How Peter Capaldi and the Doctor Who team came up with the Twelfth Doctor’s final regeneration speech
Writer Steven Moffat talks us through Capaldi’s final words on the sci-fi series – read the full speech here
Tonight’s Doctor Who Christmas special was truly the end of an era, with Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi regenerating into new incarnation Jodie Whittaker and head writer Steven Moffat handing over the reigns of the series to Chris Chibnall after an emotional hour of adventure for the Doctor and his friends.
And it’s fair to say the pair went out swinging in the episode’s final scene, which saw Capaldi’s Time Lord deliver a barnstorming speech that summed up the complicated personality of his version of the character and the ethos of the series as a whole – and according to Moffat himself, the words were far less planned out than the regeneration speech by previous Doctor Matt Smith, which Moffat had kept in mind for a while before the actor actually exited in 2013.
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“I'm never quite sure that you should ever do that,” Moffat reflected on the set of the festive episode earlier this year. “You can fall in love with a line and crowbar a whole scene around it, sometimes it's better to just find it in the moment.”
In a later interview, he added: “When we approached filming Peter’s last moments as the Doctor, which were done at the end of the shoot, we did talk more about how exactly he should meet his end.
“We were both very pleased with that final section of the script already, but as we went through piece by piece we thought there were ways to improve it so I’d be banging out new pages each night for us to discuss on set each day. That was so enjoyable and exciting to do – to really feel that we were getting his send off right – that in a way it took whatever emotions we were both having about leaving and put them on screen where they belong.
“By the time we got to that part of filming I think Peter and I were probably the least emotional on set because we’d put it all in the show!”
And here is that final speech in full, because we know that’s what you really came here for…
DOCTOR: Oh, there it is. Silly old universe. The more I save it the more it needs saving. It’s a treadmill.
Yes, yes I know they’ll get it all wrong without me.
Well, I suppose….one more lifetime won’t kill anyone. Well, except me.
Stirring music/Tardis noises
You wait a moment, Doctor. Let’s get it right. I’ve got a few things to say to you. Basic stuff first.
Never be cruel, never be cowardly. And never ever eat pears! Remember – hate is always foolish…and love, is always wise.
Always try, to be nice and never fail to be kind. Oh, and….and you mustn’t tell anyone your name. No-one would understand it anyway. Except….
He gasps, falls to the floor
Except….children. Children can hear it. Sometimes – if their hearts are in the right place, and the stars are too. Children can hear your name.
Gasps, grunts more
But nobody else. Nobody else. Ever.
Pulls himself off the floor
Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind.
Doctor – I let you go.
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“We talked a lot about [the speech],” Moffat said at a recent press screening for Twice Upon a Time, where he delved slightly deeper into some of the words chosen for Capaldi's final stand.
“I thought it had changed a lot from the beginning, I didn’t realise it hadn’t changed that much.”
And as you may have noticed, the speech contains all sorts of references to Who history (which we’ve compiled for you elsewhere) – but one callback in particular came from the mind of Capaldi himself.
“There’s a little bit in the Doctor’s final speech where he says ‘Don’t tell anyone your name’,” Moffat said, before revealing a young fan was the indirect inspiration behind the line’s inclusion.
“And I think George, you asked a question didn’t you, at The Pilot press screening [earlier this year], you asked Peter Capaldi ‘What is the Doctor’s name?’
“And he gave a rather beautiful answer that his name was like a frequency that could only be heard if your heart’s in the right place, and the stars are in the right place.
“So I rather loved, that, and I wrote that into Peter’s speech.”
You can read that quote from Peter Capaldi in our original article about the screening here, but here’s a shortened version for comparison:
“I don’t think human beings could even really say his name,” Capaldi told the crowd at The Pilot screening. “But I think we might be able to hear it. At a certain frequency.
“If the stars are in the right place, and your heart’s in the right place, you’ll hear it,” he concluded, to loud applause.
And perhaps we should have had some inkling about just how much the production team loved Capaldi’s theory – because when we were on set earlier this year, RadioTimes.com found our article discussing it pinned to the wall (above) alongside some other press cuttings.
So there you have it – when you rewatch the Twelfth Doctor perform his final speech in the months and years to come (which, let’s face, we’ll all be doing a lot) you can remember that Capaldi himself was behind some of the most moving lines. One last reminder that he was more than just your average Doctor.
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 in autumn 2018