Hello, Whovians! The eighth series of Doctor Who begins tomorrow with a brand new Doctor, and more than a few of us at the Recorder are excited for its return. Karen and Chris sat down to talk about the upcoming series and what they hope (or dread) to see.
The Twelfth Doctor
Karen: It’s no secret amid the Addison Recorder team that I was not a huge fan of the eleventh Doctor. Yes, I watched every single episode, but I had a tremendous difficulty emotionally engaging in the characters. I just didn’t find Matt Smith’s acting particularly compelling until the most recent season.
My favorite actor in the role was Christopher Eccleston, who played the Doctor a little darker with some cheek. He was tortured, alien, and fundamentally lacked compassion at the start of the season. I am so ready for another dark Doctor. Not only dark storylines, but also a Doctor that is a little more alien, while still looking back and questioning the choices that have brought him to this point, looking his solipsism in the face as he realizes what it’s cost him and others. They started to push this with Ten and played with it on and off with Eleven. It looks like they’ll be handling it full on with Twelve. I’m thrilled about the Peter Capaldi casting. I enjoy the Doctor when he’s got more gravitas.
Chris: I loved, loved, loved Smith’s Eleven. I loved how goofy he was, and I loved the subtlety and depth he brought to the role. I also love Capaldi as an actor, and I think he’s more than able to handle the Doctor. Moffat’s said Twelve is going to be “darker” but I worry about what that means. To get meta- for just a moment, I actually wonder how much he’ll have in common with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes. Really, I just don’t want the Doctor to be an asshole. There are plenty of other shows that lionize pricks and psychopaths; I want my Doctor to be a Doctor.
But it’ll be fun to see what Capaldi brings to the role. He’s the same age as William Hartnell — #1 himself — was when he took the role, which’ll bring a novel perspective to the adventures. I see Twelve as being far more confident: No longer the angsty Last of the Time Lords TM martyr savior, but much more bold and comfortable with himself. I’m excited.
Karen: One of the points they’re making with the twelfth Doctor is to remove the companions as a potential love interest, at least for the time being. Eleven had a massive crush on Clara, married River, and was hotly pursued by Amy. Ten was in love with Rose, and Nine was a consummate flirt. It definitely sounds like they’re changing the dynamic with Twelve. There have also been whispers that Jenna-Louise Coleman will be leaving the cast after the Christmas episode. I would love to see another companion like Donna — someone who is along for the adventure, who can offer friendship and companionship without being a love interest. I’d be interested in seeing a male companion traveling with the Doctor without a female buffer. I like how Rory was developed as a companion, and I’m less a fan of how Moffat writes women.
In thinking about what the next companion will be like, I have to think about what the Doctor needs. The Doctor needed compassion, both for his sins and to develop and feel it for other people. Enter Rose. The Doctor needed someone practical to help him move on — an emotional counterbalance to his grief, and there was the practical and badass Martha. When the Doctor started taking himself too seriously, Donna was there to remind him that he wasn’t the most important being in the universe. When the Doctor lost everything, Amy stormed in like an icy downpour, rebuilding his ego, showing him how a family can give balance, guidance. When the Doctor felt small, River and Clara made him the center of their worlds, while providing a mystery for him to chase and someone to save.
Now what does the Doctor need? He died an old man who spent the balance of his life protecting people from a war that was… well… entirely about him. He’d already failed to save Amy, Rory, and River. And we’ve seen from previews that Twelve is going to start questioning his role in the universe, whether or not he’s a good person. He needs a companion that will give him back faith in himself (without the inflated ego that the Doctor is prone to). I think the new companion will be someone who needs to be rescued, who needs a hero so that the Doctor can restore his faith in himself. I imagine the Doctor and that new companion will have a parent/child relationship.
Chris: To be fair, the war on Trenzalore was about the Daleks and the Time Lords; the Doctor prevented it from becoming a bloodbath and reigniting the Time War.
It’s also curious to me that you say Amy rebuilt the Doctor’s ego, because I see her presence as doing the total opposite. Little Amelia believed him to be a fairy tale hero, but her travels with him as older Amy and his antics (the name he’d built with his grandstanding, his bitter dark side manifesting as the Dream Lord, the Pandorica, the fate of the alternate Amy from the parallel timestream, and ultimately the twisted hotel from “The God Complex”) chipped away at the hero facade, revealing to her the vain trickster — the madman with a box. Their relationship and the Doctor’s relationship to the universe fundamentally changed after that.
Clara’s managed to balance a career and her relationship with friends and family in her present by negotiating her time with the Doc, making the Eleven/Clara setup one of the most egalitarian Doctor/companion relationships in NuWho. I imagine Twelve will explode that, because a new Doctor brings new rules and that is the nature of drama.
The companions, as a whole, have always challenged the Doctor, though they have done so in different ways. I don’t want to think of the companions in just how they serve the Doctor’s character. It looks like we’re going to get a male companion in the coming series, which is exciting! I agree the Doctor with a male companion would be interesting because it would be new. We shall see … we shall see….
Karen: I can see where you’re coming from in your argument, and I think I even concede the point about Amy. After the Time Lord Victorious breakdown, they did a lot of work with Amy to destroy the Doctor’s ego. He was the center of Amy’s life for, well, most of it, but eventually she chose Rory over him. River, on the other hand…
Clara and the Doctor had an interesting dynamic. He had a massive crush on her, but she also sacrificed herself for him, or tried to, when she jumped into the time streams. Yes, she has a life, and for once I think she has more emotional power in the relationship than the Doctor. Still, I’m looking forward to a companion that doesn’t see the Doctor in a romantic light.
Chris: I 100% agree about the romance. We’ve seen it; we can move on. But, I have to say, I’m still hoping we’re not done with Riiiiiverrrr, ha ha. People heap hate on River, but for me she has always been a Badass Indiana Jones who goes on her own adventures, which sometime include the Doctor. Was she perfect? I mean, who is? But everything about her that complicated her core never eclipsed it. And for a primetime, internationally popular TV show to cast a woman in her late 40s and make her cocky and sexy and unapologetically sure of her power … I love her. I will defend her to the gates of hell.
Karen: I could never have guessed at the twists and turns Eleven’s arc would take. In terms of character development, we’ve already been fed the starting point in the trailer. The Doctor, as I’ve mentioned above, is questioning himself, whether or not he’s a good man. The Doctor has lost, time and again, people that he loves. By and large, he’s lost them tragically. In the first series of NuWho, the Doctor saw that when he thought he was saving the day, the consequences were horrifying — the loss of the Golden Age of Mankind. Things didn’t really look up from there. He needs to regain faith in himself, in his ability to do good. I hope we’ll see him be an effective hero. I’d also wager that, perhaps later in Capaldi’s tenure, we’ll see some of the consequences of The Day of the Doctor. More Time Lords, perhaps?
Chris: I cannot wait for the return of Gallifrey. I know the show will build towards it, but it cannot come soon enough for me. I want Time Lords — I want the Rani; I want the Master; I want the High Council and Romana and Time Lords we haven’t even met yet. I want it all. As the Doctor rediscovers himself, I’m sure it will be tied to finding Gallifrey.
Bringing Gallifrey back will also scale the Doctor back down to size. I much prefer the traveling trickster to the tragic hero. Repopulating the universe with his own kind — beings that rival or surpass his power and authority — will also free him up to just have adventures. And that’s why we’re here, right? There are so many story possibilities that open up with Gallifrey’s return. Bring it on!
Doctor Who returns Saturday, August 23, at 7 p.m. CT on BBC America.