Dealing With My First Regeneration: Thoughts on the New Doctor

binkleyPal, we are three episodes into the new season of Doctor Who. I know you don’t watch it because it is not a graphic sadistic nightmare of a show about depraved people doing horrifically depraved things. Regardless, I love the show and felt I should weigh in on what I thought of the new Doctor. Especially as my wife, my daughters and the daughter of our many fan watch the show. This post is for them.

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I got into the Doctor during the Matt Smith era. My wife and I started watching his glorious first episode and I was hooked right away. We happily observed him eating fish sticks and custard in a kitchen with a very confused, but highly intrigued, young Amelia Pond. Watching him slurp that custard off those dry battered fish sticks, I felt I too was that intrigued little girl. I knew right away that this was the show for me and this was my doctor.

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I once heard Doctor Who described as an adult show for kids and a kid show for adults and I couldn’t agree more with that assessment. I showed this episode to my little girls and they were hooked too. One kid was behind the couch peeking over at the TV.  The other kid was burying her face into my chest. I was watching with a big smile on my face. I started re-watching the Matt Smith episodes with them and they fell in love with the Doctor just as I did.

People fall in love with the first Doctor they encounter I think. Regardless of whether they are objectively better or worse. It is the same reason people my age like the Beastie Boys License to Ill over any other Beasties album. Truth is they are all better than License to Ill, but every one heard that one first, so that’s the one they love most.

When Matt Smith came on the scene, I think there was some hesitation and reluctance on the part of the fans to love the new Doctor. The true Whovians loved the David Tennant Doctor and were maybe taking their loss out on poor Matt. If he was not loved right away, I assume that changed quickly.

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Three episodes into this incarnation, I am sad to say that I am having the same reaction to the new Doctor. This time played admirably by Peter Capaldi. He is a great actor and I loved him in the movie In the Loop. That said, I don’t want a new Doctor. I want the old one back.

I am sure I am not alone. Matt Smith was a breakthrough doctor. He broke into North America and forged a new fan base of loyal Whovians. Then it all ended and now there is this new guy. How are we supposed to deal with that? We built a personal relationship with him. I mean imagine if throughout Breaking Bad, Walter White was played by someone else every two seasons. Someone who looked totally different. Maybe even much older. I guess the long time Doctor Who fans have been through this before. It may not be so shocking. I haven’t. This is my first regeneration.

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For the sustainability of the TV show, I assume it’s a special challenge to manage this. Especially if the Doctor goes from a young handsome fella with a dapper (I mean cool) bow tie to an old curmudgeon in a dark suit.

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Credit should be given to the makers of Doctor Who. They were genius about how they dealt with this issue head on. Let me explain. In many ways the Doctor’s companions represent us, the viewer. Regular people who feel they are a bit stuck. They crave adventure and the Doctor can provide that in spades. The companions latch onto the Doctor and take us viewing Whovians along for the ride. The companions (and the viewers) develop relationships with the Doctor. In recent incarnations the relationship has leaned towards allusions of a boyfriend-girlfriend situation. This never leans so far as to make them horizontal with each other, but, there is definite tension.

So, changing the appearance of the person you already developed a relationship with can be quite troublesome. Us human creatures are not always as enlightened as others in the universe. I don’t know if you are aware of this Pal, but sometimes we can’t separate the exterior from the interior.

The first episode quickly addresses the elephant in the room. His age. In the first episode, Clara can’t get past the new look of the Doctor. It isn’t the same person. It isn’t the Doctor. This is a much older looking Doctor. If you could regenerate into anything, why would you make his hair grey?

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Just like my judgement of this “imposter”, she judged the Doctor and in doing so gets judged herself by the more enlightened friends of the Doctor. This is exactly what went through my head. Am I going to like this Doctor? He is so much older. I am not so sure. A reflection of my apparent ageism.

Like Clara, it was hard for me to shift gears like that. She eventually did. The question is will I? I don’t know. I still love the show and I like this Doctor. But it is hard when the best Doctor that ever was just left in a tear inducing TV event entitled The Time of the Doctor.

Enough blathering. I gotta get over it. I love Doctor Who. It is the same Doctor. I need to look past my bowtie coloured glasses to find him.

So what am I looking for in my Doctor?
– I need my doctor to be a cheeky frenetic madman. Check.
– I need to not understand half of what he is saying because of his fast talking thick accented full of scientific jargon speech. Check.
– I need my doctor to be smarter than everyone else in a manner that no else can really comprehend. Check.
– I need my Doctor to love humanity but to constantly remind the humans of how dumb they are. Check.
– I need my Doctor to be strong and in charge of his surroundings. Hmmnnn, can’t say I am feeling that one.

Okay so this Doctor has mostly all the elements I am looking for. The truth is that it is not just about one actor. The Doctor is in the writers and they haven’t steered me wrong yet. So I am optimistic.

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Actually, I am just about to sit down with my kids and and watch the fourth episode now. Sit tight for a second, Pal, and I will let you know what I think….

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… Wowzers it was soooooo good!  The Doctor is really starting to take shape. I have come to realize that this is a more vulnerable doctor. This seems more intentional than I realized. He is unsure, afraid, defensive and not as in control of himself and his surroundings as he would like. I guess he is as unsure of himself as we are of him. I think I can get into that complexity.

Also, the Doctor-companion relationship has been more formed with this episode. More of a parent-child relationship, although both seem to be taking on the child and adult roles at different times. Somewhat combative, which is fun to watch. Pal, you will be glad to know that I just became emotionally invested in those two. Just what I was waiting for.

Well, congrats Doctor Who on making it happen. Giving me chills. Simultaneously making my eyes well up with emotion and scaring the pants off me and my kids as we watch. All is right again. We all agree that this episode was awesome. I think we are going to be just fine with you, the Peter Capaldi Doctor. I feel like a true Whovian now, going through my first regeneration. But, please don’t leave us too soon.

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Ooohhh. I see episode five in my PVR. Can’t wait to watch it.

Later Pal.

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