When Peter Capaldi was announced as the Twelfth incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who on live television in 2013, I was shocked. I hadn’t known of the actor; I was 15 at the time, and I had grown up when David Tennant and Matt Smith were in the role, so I didn’t know what to expect next. But from the moment the Twelfth Doctor flashed into existence, I knew I would fall in love with him like I had every other incarnation.


Before his first season aired, Capaldi had a blink and you'll miss it appearance in 2013’s anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor and then made his Doctor Who debut in Smith's swansong The Time of the Doctor. So, when July 2014 rolled around, I was already excited about what was to come.

That month, I, along with many other fans, made my way to St Paul's Cathedral to see Capaldi and Missy actress Michelle Gomez filming the season 8 finale story Dark Water/Death in Heaven. He made time to meet every single fan, passer-by and straggling parent. He signed pictures, took photos and spoke with everyone. This man loved and cared about not just Doctor Who but its fans, and after getting a photo with the new Doctor, I knew he would be something special.

His speech during the aforementioned episode could be seen as his defining moment, where he told viewers that he was just an ‘idiot, with a box and a screwdriver’, confirming that he was the same Doctor we’d come to love over the years.

Peter Capaldi
Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who. BBC

However, I think he was a perfect version of our favourite Time Lord from the minute he hit our screens. This Doctor began his tenure with rough edges, a harsher version of the character we knew. But this meant that his later, softer moments equalled so much more; they were earned, meaningful.

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Behind every grumpy retort was a Doctor who was revealing his truth: his past, his age, his trauma. The Eleventh Doctor had his moments of anger, and the Ninth Doctor was often rude to the people around him. These traits that carried over into the Twelfth Doctor put the character on one of their most compelling journeys, considering a question that many of us often ask ourselves: am I a good person?

Capaldi played the questioning man with delicate precision and kept the character loveable despite often seeming rude and uncaring. There were layers to his Doctor, and the longer viewers stuck around to see them, the more rewarding the peeling back of these layers became.

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman in Doctor Who
Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman for Doctor Who. BBC, PJ

Capaldi’s acting showed audiences that though this Doctor was jaded, he was still caring and kind, especially with the help of his companion. This echoed the relationship between the First Doctor, played by William Hartnell, and the friends that joined him aboard the TARDIS. His incarnation was often uncaring or ambivalent at the beginning of his run but softened as his era continued and companions came and went. The Twelfth Doctor opened up to Clara Oswald similarly, and the chemistry between Capaldi and Jenna Coleman was electric.

The notion that the Doctor chose an older face because he trusted Clara is one that set the scene for their entire arc, arguably one of the most beautiful Doctor and companion pairings in Who's history. The relationship between them had many of us hooked, loving the good cop/bad cop energy they brought to every episode. Their story was one of codependency and love, but also of chosen family, and there wasn’t a script or moment that the pair couldn’t make brilliant.

By the time Clara left and season 10 rolled around, the Twelfth Doctor became a tutor to Bill Potts, opening the character up to new pastures. Upon finding out that Bill had no photos of her mum, he travelled back in time to take some and gave his new friend a way to connect to her dead parent. He became a warrior for justice – punching racists and fighting against capitalism – something that made his incarnation stand out even more.

His friendship with Bill and Matt Lucas’s Nardole brought a new family to the TARDIS, and the Twelfth Doctor became something like a warm hug whenever he was on screen. The season 10 finale was one of Capaldi’s finest hours, the performance of a lifetime in one of Doctor Who’s best stories and a beautiful near-ending to his era.

Peter Capaldi may go down in history as the most underrated Doctor. His tenure is often overlooked, sandwiched between the youngest ever actor to play the character and the first woman to take on the role. He was the oldest person to take on the full-time role of the Doctor since Hartnell, making him historic in his own right, and often, ageism stopped people from giving him a chance. But the actor’s ability to mesh together the best of the character and bring to it his own charm, despite the difficulty of playing a darker Doctor, is unparalleled.

The Twelfth Doctor didn’t just feel like a television character. Thanks to Capaldi’s performance and passion for the show, he felt like a friend, a fatherly figure and a teacher. He helped us grow alongside him, he held us through our grief, and he taught us about the wonders of the universe. Almost a decade on from his debut, his Doctor should be given the praise that he deserves.

Doctor Who will return on Saturday 11th May on BBC iPlayer and BBC One. Previous seasons are available to stream on BBC iPlayer with episodes of the classic series also available on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here.


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