Adjustments must be made in the minds of viewers with each new Doctor and companion. Tonight we get the thrill of being introduced to Bill, which comes along with the work of understanding what makes her tick. Personally, I have been holding out hope she’s a transgender character. I doubt that’s the case.
All Doctor Who fans remember their first Doctor. For me, it was Christopher Eccleston. I’m not English and didn’t realize his casting was somewhat controversial; not that I would have understood a northern accent could be the subject of snobbery. My grandmother was a Yorkshire girl, before she married a Canadian soldier during the war, so it’s the kind of accent I am used to hearing.
Christopher Eccleston drew me into the Whoniverse, but it was David Tennant who made me fall in love. I grieved at the loss of his Doctor. Making room for Matt Smith was a bittersweet tragedy. Despite the feelings of loss, I fell in love with Matt Smith’s Doctor at first sight.
Then came Peter Capaldi.
I bet you think I’m going to go on a Capaldi hater spree. Nope, that’s not going to happen. The cadence of his speech was a huge adjustment for my Canadian ears, but his character speaks to me on a deep level. While I haven’t watched every version of the Doctor, I did take time to watch the original. His arrogance was infuriating and made him difficult to appreciate, yet William Hartnell somehow brings the audience around to a place of grudging acceptance. Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith only reveal the Hartnell at their core in their darkest moments; Tennant more than the other two.
With Capaldi, Hartnell’s Doctor is always near the surface. He lurks in the shadows of his face, and in his reactions. The brilliant thing is that all the other versions are right there as well. Capaldi doesn’t exactly seem to bring a brand new personality to the mix. I know many of you would dispute this idea hotly, so let me explain. More than any other Doctor I’ve seen up to this point, Capaldi makes you remember how many men dwell inside of him. He’s lightness and dark, soldier and pragmatic abstainer, bold and insecure, man and child.
What he’s not is a romantic distraction from the deeper questions; at least when it comes to anyone except River Song. While Peter Capaldi is very attractive, he’s an older man. For a large segment of the audience, this fact strips him of the potential to be a romantic lead. His Doctor seems unable to distinguish between male and female, and comes off as supremely uninterested in any sexuality. This detracts even more from the temptation to ship. He’s also a widower. Capaldi’s Doctor still wears his wedding ring, constantly reminding us of River Song; who is both long dead and alive.
The things that remove our temptation to ship Capaldi with every female around him allow us to focus on bigger questions. “Am I a good man,” is chief among them.
In recent episodes with Maisie Williams, we’re given an unromantic view of what eternity would really look like. Unlike the Twilight version of immortality, where everyone seems to improve with age, we’re reminded what it would be like to watch everyone you love blow away like dust in the wind. With this reminder, you can’t help loving the Doctor even more, despite the fact that he often makes flawed choices. The decisions he makes still come from a place of compassion. His character arch has spanned over fifty years, and started with him being arrogant and indifferent. Over many lifetimes, he’s actually managed to become a better man, rather than becoming hard and bitter. He might not see his own goodness, but we do.