Post-regeneration stories are often a fraught time for Doctor Who fans. After the roller coaster ride seeing an old Doctor to his tragic death scene, we’re always left to wonder, how will the show go on? Who is this stranger taking over the helm? Will the show continue to offer the familiar stories I’ve grown accustomed to, or will it take off in a new direction? Will I like what I see?
I, personally, have never worried. Somehow, after thirty-six years of watching this program, I’ve managed never to develop a favourite Doctor. I’ve got stories that I like and stories that I dislike, and some Doctors have more than their fair share in either category, but the Doctors themselves, as different as they are from each other, have never alienated me. Possibly because, at the Doctor’s core, he cares. He cares deeply about the people who needs him, about his companions, about the universe he lives in. Even when he gets thoroughly sick of life’s slings and arrows and retires, as he did in The Snowmen, he ultimately can’t help himself when he encounters people who need his help.
With this at the Doctor’s core, I’m able to imagine that Colin Baker is playing the same character as Christopher Eccleston. The different costumes are just phases they’re in. Indeed, I kind of want each Doctor to be quite different from the last, so that we have variety, and sparks flying when the inevitable reunion special kicks in.
So, in my opinion, Steven Moffat did an excellent job in casting Peter Capaldi as the twelfth (in reality, the fourteenth) Doctor. Not only is Capaldi a distinguished and capable actor (which Doctor Who and Torchwood fans know during Capaldi’s turns as Caecilius and John Frobisher in each show respectively), and not only is he a long time fan of Doctor Who, he brings many things which distinguish him from Matt Smith and even David Tennant before him. His age and his Scottish Brogue are shocks to the system of fans used to younger, less accented men. At the same time, he shares that manic energy that is increasingly becoming the trademark of the series’ revival.
Honestly, fans needn’t have worried. The show has changed lead actors ten times, now, and has elevated the practise to an art. They have succeeded more often than failed in launching new Doctors through some nifty tools in the toolbox. In Deep Breath, Capaldi’s debut story, the new Doctor is paired with a familiar companion (as with Sarah Jane Smith in Robot, or Rose in The Christmas Invasion), familiar supporting characters (as with UNIT in Spearhead from Space) and even familiar enemies (as with the Daleks in Power of the Daleks) for the audience members to connect to and remember that this show is still Doctor Who. Writer Steven Moffat deftly uses the tension of the familiar characters dealing with the unknown Doctor to mirror our own unease, and drive the story along.
Please note that spoilers follow after this break, so if you haven’t seen Deep Breath, please tread carefully.