Thursday, 28 August 2014

So who's* loving Peter Capaldi?

*Throws arm in the air and waves it around frantically.
We’ve been waiting with baited breath for the new episode of Doctor Who, the first of the new Doctor’s tenure. There’s mixed reviews online but the two distinct groups seem to have largely similar views: the new generation fans hated it and the old generation fans loved it.

If you haven’t watched the episode yet, and don’t want it ruined for you, please look away now. If you continue past here please don’t blame me if I spoil any surprises.

Okay so I loved this episode. But then I haven’t hated any new Doctor’s first episode so far. I only vaguely remember watching the show when I was a kid (Peter Davison was my Doctor) but since the reboot and easier access to old TV, shows I’ve embarked on watching the completed stories that are currently available from the beginning. Admittedly some of the William Hartnell stories were difficult to get though but I’ve just finished watching the Third Doctor’s story: Doctor Who and the Silurians. Sadly there is a severe lack of Patrick Troughton stories – which is a crying shame because so far I think he’s my favourite Doctor.

So yes, I only got massively into Doctor Who when it returned, but I was also more interested in technology, computers, space and science by then so I had a much better appreciation of the nerdier elements of the show, than I had had when I was a kid. I’m also not going to deny having a major crush on David Tennant and declaring he was the best Doctor ever. But let’s put things into perspective a little bit.

Of course, your favourite Doctor is a matter of opinion and new generation fans tend to mainly form their opinions based on Doctors 9 – 11. And let’s be honest, The Tenth Doctor was the prettiest of those Doctors (and actually, probably, all the Doctors) and as Madame Vastra pointed out in this feature length episode:

Madame Vastra: He looked young. Who do you think that was for?

Clara: Me?

Madame Vastra: Everyone. I wear a veil as he wore a face.

Clara: For what reason?

Madame Vastra: The oldest reason there is for anything: to be accepted.

Or as Steven Teller complains in Inspired By Night:

“someone in their wisdom decided to make The Doctor all handsome and sexy and easily accessible to a mainstream audience.”

imageI read a tweet, the following morning after Deep Breath was shown that said “I’m so glad my teenage self was around for the Tennant era – they were the glory days of Doctor Who.” Although I’m not entirely convinced this teenager has actually watched the preceding forty odd years worth of Doctor Who to confirm that statement. It seems like a shockingly quick judgement to make on the new Doctor.

So just to be clear: Is David Tennant actually the best Doctor? Or just the most attractive? I imagine that opinion also changes with age. See I’ve had a bit of an unexplained crush on Malcolm Tucker… so by rights I should also have a crush on the Twelfth Doctor.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a crush on the Doctor full stop. The Doctor is a name, not a number! Maybe not William Hartnell, but give me a couple of decades and that might change too. I definitely had a crush on Troughton and Pertwee has some pretty amazing sideburns. I can’t imagine being attracted to Colin Baker or Sylvestor McCoy, but until I watch all their episodes I’m not ruling it out as a possibility.

I haven’t worked out which are the glory years of Doctor Who in my opinion yet, I’ve still got five Doctors worth of stories and companions to get through before I can make that decision, but I can safely say that I won’t be swayed by his looks.

The Doctor is one man. In a world where we try to fight against the media’s body image and assure our children that beauty comes from within, how can we not love The Doctor in all of his incarnations? Because he is the same man. If we love his knowledge, his view of the universe and his sense of adventure, then surely it doesn’t matter how many lines he has on his face.

Having watched lots of Classic Doctor Who over the last few years, it struck me that the female characters were always strong. Even the companions with any sense of confusion and bewilderment when faced with the bigger on the inside police box, or stepping out onto a different planet centuries in the future, got stuck in. Look at astrophysisist Zoe Heriot or Liz Shore, a fabulous woman working for U.N.I.T.

But that doesn’t seem to happen as much in modern Doctor Who. Along with making him attractive, the writers also gave us a romance between The tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler. Well that’s just really annoying. But then add to that Martha Jones who despite being a doctor herself and obviously intelligent and well educated, turned all gooey eyed when confronted by the Doctor.

And let’s not forget Captain Jack – total bad-ass in Torchwood but a simpering doe eyed lovesick boy when faced with David Tennant…

I liked Amy and Rory because they were together and even if Rory occasionally got a bit paranoid and jealous, it was clear that Amy loved him, not the Doctor. And even though there’s a very definite ‘you’re not my boyfriend’ sentiment being bandied around by Clara, there was still a sense of this potential for romance. It’s just unnecessary. Doctor Who is a family sci-fi show, it doesn’t need romance.

With the Doctor getting a reboot on his regenerations, it’s seems fitting that he starts from an older age, like William Hartnell. But children loved The Doctor then and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t love him now.

I thought Deep Breath was very clever. I loved the references back to past stories – the clockwork men, directly linked to the Girl in the Fireplace story and the Doctor himself recognising his face (from the Fires of Pompeii episode). I also liked that there was an overarching theme of expressly reminding Clara – and the viewing audience – that he is the same man. It’s almost as though the writing team acknowledged that they needed to reassure us that it’s okay to have an older Doctor, to almost try and convince us to give him a chance, he’ll win you over. It’s a shame that they felt the need to do that of course. The older generation, I suspect, didn’t need any such persuasion.

In truth the only thing I didn’t really like was the introduction of Matt Smith’s Doctor on the phone from Trenzalore asking Clara to help his future self. It felt like a cynical move to appease the kids. I suppose the fact that Peter Capaldi was okay with that, shows his professionalism.

I can still remember reading lots of heartbroken Facebook messages after his first episode, about how Matt Smith was not as good… I said it then and I’ll say it now…

When you say not as good, you mean not as pretty. Give it a few weeks and you’ll recognise and love him for Who he is.

The Doctor.

So who's* loving Peter Capaldi?