Doctor Who is a strange show. You’re asked to get attached to the lead character, to believe in this mysterious, time traveling alien. To love them. And once you do, there’s a very thin window of wibbly wobbly time where you get to simply enjoy that version of the Doctor. And then… poof. Here comes the next iteration and you start the process all over again.
I have watched Doctor Who for the last seven years (although I did drop off for a bit there during seasons 6 and 7, but let’s not talk about that). But because I came into the show when season 5 was airing and I started back in season 1 with the Ninth Doctor (never skip Nine!), it took me a while to catch up. I knew when Nine and Ten regenerated and who they became. Eleven’s regeneration was the first time I saw the passing of the TARDIS keys happen live and, surprisingly, cried my eyes out.
But it wasn’t until Peter Capaldi began his run that I truly and wholly became a Doctor Who fan. It has been a glorious three seasons, and I’m indescribably sad to see him go. As 2017 wraps up, here are five things I’ve enjoyed most about Capaldi’s time on Doctor Who.
1. He’s an amazing ambassador
I have said it before and I’ll say it again: He has been the best ambassador Doctor Who has ever had and likely will ever have. From visiting the Doctor Who Experience on his off days to visiting slums in Malawi to making time for fans anywhere and everywhere they show up, Capaldi has set the bar so incredibly high for every future Doctor. He took the role as something to be cherished and nurtured and saw the chance to connect with people of all ages who were just like him: fans. He made the Doctor into a real life individual for so many people and brought Doctor Who, quite literally, down to Earth.
2. “Heaven Sent”
The combination of Capaldi and Steven Moffat, another Scotsman with a lifelong devotion to the show, was a perfect match. Together they’ve created some of the most memorable moments and episodes ever, and the standout is most definitely “Heaven Sent.” Never has a bottle episode been more lovingly crafted and acted. Moffat said that no other Doctor could’ve done this episode and he’s right. Acting almost entirely alone for the whole episode, Capaldi is commanding, electric, and heartbreaking. He elevated his already superb work and unlocked complexities in the character that no one else had even touched. That some of the “Heaven Sent” score was used again during his regeneration is poignant proof of this episode’s legacy for this Doctor and the show.
3. He’s the sweetest man ever
A fan since he was a boy, Capaldi brought an excitement and nerdiness to the role that surpassed even David Tennant’s own fanboy joy. He came in to watch Daleks explode and often was on set on his days off just for the sheer joy of being there. Every step of the way he was grateful and a little stumped that he was the Doctor, which made it all the more adorable. Every fan, crew member, guest star, and co-star who has spoken about him has said he’s the nicest, most genuine person, and it’s true. Not to humble brag, but when I had the amazing opportunity to meet Capaldi, he was even more warm, kind, and sweet than everyone had said. He let me gush about him for a few minutes and never made me feel awkward. Then, after thanking me (what even??), he said he was really looking forward to the next Doctor. Because that’s how he is. Oh, and yes, he does give the BEST hugs.
Never has a fictional relationship meant so much to me. A lot of that is down to the careful, deliberate, and beautiful acting from Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. There remains much debate in the fandom about the nature of the Doctor and Clara’s relationship, though, how that can possibly be after watching him punch a harder-than-diamond wall for 4.5 billion years just to save her, I do not know. For me, that relationship has always been steeped in love and romance. Deep love, as Capaldi often said. It wasn’t parent/child, or superior and subordinate. If anything, he was the more childish one. But the majority of their relationship and time on the show was about creating equality between them. Sometimes that meant Clara had to grow and sometimes it meant the Doctor did.
What it created was a Doctor and companion so similar and even-footed there was an entire plotline (the Hybrid) about exactly that. And if you need proof, look no further than how Clara’s arc finished: she had a TARDIS and companion of her own and her own brand of immortality. She became a Doctor. It was because of her influence that Twelve grew into a more compassionate, loving, thoughtful man. It’s an elevation of the Ten and Rose relationship to something far grander. There is no way you can tell me the Twelve we saw in season 10, the one who looked after Bill Potts and hugged her and let her kiss his cheek, would have ever developed had he not known and loved Clara Oswald. Clara changed this Doctor for the better, and I’m so glad I was there to see it happen.
5. You made me a Whovian
Yes, this last one is self-serving. I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about it but look. Seasons 6 and 7 really turned me off from Doctor Who. I didn’t like the stories or the tone or the characterization of certain companions. I kept watching out of geek obligation but my enjoyment had died off. Then in came Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, and before I knew it, he was my Doctor. For the first time, I understood why fans get so attached to the show, why it’s a tradition passed down from grandparents and parents to the younger generation. In his stunning portrayal of the ancient Time Lord, Capaldi drew me into the fandom in a way I had longed for since I first started season 1. And for that, I can never thank him enough.
Goodbye, Peter. You will always be my Doctor.
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