Every time a new actor takes over the role of the Doctor, the mysterious alien time-traveler on Doctor Who, it's always a bit of an adjustment. The expectations are high — and that goes double for beloved actor Peter Capaldi, who took the role last year. And here's the scene where Capaldi proved he could own the role.
Welcome back to The Exact Moment When, our weekly listing of a moment where something changed — for the better or the worse.
Capaldi's opening story, "Deep Breath," is sort of an odd showcase for a new Doctor. It's got some of the "regeneration disorientation" stuff that's traditional in a "new Doctor" story these days, and there's some goofy humor in the mix. But Capaldi doesn't quite seem to "click" with Jenna Coleman on their first outing, and the script goes to some lengths to put them at odds as she clings to Matt Smith's Doctor. Steven Moffat's script plays up the "abrasive genius who never listens to anyone else" aspect of the Doctor, and meanwhile he steals a homeless man's coat and acts somewhat belligerent to his friends. The story also does him no favors, giving him nothing particularly impressive to push against.
But the scene, towards the end, where Capaldi confronts the half-face man alone, one on one, is just perfect. The staging is lovely, with Capaldi just sitting casually at a table aboard the half-face man's blimp, and the casual menace (tinged with sadness) with which Capaldi says "I've got a horrible feeling I'm going to have to kill you. I thought you might appreciate a drink first" gives me total chills.
Like a lot of Capaldi's best moments as the Doctor in his first year, it's very reminiscent of Tom Baker (like the scene in "Planet of Evil" where he tells Sorenson to commit suicide.) But it's also very much Capaldi's own thing — there's a nastiness, and yet a compassion, to the way he threatens murder. And the casualness of the delivery is also brilliantly intense.
This is the moment where Capaldi absolutely claims the role of the Doctor, once and for all — and you more or less forget that anybody else ever played the role. There are a few other moments, later in the season, where he seals the deal, including his speech to Clara about how her utter betrayal does nothing to change his feelings about her. But this is where he takes ownership of the TARDIS.