Synopsis: With a slyer eye toward the show’s past, the Doctor continues to save the universe from colorful adversaries, while learning cathartic truths that help to reshape his future.
• More strongly affected by the show’s deep mythology, while building upon it.
• The more common narrative interweaving largely succeeded in moving the narrative forward.
• Deepened the narrative overtones of the Last Great Time War, revealing truths the Doctor had forgotten.
• The sometimes darker tones throughout connected well with the overall narrative.
• The non-linear companions, particularly River Song and Clara Oswald strongly drove the narrative.
• The Master, in multiple incarnations.
• Gallifrey and Rassilon.
• Moffat’s narrative style might come off as overly sly, snarky, and harsh, particularly later in the era.
• Some of Moffat’s dialogue came off differently than intended. “I’m a girl! No, I’m not! … Still not ginger!” was meant to be frustration for still not being either, but sometimes interpreted otherwise.
• The darker tones might not have sat well with long-time fans, particularly in the sub-rosa way it was incorporated early in the era.
• Though overall well made, the regular logo changes until the Twelfth Doctor’s episodes came off as rather indecisive.
Eleventh Doctor (2010-2013) —
Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor was very much a reflection of Moffat’s guidance of the show. There was a sly eye to the deep mythology, and a preponderance of lies, secrets, and forgotten truths. Smith may have been the youngest to portray the Doctor so far, but Smith successfully played the character as an ancient trying desperately not to let the past destroy him. In the seeming narrative extremes of the era, he dressed and acted a bit like his second incarnation, but ultimately became more akin to the manipulative Seventh. This incarnation’s mask of stability thickened far beyond Ten’s. Overall, this harshening narrative was intentionally built by Moffat to cathartically destroy the Doctor’s mask. This was the Doctor that learned how the Time War truly ended, out of sync timelines often leading to inaccurate or lost memories (see The Day of the Doctor 50th anniversary special). Smith perfectly showed that mask fall away the moment he learned from a familiar face that his efforts to ensure the right outcome for the war was probably successful. In the end, the Doctor could lie no more on Trenzalore. No lies became his ultimate sacrifice to have it all: protect both his own race in the pocket universe of his own making and the human colony of Trenzalore. Eleven was in his Thirteenth and final body, his regenerative energy spent, but as reward for his lifetime of efforts, his fellow Timelords granted him a new regenerative cycle to protect the universe for longer …
Twelfth Doctor (2014-2017) —
Peter Capaldi was perhaps the Doctor that never was, yet easily became one of the best. Capaldi easily brought depth, nuance, unreliability, and thick Scottishness to the role beyond his predecessors. He rarely had time for things like ties, hugging, or pudding brains. As being even more Scottish than the Seventh Doctor, he could really complain about things, but had no time for complaining either. He required facts and reasoning, and could not accept he succeeded in saving Gallifrey until he found himself there (after surviving his own prison of life and death used as a trap by Rassilon). This was the Doctor that was OK with there being only bad choices, and was willing to make the resulting hard choices in a cold universe filled with dark nemeses.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this incarnation was the sense of destiny about him, in spite of Eleven being a possible end. Timelord faces sometimes did come from someone they saw. The Fourth Doctor’s Timelady companion, Romana, intentionally chose the face of one that sacrificed herself to save the universe, much to the Doctor’s possibly sarcastic protest. The Sixth Doctor’s face — and arguably personality — stemmed from a rather over the top security guard on Gallifrey. And finally, Twelve’s came from a man the Tenth Doctor saved from the eruption of Pompeii (a descendent appearing in Torchwood). There was all a deeper meaning to it, and Twelve came to embrace it: He is the Doctor and he saves people! His appearance in “The Day of the Doctor” notwithstanding, the most significant senses of destiny came through his interactions with a young Davros, who eventually created the Daleks, and later with his interactions with the First Doctor. It all might just suggest that the timeline was slowly fixing itself from nearly being destroyed during the Time War, and the universe simply required the Doctor’s continued existence. It would seem that Twelve was ultimately in conflict with that notion, at first preferring to die in sacrifice than regenerate again. Yet, as always, when there’s tears, there’s hope. In a final sense of destiny, he helped to convince the First Doctor that his regeneration was necessary, as the First helped the Twelfth of the same. “Is the future all girl!?” / “We can only hope …”