Many fans feel that Peter Capaldi had a substantial handicap when playing the Twelfth Doctor. He lacked a serious seasonal plot, Clara became dull without her mystery, and even a soft reboot didn’t help. Missy may have been permanently killed, and the sonic sunglasses didn’t help matters.
However, Capaldi is a great actor. His talent managed to leave more than a few shining moments among the otherwise bland stories written for the Twelfth Doctor, so we’ve picked out his six most defining scenes.
“Robot of Sherwood” – Spoon Fight
After attempting to disprove the existence of the Prince of Thieves, The Doctor finds himself in an unlikely bind. Eager to redistribute the wealth of The Doctor’s magical box, the Earl of Loxley challenges him to a duel for the riches. Sticking to his pacifist ideals against weapons, The Doctor instead opts for the more noble path with a fierce battle-cry: “For I am The Doctor and this is my spoon!”
“Deep Breath” – The Half-Faced Man
Throughout his long history, The Doctor has sometimes been forced to make that final choice to save one side by destroying the other. His decisions have obliterated Daleks, Cybermen, and entire planets, always with the ultimate goal of saving lives. That was until the Half-Face Man.
Wrestling with the temporally misplaced android, The Doctor is still full of regeneration energy and strong enough of a match. Even if we never see the act and only the outcome, it is heavily suggested that after a tussle with The Doctor in an escape capsule, the Half-Face Man is either pushed or convinced to jump to his death. Having such a direct kill so early in his run marked Capaldi’s Doctor as possibly the darkest incarnation yet and set a dire tone for the rest of the series.
“The Magician’s Apprentice” – Saving Davros
Daleks are the deadliest threat to the universe. They believe all other life an abomination, that only they are worthy to survive. They defeated the Time Lords, conquered galaxies, and almost destroyed creation. Then, one day, The Doctor has a chance to undo it all.
When the temperamental TARDIS suddenly dropped him in the middle of the Kaled-Thal war, the Twelfth Doctor encountered a small child named Davros, the future creator of the Daleks. Abandoning him means the Daleks will never rise and slaughter entire galaxies. It also means the death of a boy who has not yet done anything wrong.
This is a choice only the Doctor can make – the choice to save Davros. Showing that empathy, compassion, and mercy are the better qualities, he destroys the ‘hand mines’ and leads Davros back home. Even knowing how many millions he would save with the death of this child, The Doctor holds all lives sacred and could never sacrifice an innocent.
“The Husbands of River Song” – the Final Night With River Song
With their timelines back-to-front, The Doctor and River Song had to be very careful not to disturb one another’s past or futures. But on The Doctor’s first adventure with River and her last with him, she revealed that they had spent a final night on Darillium. By telling him that, it meant he would always know the final time they would meet.
So when it came to pass, The Doctor cheated fate. He arranged for a restaurant to be built and ordered the best view for an entire night. A night that lasted 24 years.
“Listen” – the Creature Under the Bed
Every child knows it: something lurks under the bed. It doesn’t matter if you look, it will just move under the cupboard. Or the chest of drawers. With such a basic fear inherent in thousands of years throughout the galaxy, The Doctor has an unthinkable idea – what if something really is there?
“Listen” is arguably the best episode of Capaldi’s tenure. It broke into a universal childhood fear and supposed the existence of a lifeform that haunts every other race in existence. And when the Doctor is within reach of the answers, it shows us the depth of his character.
Finding a time and place that one such figure appeared, The Doctor is encumbered by the presence of young Danny Pink and companion Clara. With nothing but a blanket separating them, The Doctor gives up his chase to avoid any hostilities. Instead, the Twelfth Doctor lets the creature escape before he can get a good look. It marks a notable turn in his character, from one who would risk all to somebody who knows when to stop.
“The Zygon Inversion” – the Price of War
“Day of the Doctor” saw Eleven rewrite his own history and save Gallifrey. But that meant he still had four hundred years of memories of fighting and every single one of them is reflected when he stops a Zygon rebellion against their human hosts. Because he knew both races well, he set a plan in place from the beginning for this exact scenario.
Each side was given a button and that button would kill the other side. Or, maybe, your own.
Determined that nobody else will suffer from the brutality of war as he did, The Doctor taunts them into realising the brutal horror of their actions by comparing their tiny fight to a simple game. Each button has an equal chance to kill their side as much as the other, a genocidal coin-flip.
The Doctor rarely opens up about his place in the Time War but this is a precious insight into the darkest depths of his history. He recalls doing worse things than either side could ever imagine and imparts the most important lesson of war: to take a tight hold of all the pain suffered and make sure that nobody else ever has to feel that way again.