It’s been a long wait for Doctor Who fans – following an eight month hiatus between the 2013 Christmas Special and the season 8 premier. Of course, Whovians are no stranger to lengthy breaks, since the series is not beholden to a specific annualized programming window; yet, season 8 comes with extra baggage – the official introduction of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor.
Fans have enjoyed two sneak peeks at the thirteenth incarnation of The Doctor (if you include John Hurt’s War Doctor) – a brief glimpse at Capaldi’s eyes in the 50th Anniversary Special, “The Day of the Doctor,” as well as the post-regeneration epilogue in “The Time of the Doctor.” Yet, neither preview offered specific details about the Twelfth Doctor but trailers for the upcoming season have teased a slightly darker variation of the Time Lord - at least when compared to the Tenth (David Tennant) and Eleventh (Matt Smith) Doctors. Now, in addition to suggestions that Capaldi will portray the character as more “alien,” we’re getting word from showrunner Steven Moffat that this might also be the rudest version of the Doctor to date.
In an interview with SFX Magazine, Moffat suggests that the character has a lot in common with Capaldi’s well known role in The Thick of It – where he portrayed the foul-mouthed and no-nonsense Malcolm Tucker:
“He has a tremendous ability with throwaway humor and a lot of it is around the fact that sometimes he is terribly rude. I think kids will think he is the rude Doctor [...] You might want to cuddle him but he really will resist.”
If you’re unfamiliar with Capaldi’s work as Malcolm Tucker, watch the “Best of” video below (WARNING: Contains repeated NSFW content and language):
Given that Doctor Who is beloved by children and adults alike, it’s a given that Capaldi will be dialing back the profanity – even if he is playing a slightly rude and impatient variation of The Doctor. According to Moffat the change plays to Capaldi’s strengths while also attempting to differentiate the Twelfth Doctor from Matt Smith’s polite and gentle-natured Eleventh Doctor.
Nevertheless, in spite of a more abrasive personality, the showrunner promises that “Peter will still be very much The Doctor.” After all, classic fans will remember several Doctors with dark and, at times, off-putting personalities – balancing charm and superiority so that the Doctor was both likable and intimidating. Thanks to Hurt’s War Doctor, even modern Who viewers have seen just how different, and inhumane, the Time Lord can be – depending on the circumstances.
Check out new official images from Doctor Who season 8 below (click to enlarge):
Doctor change-ups are never easy but evolution is all part of the Doctor Who experience. Months back, following the casting of Capaldi, Moffat made it clear that he wanted to take The Doctor in a new direction – one that could help instill fresh surprise into the show. Making the Doctor a bit off-putting at times, might sound like a bad idea, but it offers the character new lessons to learn and unique situations for the writers to explore. Of course, nothing is set in stone – so, if audiences do not respond to Capaldi’s harsher take on adventuring through space and time, there’s plenty of time for the actor to soften the character a bit.
That said, if the Twelfth Doctor loses the lovable charm that endeared so many viewers to the character over the years, negative response could also result in a short tenure for Capaldi and reignite interest in seeing a female and/or minority actor in the lead role. Moffat’s assertion that Capaldi was the right man to mix things up rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way – fans that have, in the time since, argued that a female or minority Doctor would easily shake up the formula without having to drastically reinvent the Time Lord’s lovable demeanor.
For now, it’s hard to know whether Moffat is merely trying to control expectation for Capaldi’s debut – playing up how dark and rude the Doctor will be, relative to Smith’s portrayal, so that viewers will have a slightly more open mind to what the showrunner is attempting to accomplish in the next Doctor Who season. Given that Clara (Jenna Coleman) reportedly describes the Twelfth Doctor as “a grey-haired stick-insect” at one point, it’s a safe assumption that, even if The Doctor is taking himself more seriously, those around him (such as Madame Vastra) will make it a point to put the Time Lord back in his place.
We’ll keep you up to date as more Doctor Who season 8 details are revealed but, in the meantime, check out this fun Comic-Con inspired Sesame Street cameo by the Fourth Doctor and his archenemies at “Numeric-Con”:
Doctor Who season 8 will premiere August 23rd on BBC and BBC America.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for any future updates on Doctor Who, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.