Wednesday, November 11, 2015
A Doctor's Defining Moment
I know that writing about an episode of Doctor Who on Veteran's Day may seem a bit flip, but The Zygon Inversion has some important things to say about war, and the costs it exacts--costs that, in my lifetime, are normally borne by the veterans and their families and friends. The rest of us let them bear that burden for us. So, tangentially, the episode relates to the day.
I think this is one of the defining moments of Peter Capaldi's time as the Doctor, however long his run may be--and I hope for a long run, with this level of quality. That's because this speech is one that only Capaldi could do. Oh, we've seen moments last season and this that called on his talent--a flash of Malcolm Tucker in Time Heist, the epic speech in "Flatline", the reaction to Clara's betrayal of him in Dark Water, his searing encounters with Julian Bleach's Davros--but this is the first time Capaldi had to leave it all on the field. This is the first time they've called on the man who played Randall Brown, or Dr. Pete in The Field of Blood:
But back to The Zygon Inversion. Watch it again Look how many efforts he makes to reach Bonnie and Kate--he mocks them, American huckster-style, he roars, he pleads (sounding for a moment like Sylvester McCoy trying to reason with the Master in Survival), he shares his own pain and self-loathing--and here we get a flash of Tucker again--not the "Iago with a Blackberry" we all laugh with or at, but the exhausted, drained man, who denounces the hypocrisy of the system that served him up as a scapegoat in just the same way he has served so many others.
Without any disrespect for the remarkable actors who have played the Doctor, this scene is written for Capaldi's range, his passion, his fire--and his weariness. I genuinely cannot see any other actor who ever played the part doing this speech anywhere near as well.
And I want more of this. The Capaldi Era is in full swing now; he, Moffat, Peter Harness--and, let's add, Jenna Coleman and Jemma Redgrave--have raised the bar very high indeed.