SO MANY SPOILERS. You have been warned.
The web is where fan theories live, and I have one. The new Doctor Who, the one played by the fantastic Peter Capaldi, is new.
Now, we know he’s new, but what I mean is he’s newborn new. When Smith’s Doctor, the Eleventh, was on his way out, he was granted a series of new regenerations. In essence, he was given a second life.
My theory is that all of the quirks people find so annoying or engaging about Capaldi’s Doctor are a result of his youth. The new Doctor is a baby. He’s petulant, he’s demanding, he’s self-centered, he’s clueless – he’s like every kid I’ve ever nannied. As the season progresses, he is growing up, going through stages of development that roughly match how a child might advance.
Cute, you say, but give me some proof. (You may not say that, but if you did, I’d offer up this:)
1. The first episode is called Deep Breath. That’s the first thing medical folk look for from a newborn. That first breath. He’s birthed from the Tardis and spends the whole episode running around in a nightie that looks like a baptismal gown. Then he jumps in the lake. Eventually he ends up at a restaurant and what does he say? “Do you have a children’s menu?”
2. The next episode features the Doctor coming to terms with his new life – “Am I a good man?” he asks. That’s followed up by a trip to Sherwood Forest, a kid’s fantasy if ever there was one, and an episode about the monster under the bed, in which we actually see the Doctor as a child.
3. In Episode 6, called The Caretaker, the Doctor literally goes back to school and hangs out with a school-aged kid, Courtney Woods. We even have to sit through a meet the teacher night, truly one of the most horrifying aspects of grade school life. It should also be noted that the school is Coal Hill, the school featured in the very first ever episode of Dr. Who. Yep. It’s where he was born the first time too…and where he found his first teacher companions, Barbara and Ian, now mirrored by Clara and Danny. Then in Episode 7, he takes Courtney to the moon where they deal with where babies come from. It turns out, they come from moon sized space eggs filled with slimy amniotic fluid and germ-spiders. That’s not what I learned in school, but then my teacher wasn’t a Doctor. Even the latest episode, in which the Tardis is shrunk and the doctor spends most of the episode being carried, seems to infantilize him.
Here’s the deal – I rarely theorize about creative work because it’s easy to see stuff that was never intentional, but this feels intentional. I mean, he’s a new life. We’re watching him from the very first steps. It’s kinda cool. Next episode, when he does something that seems really frustratingly obtuse, imagine that he’s a kid, still growing and learning. It will all make sense.
“You are a broom. Question: you take a broom, you replace the handle. Then, later, you replace the brush. And you do that over and over again. Is it still the same broom? Answer: No, of course it isn’t! But you can still sweep the floor! Which is not strictly relevant. Skip that last part. You have replaced every piece of yourself, mechanical and organic, time and time again — there’s not a trace of the original you left. You probably can’t even remember where you got that face from.” – The Doctor, Deep Breath