Das Kapaldi ('Deep Breath' 2)


Okay, so, Capaldi.  Well, he's great, of course.  He's one of the best actors around - I've loved him ever since I saw him as Uncle Rory in The Crow Road.  (Yes, I know, most of you don't even know what I'm talking about.  I may as well mention, at this point, that I've never seen an episode of Skins or Children of Earth.  I've never even seen In The Thick of It, which surprises even me, given that its written by another of my favourite Scotsmen with an Italian surname.  I do, however, have Capaldi reading an audiobook of A Song of Stone.)  So he's a predictably good Doctor... though it is possible that I'm just perceiving him to be so good because...


...of course, Capaldi gets plenty of typically groanworthy and arrogant stuff to say and do.  His Doctor calls Clara "the asking questions one" and an "egomaniac needy gameplayer", plays that horrific trick on her where he pretends to abandon her (the much-trumpeted 'darkness' of the new Doctor seems to consist of his bouts of callous selfishness being even more egregious, if shorter in length), etc.

But he also gets some good dialogue to play with, and he pounces on it.  Some of the mad stuff at the start is well written.  It has a genuine edge of mania.  The stuff about misunderstanding the concept of the bedroom, and the business with the mirror being furious... this has a really dangerous edge to it, as anyone who has heard genuine delirium will recognise.  It isn't 'realistic', but it feels like an indication of real disorientation.  It has that funny, disorganised, slightly menacing sound that someone's words have when they're halfway out of a nightmare.  And I liked the bit where he interprets the words - or perhaps we should say the feelings - of the lonely dinosaur. 

(I liked the dinosaur generally, by the way.  I liked that it was played as a victim, a tragic figure, misused and betrayed.  Of course, the juxtaposition of the dinosaur with Victorian London has something of that same "I'm mad me!" self-conscious faux-zaniness that creeps into so many Moffat scripts... but it turned out better than that in the end.  We didn't even get much in the way of the Doctor being compared to it - the lonely, last survivor, etc - except as a comparatively quiet implication.  Based on past excesses, that could've turned far more maudlin and sentimental.)

The best bit is probably the bit with the broom.  That felt like something the Doctor would say.  I struggle to think of anything Matt Smith was ever given to say that faintly resembles it... so I suppose I should give Moffat credit for changing his style (eventually) to suit a different actor... though I also have to admit the possibility that Smith did get some dialogue that good and I simply don't remember it, or didn't notice it at the time.


Anonymous 6 years, 5 months ago

Whilst I have nowt against Matt Smith as an actor, and think he flies with the right material, one could tell if he were the one to deliver the line about wanting a children's menu it'd come across as a little... glib. Tongue-in-cheek. A bit smug. As he often did when his Doctor was written to act childlike (again, fine actor otherwise...!). Capaldi's deliverance, meanwhile, was so sincere, so genuine, so much less self-aware and so much better for it. The comparisons people are making to Tom Baker are already plentiful, and are honestly fairly irritating at this point, but that one moment totally reminded me of him, of the Fourth Doctor, in the best possible way.

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Jack Graham 6 years, 4 months ago

Yeah well, I was going to talk about Smith in detail. Then I read back what I'd written and decided not to.

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Elizabeth Sandifer 6 years, 4 months ago

I think Smith was broadly speaking quite a good Doctor, but I think there are some ways in which he was an iffy fit for what Moffat was doing with the series. Smith is an almost American-style actor, by which I mean he works very Method and very intuitively - from what I hear it's rare for him to do two takes in the same way. I think he's effective, but not always necessarily the best choice for a Moffat script, which tends to rely very heavily on communicating information through symbolism and allusion - what a character says often has considerable resonance beyond simply expressing how they feel at a given moment.

I think Capaldi, who seems to approach acting as an intellectual craft more than as an intuitive skill, will be a better fit for Moffat's writing - he's much closer to Cumberbatch than Smith in terms of approach and style.

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Jack Graham 6 years, 4 months ago

I'm of pretty much the exact opposite opinion. For me, Matt Smith is the perfect actor for Moffat. Fits Moffat like a glove. He was certainly the best person to deliver the 11th Doctor as written.

I think the reason people like Capaldi and Paul McGann make Moffat scripts seem so much better is precisely because something in them jars with the writing.

But I won't say any more because when I talk about Matt Smith I tend to become someone I don't like, hence the redacted post above.

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Ross 6 years, 4 months ago

I was starting to wonder if I was the only one who felt that way about Capaldi. Especially in Into the Dalek, I found myself not quite believing his performance, like the character he was playing and the lines he was saying didn't line up. If I didn't know Capaldi was a lifelong fan, I'd have been reminded of Richard E. Grant's "This is a voice role so I can literally phone it in" Shalka Doctor. There's scenes where it seems like he's being written very Tom Bakerish, but his actual performance is sort of... distracted. Like he was working on something else and suddenly remembered that he was in the middle of a Doctor Who story so he just rattles off a line of Doctor Who Dialogue.

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Jack Graham 6 years, 4 months ago

I think he's great, personally. I'm sold. But then I'm a firm believer in the idea that actors can make things more interesting by warring somewhat with the material as written.

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