Friday, February 12, 2016

The clock is striking twelves

About two years ago, I did a series of posts about each of the incarnations of Doctor Who.  (I consider this kind of sequence of themed posts to have many of the hallmarks of a "Glass Bead Game," so I added the list of posts to the new Glass Bead Games tab at the top of the blog.)  In January 2014, the current Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, had only a few seconds of on-screen time, so I had to guess about what kinds of unique traits he'd bring to the character.

In the original set of posts, I followed another blogger's idea that each incarnation behaved very much like each zodiac sign in the sequence of the solar year.  Under that system, Capaldi was set to be a Cancer.  Riffing on stereotypical Cancerian traits, I predicted that
"...we may see an emotional, intuitive, changeable, exceedingly loving, and over-protective Doctor."
It's been two full seasons now, so we can assess.  The only word in my prediction that seems a bit off is "changeable," since he's been someone who definitely knows who he is.  But I think all of the other traits are eerily SPOT-ON.

More than any Doctor before him I think, these qualities were so strong, they were almost his undoing.  The "duty of care" he felt towards Clara, his companion since before he wore this particular face, burned as hot as the Big Bang.  The sacrifices he made for her, and for his estranged, time-travelling spouse River Song, were quite immense.

Was he sometimes gruff and manipulative?  Sure -- some of that may have rubbed off from Capaldi the actor -- and some may be a counter reaction to two earlier incarnations that were more "manic pixie dream boy" than the show had ever seen.  The contradiction we see, between the depths of compassion and those scary eyebrows, seems to be a consequence of the fact that (to quote excellent reviewer Charlie Jane Anders at io9), "time imposes costs on him, even more than everybody else."  The Doctor is now more than 2000 years old ("I'm old enough to be your messiah," he once said gleefully), and he clearly has made the decision to hold on to caring above all else.  Good for him.


Nothing's sad till it's over. Then everything is.

- - -

This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine, and when I close my eyes… I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count. And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight… till it burns your hand, and you say this: No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch.

- - -

Davros: Compassion then.
The Doctor: Always.
Davros: It grows strong and fierce in you, like a cancer.
The Doctor: I hope so.
Davros: It will kill you in the end.
The Doctor: I wouldn’t die of anything else.

Come on Ace, we've got work to do.


  1. Capaldi's a great Doctor. We've fallen behind in watching of late, though. I appreciate your analysis. I love that "this is not a war" quotation.

    1. This season had its ups and downs, but the Doctor's monologues really began to reach perfection.

    2. Our daughter started to get spooked by them so we stopped. We'll catch up at some point.