Well, it truly is the end of an era for Doctor Who. Not only is this season the final ride for Peter Capaldi as our beloved Doctor, and the conclusion of Steven Moffat’s stint as showrunner and writer of our good Doctor’s adventures through time and space, more importantly, it’s the beginning of a new and modern chapter in the long-running franchise’s pedigree: the arrival of our first female Doctor. I think Steven Moffat nailed her first words as the 13th Doctor so perfectly, they not only glimpsed a personality yet to be witnessed and examined, but also conveyed the collective emotion we, the viewers and ardently loyal fans, are currently experiencing – “Oh, brilliant,” she says, giving us an excited smile, before everything goes bonkers in the TARDIS (these transitional cliffhangers kill me every time….each and every single friggin’ time). Yes, it’s brilliant and exciting for several reasons. Next season will not only give us a completely different Doctor in Jodie Whittaker (the first woman to play the Doctor in the franchise’s 54-year existence), but also a completely different showrunner in Chris Chibnall (the reins were held by Steven Moffat as a writer, then as showrunner, for a good, long 12-year run). Knowing that Jodie and Chris have previous working-history together (both worked on Broadchurch) engenders an even greater level of excitement and wonder as to what they’ll be bringing to the ongoing Doctor Who saga next year; which Chris is no stranger to, having written for both Who, as well as Torchwood (he was its head writer from 2006 to 2008) prior to nabbing the gig as current showrunner.
The departure of a Doctor always brings with it a sense of sadness and loss; but with that sadness and loss comes the prologue to a new beginning, or more poignantly, as our departing Doctor expounded, “Everything ends, and it’s always sad. But everything begins again, too, and that’s always happy.” It never ceases to be a bittersweet moment, no matter how you feel about the current actor and his footprint on the franchise. I’m in the camp of folks who were fans of Peter Capaldi’s even before he was announced as the next Doctor. One of my favorite comedies is “In the Loop,” and a majority of that love stems from Capaldi’s part in it. I enjoyed and loved his take on the iconic role in the time that we were fortunate to have him. After his inaugural season’s premiere, I liked that the series was hearkening back to the era of William Hartnell’s First Doctor; the old, wise, and somewhat stern Gallifreyan that kicked-started it all. However, Capaldi wasn’t always just so. There was an innocence and vulnerability to his Doctor as well. He was, oddly enough, kind of a cross-pollination between Christopher Eccleston’s 9th Doctor and Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor; although, he began his journey as more of a sum-total of every life that came before. His jovial disposition didn’t evolve until we were well-into his story. My initial reaction, way back in August of 2014, was that he reminded me of John Hurt’s “War Doctor.” As the series progressed, the 11th Doctor’s personality began to surface a bit, and his bedside-manner began to ease-up and soften, while my love of his portrayal exponentially increased.
I think “Twice Upon a Time” was some of Steven Moffat’s finest storytelling. Every word, every nuance of his script seemed to convey something more than its face-value delivery, and echoed much more than it was intended to (which was purposeful on Moffat’s part, I believe). It was not only a “farewell letter” to us fans, but also a “passing of the torch” to a wholly new and fresh chapter in the Doctor’s story. When Capaldi’s 12th Doctor tells David Bradley’s 1st Doctor, “We have a choice. Either we change and go on, or we die as we are,” it was like Moffat was telling us – more so for the ears of the discontented – that the franchise must die as it is in order for it to be reborn anew for a new generation of fans, advocating in the process for the change that we’ll be seeing next year in Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor. True, Doctor Who could have stayed the course and continued on its merry way, well into the foreseeable future, and its viewership probably wouldn’t have faltered an inch; but seeing as its fan base is comprised of as many females as it is males, why wouldn’t you strive for inclusion? Our stories should always evolve to reflect the times in which they are told, and 2017/2018 is the perfect catalyst for that change; especially since the number of female Doctor Who cosplayers has always held a strong presence at San Diego’s Comic-Con over the sixteen years that I’ve attended the festivities. I wrote a small piece about this right before the premiere of Capaldi’s stint back in 2014, right around the time that Danny Cohen, the then Director of BBC Television, revealed to journalists at the Edinburgh TV Festival his desire to eventually see a female Doctor piloting the TARDIS. It only took three years, and a full Doctor’s story arc to see that desire realized (54 years, if we’re being precise), but we finally got there.
Even though I’m shaking in my knickers with enthusiasm and impatience for next season, I really will miss Peter Capaldi as our Doctor, as well Steven Moffat – the arbiter behind his every syllable. His regeneration scene was probably the saddest of the last four, but his final words upon the TARDIS were a nice send-off to us fans, as much as they were a “welcome to the story” for Jodie Whittaker’s 13th: “Doctor…I let you go.” We let you go too, sirs. Godspeed, and thank you for the smiles, the tears, and for the simple gift of sharing a few stories with us about our favorite time-travelling alien.