“When I was a little girl, I had an imaginary friend, and when I grew up, he came back. He’s called the Doctor. He comes from somewhere else. He’s got a box called the Tardis that’s bigger on the inside and can travel anywhere in time and space. I ran away with him, and we’ve been running ever since.”
“This is one corner of one country, in one continent, on one planet that’s a corner of a galaxy that’s a corner of a universe that is forever growing and shrinking and creating and destroying, and never remaining the same for a single millisecond. And there is so much to see.”
I’ve been trying to figure out lately why 12 has appealed to me so much.
As I’ve spent more time with my storytelling, a well crafted character arc has become kind of a thing of beauty. The other re-boot Doctors have been wonderful, but their arcs, the ones that are big and sweeping and external haven’t resonated with me nearly as much as 12′s, which is very much internal. And it starts in his very first episode with the question:
And from that point on, the series continues to ask that question of us as the Doctor continues to ask it of himself. What does it mean to be good? What does it mean for ME to be good?
There have been some serious clunkers, writing-wise, that Capaldi has dealt with best he was able, but I’ve hugely appreciated the through-line on the question of goodness. 12 struggles with the Doctor’s known faults–god complex, overreaching, ego. (He says himself that he’s nothing without an audience. And, I believe, is the only Doctor to break the 4th wall) That is, until his epiphany in The Girl Who Died, where he finally realizes what he was trying to tell himself with his new face–that sometimes goodness doesn’t mean saving the world; it often means making a difference in just one life. It’s a face to warn against hubris.
It’s not that he necessarily learns his lesson at this point. In order to save the person he regards as the better angel of his nature, (she LITERALLY had to make him flashcards reminding him how to be nice) he’s engages in some pretty hard core, 4 billion year self-destructive behavior, completely fucks up time and then throws a temper tantrum about it, but in the end, realizes that he’s gone too far and accepts that he can find goodness in himself, even if it means erasing Clara entirely. He’s even called out on his broad, and sometimes impractical notions by Missy. “It’s vain, arrogant and sentimental.” (And incidentally, we’re reminded through his interactions with Missy that the Doctor has a considerable dark side.)
I know there’ve been complaints about the “woke” nature of the show over the past two seasons, but the Doctor’s been an SJW since 1963–horrified by war (even though he’s been forced to fight in them) and outraged by injustice and inhumanity. 12′s evolution and quest for goodness has been a reflection of the writer’s struggle with the unfolding global horror of populism, racism, nationalism and fascism. We’ve had some beautiful speeches, like the anti-war rant in The Zygon Inversion, the “measure of a society” in Thin Ice or last week’s bitter diatribe on the failings of humans to learn from past mistakes in The Lie of the Land. The casting director knew what they were doing when they got Capaldi– an actor capable of fierce intensity, deep pathos, solitary introspection and childlike playfulness. He’s everything a Doctor should be.
I’ll enjoy these last few weeks with a measure of sadness knowing the era is coming to an end, but grateful for three seasons of excellent, thoughtful television.
When I was a kid I thought the FX in Doctor Who Revenge of the Cybermen episode was incredibly cool. I still kinda do. How to simulate skimming across a planet? Put some paper mâché on a barrel and spin it! #doctorwho #sarahjanesmith #specialeffects #miniatures #cybermen