Ever since Peter Capaldi was announced as the latest incarnation of the Doctor, word on the street was that he was going to be “darker.” Anyone who was even remotely familiar with his previous roles could see this wasn’t a big stretch: even the top half of his head was terrifying, as we learned in the 50th anniversary special. But though he has yet to strangle a companion or throw poisonous vines in someone’s face (unlike some doctors we know), Capaldi’s Doctor has certainly developed a reputation of being a plain-old-fashioned asshole. His first season may not be over yet, but it’s already given us plenty of examples of his bad behavior, as Capaldi popped a jaunty little bonnet on everything we thought we knew about our favorite Time Lord. Even if he does save the universe again in the upcoming finale, he’ll have lived with some pretty despicable acts.
Series 8, in my opinion, has been a slight improvement over the lackluster Series 7, but still all over the map, quality-wise. We got one great story, (“Flatline”), a few good-to-okay ones (“Mummy on the Orient Express,” “Robot of Sherwood,” “Time Heist”) a whole lot of mediocre stuff and the complete and utter travesty that is “In The Forest of the Night,” possibly one of of the most godawful stories of all Who history. One of the constants throughout all of them has of course been Capaldi, who remains compelling and engaging even when he’s given really, really dubious material to work with. If he ever gets caught by some sort of Time Police (or the Celestial Intervention Agency), here are just a few of the things they might hold against him (spoilers, obviously):
12) Killing the Half-Face Man…Maybe…
At the climax of his debut episode, “Deep Breath,” the Doctor finds himself wrasslin’ with a clockwork robot in a giant building suspended by a balloon made of human skin (but for the Doctor, it was Tuesday). Moments later, we see the Half-Face Man knocked to the ground, and it’s unclear whether he was pushed or convinced to jump by the Doctor’s Debbie Downer speech about mortality. Since this comes soon after he says “I like to have a drink before I kill a man,” odds are pretty damn sure that this was an act of foul play, although the whole point is that the HFM isn’t technically really alive and is certainly emotionless and evil, so it’s probably not as much of an ethical conflict as showrunner Steven Moffat intended. Either way, I really wish they’d retire the “staring straight into the camera” thing. It looks less badass and more like Doctor’s about to start delivering a House of Cards-syle monologue (which would, now that I think of it, actually be kind of badass).
11) Exploding a Target at an Archery Tournament
This one isn’t morally objectionable so much as just kind of petty. In the midst of a Medieval shooting contest with the obnoxiously peppy Robin Hood (who may or may not be a robot), the Doctor gets fed up with traditional bows-and-arrows and decides to just set his wooden target on fire. I know it was only a throwaway joke, but if the sonic screwdriver can make things explode, that kind of raises a whole bunch of unsettling questions about the limits of Capaldi’s powers (not to mention why he wouldn’t just do that to any wooden obstacles he faces). Although he hasn’t used this setting since (or before, if memory serves), this was one of the Twelfth Doctor’s many “don’t fuck with me” moments, as well as part of his general sourpuss act throughout the whole episode. One thing’s for certain, though: If you constantly swing around a high-tech carpentry tool that can also blow shit up, you kind of have to give up some of those “I don’t use a gun” hero points.
10) The Old “Suggestibility Patch” Bit
Another instance of the Doctor asserting his dominance came in last week’s “Dark Water.” Devastated by Danny Pink’s senseless death, Clara apparently drugs the Doctor and takes him to Mustafar from Star Wars Episode III, where she threatens to destroy all of his TARDIS keys if he doesn’t bring her “soldier man” back. But not only does this not work, it turns out to have been a bit of mind-fuckery from the Doctor, who actually slapped a dream-inducing patch onher and suggested the entire volcano thing to “see how far she’d go.”
Am I the only one who found this a little unsettling? Isn’t there a way to figure out how much someone feels about something without, you know, warping their brain? And we now know that this Doctor has a collection of hypnopatches and can apply them to his companions without being noticed, because he wasn’t creepy enough already. Thanks a lot, Moffat: you’re basically setting the stage for Capaldi’s version of the interrogation sequence from V for Vendetta, which would probably be even more horrifying than the original.
9) The Companion Cop-out
Longtime Whovians are used to being toyed with, especially with the rise of Moffat, the clown prince of trolling his own fanbase just because he can. However, this season it seems that almost every episode contained some character that would have made an awesome teammate get left behind. Journey Blue, Saibra, Psi, Lundvik, Perkins, Rigsy, and others could have helped spice up the atmosphere in the TARDIS immeasurably, but didn’t.
Even Danny and Courtney Woods were fakeouts of a sort, introduced as possible TARDIS travelers and then mostly left out of all the cool time/space travel business. I mean, come on! We almost had a superhacker or a shapeshifter as a regular companion, which wouldn’t have been cool as a talking alien penguin but still. At the very least it would have given Capaldi fuel for more interesting put-downs than “pudding brains.”
8) Scaring a Child and Then Scrambling His Brain
I think a lot of fans wanted “Listen” to be better than it is. Like so much of Moffat’s stuff these days, it’s got a bunch of potentially cool ideas floating around in it that don’t gel together in any meaningful way. You mostly have to appreciate it based on individual moments, like when the Doctor proves resolutely discomforting to a frightened young Rupert Pink. Trapped in the boy’s room with either a monster or a short lumpy person who loves blankets, the Doctor seriously freaks out Rupert by yelling at him not to look.
If we’re to believe the big reveal of this episode, that there was no monster and the Doctor is just reliving a childhood nightmare, then that makes his panic attacks a whole bunch of stress for nothing. Best case scenario is that he still inadvertently inspired Pink to become a soldier, which later led to him killing a small child, so…yeah. If you look at the big picture, that’s got to be at least 500 jerkass points right there, for those of you keeping score.
7) Making Courtney Woods Throw up in Space
After learning all of what we now know about how manipulative the Doctor can be, there’s no way this was an accident. Coal Hill student and “disruptive influence” Courtney Woods wants to see space, so the Doctor shows it to her at the end of “The Caretaker,” which causes her to get sick and create “spillage” almost instantly. Just look at the Doctor’s horrifying smile: he knows exactly what he’s doing, and might even be enjoying it. I guess it’s like giving a kid a cigar to ensure they’ll never ever smoke in their life, although apparently not as effective, because in the next episode he ends up taking Courtney into space anyway to make her feel special. Why couldn’t we have just gone to the Overall Cluster (or whatever it’s called) instead?
6) Forcing Clara to Lie to an Innocent Woman in Order to Lure out an Evil Space Mummy
One consistent character flaw of the Doctor we’ve seen time and time again is the way he persuades people to do questionable things and avoid getting his hands dirty. Lying to a distraught woman named Maisie to help stop a killer mummy on the Orient Express certainly isn’t the worst thing the Doctor’s ever done by proxy, but it’s pretty damn dodgy, and the look on Clara’s face shows you she knows that a line’s been crossed. Especially if it led to…
5) Letting Most of the Space Orient Express Passengers Die (Possibly)
In a scene from the same episode that seems inspired by a sudden budget cramp, the TARDIS suddenly appears on a beach on a planet that, admit it, would have been a much more interesting setting for a story than a Space Train. There, the Doctor explains to Clara that all the survivors of the mummy attack on the Orient Space Express are safe in the nearby alien city, which should set off some warning bells.
Though we see Perkins the engineer again, do you really believe the Doctor, here? It’s just as likely he left the rest of those poor future-Edwardian cosplayer people to die in space. He even mirthlessly jokes about it being his “cover story,” kind of, unless he really did let the survivors suffocate, in which case Clara should have just ditched him and started running for the pinkish alien hills. All I know is, when you ask someone if they were just pretending to be heartless and their response is “Would that make it easier?”, that person probably isn’t super innocent.
4) “Shoot the Little Girl First.”
Cornered on a spacecraft in 2049 and facing a bunch of hostile questions, the Doctor casually throws his fellow travelers (Clara and her student Courtney Woods) under the bus as a kind of dare when they’re confronted by the shuttle’s crew. He tells them they should shoot “the girl first, then her teacher, then me,” in that order. Sure, nothing comes of it (the astronauts don’t even have guns), but it might have been nice if Courtney knew all that beforehand. As far as she’s concerned, this Doctor might be cruel enough to just let her get killed without batting an eye, even if it were an eye that had to regenerate a few dozen times.
3) Ditching His Companions at a Really, Really Bad Time
“Kill the Moon” proved to be an unusually divisive episode this season, either a deliberately surreal dark science-fantasy or a ham-handed pro-life allegory with logic that makes Sharktopus seem like a documentary, depending on whom you ask. Regardless of individual opinions, most people agree that the Doctor’s actions in this episode were pretty callous. Just as our gang in 2049 have discovered that the moon is a giant space egg hatching a dragon-butterfly creature (you have no idea), the Doctor decides to peace out and leave the monumental decision of whether or not to kill it to people who clearly don’t really know what’s going on.
Even though it all works out, I think more than a few of us wished Clara had cashed in on her threat to slap the Doctor so hard he regenerates, because that would at least make the Seventh Doctor’s death a lot less embarrassing in comparison. I have to say, as problematic as this episode is, it’s hard for me to get too mad at Capaldi when he’s wearing a polka dot shirt. It just gives me the giggles. And when the Doctor’s shirt is the best part of your episode, you’ve got problems.
2) Insulting Pretty Much Everyone for No Good Reason
Many of the Doctors have been known to lash out at people. The First Doctor gave Ian and Steven crap for the hell of it, the Fourth memorably called Harry Sullivan an “imbecile,” and thanks to Christopher Eccleston, it’s hard to think of Mickey without also adding “the Idiot.” Capaldi took it to a new level, though, piling on barbs over and over, and while this was at least a consistent character trait, it kind of got old, like, instantly, especially the endless jabs about Clara’s physical appearance or the references to Danny as “PE” (British people seem to have a thing about PE teachers, if theirsci-fi shows are any judge).
Ribbing is one thing, but there’s got to be a line between “cranky old man” and “time-traveling Andrew Dice Clay,” and at this rate the next companion will probably have lines that solely consist of “OHHHHHH SNAP!”
1) Tricking a Guy Into Getting Zapped by Dalek Antibodies
Whatever he did with the Half Man Cookie in the season premiere, by the next episode the Twelfth Doctor was unambiguously getting people murdered, even if he had logical motives for doing so. “Into The Dalek” has its problems, but the scene where a shrunken Capaldi lies to a soldier so he and the others will get the chance to survive says volumes about the kind of dude this Doctor is, now. He even says “trust me,” which is almost solid proof that we should never trust him about anything after this.
When the soldier Ross accidentally gets the attention of Dalek antibodies, the Doctor gives him a power cell that he says will save him and does so only if by “save him” you mean the exact opposite of that. While you can grasp the Doctor’s reasoning for offing the guy, that doesn’t make it any easier to take. And as if that weren’t cold enough, later he makes a joke about squishing around in the dead soldier’s remains in the Dalek’s feeding tube. Ouch.
It’s been sort of glossed over, but to me this is probably the harshest thing this Doctor has done so far that we know for sure. Which means that all he has to do is lie to and/or kill more than one person without doubt in the finale to win the Asshole Time Lord Olympics. Something tells me it’s not too far out of the realm of possibility…
Previously by Andy Hughes
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11 Terrible Doctor Who Cliffhangers
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