Last weekend, the planet Earth was informed that the new face of the planet Gallifrey will no longer be fresh-faced and young, but instead, mature and likely sarcastic. Though veteran Scottish actor Peter Capaldi has appeared in the Doctor Who universe twice before (season 4’s “The Fires of Pompeii” and Torchwood’s “Children of Earth.”) he is definitely best known for his role as Malcolm Tucker from In The Thick of It and In the Loop. As Tucker, Capaldi introduced the world to his own special brand of profanity acrobatics. Plus, who else can refer to people as “The White Stripes” and “Ron Weasley” and have it come across as an insult? But what does this mean for Doctor Who? It’s a family show, right? If Peter Capaldi can’t swear constantly, what will he bring to the TARDIS?
The answer: THE GOODS.
From Tennant to Matt Smith and even a touch of Eccleston, all the contemporary incarnations of the Time Lord have been on some level, pretty goofy. This isn’t to say Tennant didn’t have moments of genuine biting wit, nor was Matt Smith incapable of making us feel like this seemingly young man was actually centuries old. Instead, the general demeanor of each of the post-2005 doctors was fairly fun. Yes, there’s an edge to Eccleston’s 9th Doctor which is somewhat lacking in the 10th and 11th Doctors, but it’s actually been awhile since we’ve seen that side of the character. Are we ready for another dark Doctor? Will Peter Capaldi be the darkest Doctor yet?
In some ways, I think Capaldi could be an even darker version of the character than Christopher Eccleston, if only because we’ve actually seen everything the Doctor has gone through over the past couple seasons. The 9th Doctor was angry and sad about the Time War, but we never saw any of that. Nowadays, we’ve witnessed our favorite time-traveling two-hearted hero lose a bunch of friends, get married, face his dark alter ego, and even chat with TARDIS herself! There’s a great deal of emotional groundwork that’s been done since 2005 on this character, and the casting of Capaldi means all of that maturity will be represented in a little more grown-up looking Doctor. This isn’t to say the sort of Peter Pan charm of Matt Smith wasn’t working, simply that it might have been a little disproportionate with the amount of pain the character is supposed to be dealing with. I’m not saying I want a “damaged” Doctor but instead, a Doctor who is actually coping with how difficult it is to be an awesome Time Lord!
One scene from In The Loop features Peter Capadli’s character being asked if he’s ever killed anyone. He retorts with, “Maiming’s what I prefer. Psychologically.” This brand of ruthless sarcasm belies a more complicated persona. Someone who is really good at shutting other people down in conversation (psychologically maiming!) is someone who has seen quite a bit. I’m not saying the 12th Doctor will be as angry as Malcolm Tucker, but he will likely be as funny. When you’ve kind of absorbed the vastness of all of time and space, it seems to be a little sarcasm would be totally natural. And if we’re lucky, it will also be hilarious.
Are you ready for a grumpy, sarcastic Doctor?