectations of the show. We’ve all done that thing where we watch an actor play a role and then he/she just forever becomes that character… I mean I defy you to ever watch NPH in anything and not think of him as Barney, the creator of ‘The Playbook’ and ‘The Bro Code’. Funnily enough, with the Doctor many of us tend to do the reverse. Having related to a Tennant or a Smith in the role we just can’t help thinking to ourselves as we watch Capaldi… “this isn’t the Doctor” or “this isn’t my Doctor”. That latter line has some pretty rooted significance if you’ve followed the show over the years (watch this clip to the end for a particularly moving evocation, though you may have to Google the back story a bit <http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2cunzc_doctor-who-time-crash_tv>). Well, you’re not going to like it, but I’m here to tell you how you’re doing yourself and the show an injustice by thinking like that…
And that long-winded, and often distracted opening brings us to the meat of this little article… Regeneration doesn’t just mean a new actor is taking on the character you’ve come to love and cherish… It means that its time for a new Doctor. This is a concept that I think newer fans struggle with even more than the old school Whovians or those who spent the time to chase down the old episodes and binge watch the first 8 incarnations. Maybe that’s because for near an entire decade we watched young, suave, funny, (kinda) bad boys run around in trainers with cute girls (who some of us may have had a massive crush on despite an at-time almost intolerably thick London accent). For a whole fresh generation of fans, THAT was the Doctor. So many were understandably put off by the new (old) guy. And that’s where they missed out on some of the most beautiful executions of true realistic story telling in the show (whether it was intentional or not).
What do I mean by that? Well while Capaldi might seem very uncharacteristic to the Tennant and Smith fans, there is so much of the past in him if you’re a true-blue Whovian. Capaldi’s Doctor often times summons up Patrick Troughton’s ‘space hobo’… or Tom Baker’s philosopher Doctor… or Christopher Eccleston’s leather clad bad boy… and certainly Colin Baker’s unapologetic, somewhat conceited, annoyingly confident Doctor. Whether these touches were intentional or not, whether they were directorial notes or performance choices, one cant help but reminisce about all the lovely and cruel moments through the long history of a science fiction classic. Perhaps the reason we never got an answer to “the eternal question” during Matt Smith’s grand season (featuring one of my favourite quotes of the show: “Demons run when a good man goes to war”) was that there is no answer to it. Doctor Who? We may never know.
Now I may just be seeing things that I want to see, but that is the advantage of looking at the past as you watch the future unfold. I don’t want to get too “time-wimey” here, but if you know everywhere the Doctor has been… it’s not so unfamiliar where he is going.
Now whether this article has inspired you to give Capaldi another shot, re-watch the old show to better appreciate the newer (re)generations, or just made you go “meh, this guy is full of it”… and this stands as true for Capaldi today as it has for every Doctor who has been or will be… at the end of the day (to paraphrase Colin Baker in S21E21 ‘The Twin Dilemma’) ‘He is the Doctor, whether you like it or not’.
And if you just can’t bring yourself to be on board with the Doctor with the sad eyes, well you might already know by now that you don’t have to suffer him much longer. As I mentioned before, after just a few seasons Peter Capaldi is already leaving the role after Season 10 of the 2005 series. So the cycle of regeneration will continue (for now).
But the Doctor’s not the only one with a possible regeneration in the near future. Stephen Moffat, long at the helm of the show, is stepping down. Now for some this may be a cause for celebration, as they blamed Moffat for shifting the “fundamental philosophy of the show” (See https://www.change.org/p/bbc-remove-steven-moffat-from-doctor-who). All I know is, the man was not infallible. But under his leadership the show has had some truly chillingly amazing moments, and he shall be missed. Not least because any turnover at the head has the potential to spell disaster for a long-running show. So remember those first 10-15 minutes with Capaldi where he went stumbling around in a daze, asking why everyone else was talking funny? Well, get ready for a potentially very interesting – potentially very confusing Season 11 in 2017/18. Chris Chipnall has some pretty big shoes to fill – not just in replacing Moffat, but also because in his insistence to cut Capaldi’s run short so he could pick his own Time Lord!
POLL: Who is your favourite Doctor?
(Oh come, we all knew it was coming!)