The Twelfth Doctor: A Bad Man With A Box?
Guest contributor Dorf Johnson investigates.
Before Deep Breath aired in August 2014, we were promised a darker series and a darker Doctor, and in some ways Capaldi’s Doctor is the darkest of them all. However his Doctor should not be viewed as someone who is entirely ‘bad’. In many of the scenes that the Twelfth Doctor appears to be on the ‘dark side’, he is simply being realistic and efficient at getting the job done, something the previous two incarnations struggled with. The Twelfth Doctor has grown out of his desire to be seen as a hero and is actually becoming less selfish by simply doing what will get the job done.
The episode that best showcases this side of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is Mummy on the Orient Express. In the episode, the Doctor and Clara our faced with the danger of a mummy that can only be seen by its next victim from 66-seconds before they will be killed. True to the character of all the Doctors, Twelve is attempting to stop the mummy from killing everyone on board. But he goes about achieving his goal in a much different and crueller way.
A good example of this is when the head of security on the train is being stalked by the mummy. Whereas Eleven or Ten would have comforted the man in his final 66-seconds, Twelve utilizes the man to learn new information about the creature. Although this comes across as heartless and cruel, it is in fact simply more realistic. There was no way for the Doctor to save the man, so why not use him to save the lives of every other person on board? The Doctor in his Twelfth incarnation no longer desires to be seen as the hero by those around him. He is okay with Clara thinking of him as cruel and cowardly if he knows that he is doing the right thing and ultimately saving more lives.
Another major difference between Matt Smith’s Doctor and Peter Capaldi’s is that the self-loathing is now largely gone. Throughout the fifth, sixth, and seventh series, the Doctor’s hatred of himself is highlighted rather dramatically. In the episode Let’s Kill Hitler, the TARDIS interface shows Eleven a picture of himself when he is about to die. The Doctor tells the TARDIS to change the picture saying, “Show me someone I like.” And there are a lot of reasons for the Doctor to dislike himself.
By the end of Series 7 the Doctor had lost so many companions, and the loss of the Ponds was still fresh in his mind. But the biggest guilt in the Doctor’s mind is the genocide of his own people. However, in The Day of the Doctor, he changes his own past and instead locks Gallifrey in an instant of time. He no longer has to feel guilty! This is reflected in the Twelfth Doctor greatly. The Twelfth is the start of a new cycle of regenerations, and thus he is a fresh start for the Doctor. Small parts of this self-loathing still remain, however. For instance, in Flatline, Clara asks him if she made a good Doctor. He responds that she made a fantastic Doctor, but “goodness had nothing to do with it”.
But more than anything, Capaldi’s Doctor thinks he knows what’s best for humanity, especially Clara. In Kill the Moon, the Doctor bows out of the decision making and lets Clara deal with the situation. Although he is letting humanity solve its own problems, he is doing this because he thinks that’s what best for them. It would be different if Clara had told him to leave the decision to her, but as it stands he is acting as a parent who has decided to let their child make a small choice.
Perhaps the one scene that best shows the Twelfth Doctor’s assumption to control is the end of Death in Heaven, where he lies to Clara about finding Gallifrey. He is protecting her by reassuring her that he will be okay without her because he thinks that is what she needs, rather than being honest and up-front with her.
In conclusion, Capaldi’s Doctor can often come across as insensitive, pompous, and sometimes even cruel, but really he is the same man as all the other Doctors. He simply has a harder time connecting to the humans that are such a large part of his life. And he also feels a whole lot less guilty. Reasonably, much of this will change in Series 9 and any future series that Capaldi stays for, but for now this is where the Twelfth Doctor’s character stands.