The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Friday, October 3, 2014

Now My Doctor: Peter Capaldi

In the book versions of his Tardis Eruditorum posts, Philip Sandifer ends each volume with an affectionate essay devoted to what he calls the best case to be made for each Doctor. The essays are entitled, "Now My Doctor," followed by the name of the actor who is being saluted. I'm borrowing that title here, but with a different shade of meaning.

Because, after being a Doctor Who fan since the early 1980s, and having seen all of the episodes from the Pertwee Era through the present (and a lot of Hartnell and Troughton, though by no means all), I have come to a rather surprising realization:

Peter Capaldi is my Doctor.

When I was new to the show, I missed much of the brilliance of Tom Baker; I had entered at a bad time, when the episodes being screened were his last series, where he is visibly glum, and moments of brilliance and fire are eclipsed by the melancholy of the longest serving Doctor's reign coming to a close. Baker was a damn sight better than I realized, and watching his series from the beginning gave me a new appreciation for him. But--he's not my Doctor.

Jon Pertwee I have a lot of time for. His banter with the Brig, the great comic rivalry with Roger Delgado's Master--the byplay with his predecessors--yes, I have a lot of time for Pertwee. But--no…very like my Doctor, and a favorite, but not quite.

Troughton? Wonderful. Himself a gifted actor, but--all those bases under siege get a bit the same, and so many missing episodes. I love Patrick Troughton, mercurial little genius that he is, but--

Hartnell, then. The original. The man who, even though his health was impaired by the arteriosclerosis that was soon to kill him,made one last appearance in his show's tenth anniversary story, summoning the last flickers of the old fire?

I loved the idea of Hartnell more than the execution--lots of his stories have dated badly, though some are better than I would have expected--The Time Meddler, with the Meddling Monk, say, or The Gunfighters. Yes, Hartnell was wonderful. As were Davison (the cricket-cricket!), Colin Baker (although, God, that poor man had some of the shaggiest scripts), Sylvester McCoy (the spoon-playing chess master), Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston (just watch him in Dalek), David Tennant (just watch him in School Reunion) and Matt Smith (how'd so young a man incarnate so old a soul?).

But Peter Capaldi, now, the fanboy made good, has the advantage of a great reconception of the character, a run (so far) of stories that have all been well above the series' average, and Steven Moffatt finding a whole new way to write Doctor Who. Oh, and Jenna Coleman is showing herself to be quite possibly the most underestimated actress to play the companion since Katy Manning.

At the center, though, is Capaldi's Doctor, unafraid to be abrasive, funny, obsessive, absent-mindedly doing good, seemingly despite himself--and absolutely riveting. Now my Doctor. These are the good old days.

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