He's finally here! Peter Capaldi will make his Doctor Who debut this Saturday, August 23 when he officially takes over Time Lord duties as the Twelfth Doctor. Capaldi's dark, dangerous Doctor stands in stark contrast to the young, quirky men who proceeded him, but don't expect showrunner Steven Moffat to go out of his way to endear you to the new Doctor's style.
"It’s just fun when the Doctor’s new," Moffat told reporters during the New York stop of the Who World Tour. "It’s like there are certain things that always happen in Doctor Who. Like people will always walk into the TARDIS and say, 'It’s bigger on the inside.' You never get bored of that! You could do it once an episode. It’s like James Bond introducing himself. You want to see it happen again. So a new Doctor is just exciting, so no, it’s not a sales job."
Read on find out what else Moffat, Capaldi and returning companion Jenna Coleman had to say about Twelve and Who's eighth season. But as River Song always warns:
1. The villain in the Season 8 premiere is a callback to "The Girl in the Fireplace"
In the feature-length "Deep Breath," the Doctor arrives in London via dinosaur (don't ask) only to discover a half-faced droid harvesting organs from Victorian Londoners. And even though the Doctor faced a similar threat in Season 2 when he rescued Madame de Pompadour, Twelve never quite manages to connect the dots. "I think I actually stole this joke from Colombo that the Doctor’s completely forgotten a previous adventure. Because you would!" Moffat says. "He’s 2,000 years old, he’s forgotten the whole thing."
But the organ-hungry droids aren't just an excuse for meta-winking. They represent an extension of the Doctor's own anxieties as he adjusts to his new body. "I suppose that’s why I chose those monsters, because they’ve replaced themselves continually and the Doctor is faced with the fact that he has to and he doesn’t even know where he got his face from," Moffat says.
Of course, not all of this season's monsters will embody characters' inner struggles. There will also be Daleks, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Cybermen and a mysterious new character known as Missy, the Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere.
2. Capaldi's previous Who appearance will be addressed
Anyone with a good memory (or Google) knows that Capaldi appeared as Roman merchant Lucius Caecilius in Season 4's "The Fires of Pompeii. " But despite the lack of a reason for future companion Karen Gillan's appearance in that episode, Moffat actually has an explanation ready for Capaldi's—just don't expect a whole big hullabaloo about it.
"Whatever we do with that, which I'm not gonna tell you, it’s subtle," Moffat explained. "We’re not doing a great big number on it because frankly the reason the Doctor looks like another character in Doctor Who is because he’s played by the same actor and everybody knows that. If you go down that path I’ll be explaining why John Watson looks like Bilbo."
3. You won't completely understand Twelve right away
When the Doctor regenerates, he doesn't just change faces. He changes. And Twelve's mission of finding himself is a whole lot more complicated than eating fish fingers and custard. Meanwhile, as the Doctor struggles to discover his new identity, Clara will be forced to reconcile the image of this wrinkled, fierce man with that of the manic boy she idolized.
"I think there’s an element that runs throughout Doctor Who, and [it's] why Doctor Who is so much better than everything else in the world, is that the Doctor doesn’t know he’s a hero," Moffat says. "He knows that some other people think he is and he knows that sometimes he seems like a legendary warrior, but he knows, and we know because we’re watching him, he’s just a man who can't drive a time machine properly. Just having that, the difference between how people see him and how he is, is always exciting."
4. Clara and the Doctor will have a very different relationship
Clara was quite fond (and flirtatious) with Eleven, that fauxmance has thankfully come to an end. But that doesn't mean Clara loves the new Doctor any less, though Coleman admits there are a few bumps in her road to Clara understanding the transition process. "Expecting a reply from maybe what the Eleventh Doctor would say and suddenly this new Doctor does not respond in the same way," Coleman says. "I suppose that’s what’s jarring, realizing, 'What are the rules now? And how does this dynamic work?'"
Clara's struggle to embrace the new Doctor has serious repercussions for Twelve, who's in a very vulnerable state post-regeneration. "It must be frightening when you look at your best friend in the whole world … the person on whom you are anchored, and they don't see you," Moffat says. "They literally look at you and look right through you and they see something else. And you still feel the same."
5. Capaldi loves the Doctor as much as you do
It's normal to get nervous before a new Doctor, but we're in good hands with Capaldi. He cares about this show as much, if not more, than even the most diehard fans. "I just went over and I remember touching it," Capaldi recalls of his first time seeing the TARDIS during his Season 4 appearance. "And I got a little bit teary looking at it! But that’s because I love the show."
And now that he's the Doctor, Capaldi finally has a chance to make the role his own. So what does he plan on bringing to it? "Well, the thing I always wanted to bring to it was me. So I got lucky with that one," Capaldi jokes. "The thing is, every day is full of moments that you go, 'Oh wow, I'm the Doctor, this is amazing.' But think of the first time you make your escape through a ventilation shaft! It’s quite special."
6. Twelve will be nothing like Ten or Eleven
Moffat explains that, "when you’ve got a new Doctor, you really want the actor to lead the way." And that's exactly what the showrunner is letting Capaldi do.
Recalling Capaldi's early days on set, Coleman points out how he quickly established his own take on the Time Lord. "Normally when you read the script at this point, the Doctor would embrace this scene or dance or be running around the console, and there were times when, especially in the early days when Peter was finding his Doctor, [he] would say 'Actually, no, I'm just gonna stand here,'" Coleman says. "It’s that thing where instead of going to the room, the room is coming to him. And I feel like he was really bold and brave and made those changes, and that was because that was Peter fine doing it his way."
However, as a lifelong fan of Doctor Who, Capaldi is quick to point out that, conscious or not, the influences of previous Doctors are already deeply embedded within him. "Even if I hadn’t been cast as the Doctor, my acting would probably have been influenced by William Hartnell or Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker and all of the other guys … So I have no need to specifically pull them out of the bag," he explains.
7. There's a new fan-made title sequence
While Moffat has some not-so-nice things to say about Twitter, the showrunner embraces the positive aspects of Who's online fandom. The proof is in the show's newest title sequence, which was created by a fan named Billy Hanshaw. Hanshaw posted his work on YouTube, where Moffat came across it and liked it enough to turn it into the show's official opening.
"The most important thing is that [there is] an extraordinary creative response to Doctor Who that is almost unique to Doctor Who, and that’s all we should look at," Moffat says. "It has turned people into actors, it has turned people into writers, it has turned people into scientists. That’s an extraordinary thing. And that title sequence which I'm so proud of is a result. That’s online Doctor Who. That’s the real part of it, that’s the real story."
Doctor Who returns Saturday, August 23 at 8pm on BBC America.