Monday, August 5, 2013

Forecasting the Twelfth?

We'll see how it plays out when he actually gets the key to the TARDIS; this casting stuff, the alchemy's got to be just right. You can have a brilliant actor for a role but stories that don't play to that actor's strengths, and then you've got a mess despite the talents of all involved. I'd be skeptical of any analysis of the decision now that looks at what Moffatt's done to this point and what Capaldi's done to this point and draws a definitive conclusion about whether it's going to work or not. I mean, you'd think putting Peter Capaldi and Craig Ferguson in a band together would produce nothing but classics, right?

That said, do we have more reasons to think it will be a successful team up than we have reasons to think it won't? I believe so. We have Capaldi's track record of excellence in varied roles to show he can be both alien and endearing at the same time (think Danny Oldsen in Local Hero), and we know for damn sure he can play a character that intimidates and controls situations by understanding the personalities and politics involved using a deft mix of force-of-will and boundary pushing invective (not that we want a Doctor like Malcom Tucker, but there are some tools in that kit we can easily imagine him wielding), and we know he handle the genre work by his previous turns in "The Fires of Pompeii," and "Miracle Day," where in the latter he was pretty much the only reason I watched. He was also in Lair of the White Worm which, goodness knows how to take the measure of that or what we can draw from it, but when things get strange, we know Capaldi's game.

I think the real question will be: can Moffatt make the best use of those talents and produce a Doctor Who that doesn't lean heavily on a younger, action-friendly, nerdgirl bait leading man traveling around with a beautiful, spunky young woman?

We've got a problem, or a challenge, right away in that the TARDIS is set up now to have him traveling with Jenna Louise Colemna's Clara. In Moffatt's hands, I don't think it's unreasonable to wonder if there's the potential for some uncomfortable gender politics to muck things up. Sure, Capaldi is the same as Hartnell was when the series debuted, and Hartnell's Doctor traveled with a young lady. Key difference, she was his granddaughter. A friendship/companionship between a 55-year-old (appearing) man and a 27-year-old woman (who appears to be younger, I think Clara is supposed to be fresh out of university) is not impossible or unnatural, but it is implausible and, given we've already seen that the Doctor can be attracted to young, human females, fraught with the perils of powerful-older-man-isolates-young-lady-from-friends-and-family exploitation dynamics.

I gather Clara will travel with the next Doctor for at least next season, so here's hoping Moffatt has a plan to defuse those concerns. Like Amy had Rory, an obvious way to make the Doctor/companion relationship not creepy would be to give introduce another young person as a companion and give Clara someone closer to her age to associate with, while the Doctor slides into a role more like captain of the ship with a couple junior officers filling out the crew. There doesn't need to be another companion for the Doctor/companion relationship without a sexual dimension to develop, but it's probably the easiest way to do it in the structure of a TV show.

Although I put Capaldi at the top of my next Doctor wishlist when I wrote about "The Fires of Pompeii" a couple months before we knew Smith was leaving, when I formally put together a list of potentials I put Olivia Williams at the top of that list.

Moffatt, in the show where Capaldi was announced, clearly stated that a female Doctor is possible, and implied it's about time there was one. Though perhaps it's telling he could've done it and didn't, so his support for the possibility can be read as cover for giving us yet another white dude. I still think Olivia Williams would be the ideal candidate to play the first female incarnation of the Doctor. So, in a few years, when Capaldi's ready to move on, let's figure it will be 3-5 years out, expect me to start beating the drum for Ms. Williams again.

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