Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Enter No. 12, Quiet and Dangerous

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In Matt Smith's last episode as the star of "Doctor Who," his character, the 11th Doctor, was asked how he was going to get out of a sticky situation. "Talk very fast," he said. "Hope something good happens. Take the credit."

It was a funny, knowing description of how this time-traveling alien do-gooder operates in the modern "Doctor Who" (2005 to the present). It could also describe the way Steven Moffat, the current show runner and head writer, operates. Keep things moving fast. Hope something good happens. When it does, the actor will probably get the credit.

As a new season of the show begins on Saturday night on BBC America, all eyes will be on Peter Capaldi, who plays the latest incarnation of the Doctor. (Half a century ago, someone at the BBC had the brilliant idea of letting the character occasionally "regenerate" into a new body.)

"Doctor Who" lives or dies on Mr. Moffat's ability to execute and balance its disparate elements: scary-monster science-fiction, Sherlockian mystery, rapid-fire self-referential humor and schoolboy metaphysics. But the regeneration gimmick means that every few years, he has to adjust to a new performer, and the larger-than-life, last-of-his-kind, tragicomic dimensions of the role mean that the performer tends to soak up most of the acclaim or blame.

So how is Mr. Capaldi? It's unfair to draw any definitive conclusions from the one episode available — fitting a new actor to the role is a process. But some early observations can be made.

The last two actors to play the Doctor had high-energy, leading-man qualities: David Tennant's romantic brio, Mr. Smith's aggressive goofiness. Mr. Capaldi is a consummate character actor, a quieter, more subtle performer. With his hooded eyes, angular features and praying mantis figure, he can project a slippery, suspicious quality, like a more intellectual Mr. Bean. His Doctor is not just older (Mr. Capaldi is 25 years Mr. Smith's senior) but looks to be drier in his humor, more reticent, more coldblooded and dangerous. From a critic's point of view, that's interesting and potentially an improvement. We'll see how the fans feel about it.

In other ways, the season premiere is a bit of a space holder, a middling story that's concerned mainly with introducing Mr. Capaldi and establishing the relationship between the new Doctor and his sidekick, Clara (Jenna Coleman), who's upset at losing the young, more emotive version of her leader. Recurring characters, including the lizardlike alien Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), help the Doctor and Clara get used to each other again while fighting off the usual apocalyptic attack, this time on Victorian London.

There's always a danger with "Doctor Who" that it will spin off into incoherence or rank sentimentality, but even when the show is not at its best, it has the great virtue of not taking itself too seriously. Saturday's episode opens with the grouchy Sontaran warrior Strax (Dan Starkey) filing a video report on the history of the Doctor that amusingly belittles every version of him.

"The only Doctor with any potential for being any good at all," he notes, was the so-called War Doctor (played by John Hurt in just a couple of episodes). "Sadly, however, he was rubbish."

Strax will undoubtedly feel the same way about Mr. Capaldi's 12th Doctor, but human chroniclers will probably be much kinder.

Caption: Doctor Who begins a new season on Saturday on BBC America, with Neve McIntosh playing Madame Vastra.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Hale, Mike (2014-08-23). Enter No. 12, Quiet and Dangerous. The New York Times .
  • MLA 7th ed.: Hale, Mike. "Enter No. 12, Quiet and Dangerous." The New York Times [add city] 2014-08-23. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Hale, Mike. "Enter No. 12, Quiet and Dangerous." The New York Times, edition, sec., 2014-08-23
  • Turabian: Hale, Mike. "Enter No. 12, Quiet and Dangerous." The New York Times, 2014-08-23, section, edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Enter No. 12, Quiet and Dangerous | url=,_Quiet_and_Dangerous | work=The New York Times | pages= | date=2014-08-23 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 December 2022 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Enter No. 12, Quiet and Dangerous | url=,_Quiet_and_Dangerous | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 December 2022}}</ref>