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Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor Was a Teacher

As Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi created the persona of the Twelfth Doctor, something interesting emerged. In Deep Breath, while still recovering from Gallifreyan man-flu, he locates an errant piece of chalk and starts writing down equations, formulas and the like. From the very beginning, it appears that this incarnation had an affinity for working things out in front of the class. 

In Series 8, we see a few instances where Capaldi either lectures to an allegedly empty console room, or bounces ideas off Clara. In fact, if you had to describe the lovely, circular upper level of this Doctor’s console room, it very much resembles a library, or a study at university. Chalkboard, book stand, work desk, globe, reading chair, and shelves upon shelves of books. 

We never had book shelves in the classic console rooms. Once in a while, one of the Doctors might occasionally bring in a book that related to the story at hand, but that’s about it. No, the closest we ever got was Paul McGann’s elegant sitting room/observatory in The TV Movie. Funny, isn’t it? None of the past Doctors really had a library at hand, and if it was ever seen, it was usually chucked away deep in the bowels of the ship somewhere. The Twelfth Doctor was the evidently the first voracious reader. But a great deal of the warmth of Capaldi’s console came down to the lighting and that marvellous library level. 

Director Rachel Tallalay said she enjoys working with Peter Capaldi because he likes to help craft the scenes he’s in, his movements, the blocking, etc., and as a past director himself — not to mention being a good illustrator — he has a good visual sense of what works. Just how much of the university library professor vibe he had a hand in, I don’t know, but it was a very good fit for him. It never even occurred to me that he and Clara were also a good fit because they were both teachers. Indeed, we saw what happened with Clara being a bit too much like the Doctor.

Moffat changed things up with Series 9, giving us the professor in the midst of a mid-life crisis. As soon as the Doctor knew there was a Confession Dial with his name on it, he shifted gears. Suddenly, he was the cool professor on break, with a grunge look, punk rock guitar, and sonic Ray-Bans. Series 9 indulged Capaldi the musician and guitar player, as well as the actor, and it was the rock n’ roll season. And yet, he still took time to break the fourth wall, and deliver a nice dissertation to the class on the Bootstrap Paradox. Always teaching, that one.

In Heaven Sent, while trapped in that Confession Dial, we witness something new, as the Doctor mentally retreats to an imaginary TARDIS console (class) room. There, he tries to work his way out of certain death, aided by an imaginary Clara, and his trusty chalkboard.

By the time Series 10 begins, over 70 years have passed for him since last we saw the Doctor. Now, he’s forged an all new life, thriving as a university professor. We even get to see him in his element, on stage, giving lectures to packed houses about time, space, and life.

(And if I might be so bold… something I think would be lovely, would be truly beautiful: If Steven Moffat would write a piece for Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. For the theater. The stage is dressed as a university amphitheatre. Peter, a chalkboard, and a piece of chalk. We are his students, and he talks about time, and relative dimensions, and space. He talks about life. I would very much like to see that. )

I don’t think viewers at the time — myself included — grasped the gravity, the novelty of that situation. After spending 24 years alone with one of the most important women in his life, he then locks up and tries to rehabilitate another. And while guarding the vault, he takes a professorship and stays in one place for over seven decades and becomes something of a legend at university. This really was a momentous development for the Doctor. In a way, his stewardship over Missy was very much like a self-imposed second exile on Earth, stuck in one time zone. 

Because, as we know, the Doctor would never just retire and do nothing…

Series 10 also introduces us to Bill Potts, the ideal student who asks a lot of questions. The Doctor notices her and becomes Bill’s tutor. It’s this new arrangement that finally makes him break his oath about staying on Earth to guard the vault. 

Because this is the Doctor, and the stars are calling. 

They travel to the future which is filled with emojis, visit the last great Ice Fair and it all has the feel of a school field trip. Good old adventures in time and space. Yet throughout the series, the Doctor is still giving her assignments, and complains when they’re late! 

At the end of Series 10, the Doctor gets two regeneration scenes, where he once again monologues to the class. In the first, he rails against yet another regeneration, but then, finally resigned to his fate, he says his goodbyes, and class is finally dismissed. 

Rick Lundeen

Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor Was a Teacher

by Rick Lundeen time to read: 4 min
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