The 12th Doctor, as played by Peter Capaldi, is arguably the best of all time. A throwback to the Doctors of the classic series, 12 initially displayed a stern, cold exterior that softened over the course of his character arc. These are the episodes of his that I think are the best.
Something of a spiritual successor to The Deadly Assassin, Heaven Sent saw the 12th Doctor trapped in a castle-shaped labyrinth and stalked endlessly by his worst fear. There is a brilliant message in this episode about courage in the face of impossible odds as the Doctor, prompted by his memories of Clara (Jenna Coleman), lives and dies billions and billions of times in an attempt to punch through the diamond wall and escape the confession dial. Peter Capaldi shows absolute mastery of the screen at all times, giving us a terrified Doctor, a contemplative Doctor, a despairing Doctor, and ultimately a brave and triumphant Doctor at the end of the episode. As a side note, I have read accounts of people saying that this episode inspired them to be brave and keep going in the face of things that scared them, which in my view cements its place as 12’s best.
The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion
Famed for the undisputed best speech by the Doctor in all of New Who, this two-parter was an allegory for terrorism and radicalization as a splinter group of Zygons begins to kidnap and kill humans and those Zygons who disagree with them. Jenna Coleman puts in a fantastic turn as Bonnie, the Clara impersonating Zygon leader, and the action and pacing are tight and hold the audience’s attention. Ingrid Oliver becomes the Doctor’s companion while Clara is neutralized, and gives the fans a taste of how Osgood would have worked alongside her hero the Time Lord. Peter Capaldi shows his titanic acting ability and range at the climax of the second episode, delivering an enraged and passionate anti-war speech from the Doctor’s experiences in the Last Great Time War. The scene when 12 stops the Zygons simply with words and conviction shows the Doctor and the show at its absolute best.
The Return of Doctor Mysterio
An affectionate pastiche of the superhero genre, the Return of Doctor Mysterio saw the 12th Doctor bump into Grant Gordon (Logan Hoffman), a sick boy in New York on Christmas Eve, and accidentally give him a crystal that imbues him with superpowers. Fast forward 24 years and the adult Grant (Justin Chatwin) is a carer for his adolescent crush’s baby (Lucy Fletcher, played by Charity Wakefield). A mysterious organization is replacing people’s brains and the Doctor goes to investigate, only to meet up with Lucy as well as Grant’s superhero alter ego, The Ghost. The climax of this episode sees Grant, sans costume, stop a nuclear missile from destroying the city only for Lucy to place Grant’s glasses back on his face and tell him that is his superhero costume. I found this utterly heartwarming. Bonus points for Nardole (Matt Lucas) giving a touching speech about the Doctor’s lost love, River Song (Alex Kingston), at the end.
World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls
In this episode, the Doctor attempts to give Missy (Michelle Gomez) a chance to prove that she has truly changed but everything goes wrong in the worst possible way. Landing on a space liner on the point of being sucked into a black hole, the Doctor discovers that time moves differently on the lower decks due to their proximity to the black hole. After Bill (Pearl Mackie) is shot through the chest on the upper decks after a misunderstanding, the only way she can be saved is by surgery on the lower decks. Unfortunately, this ship is the birthplace of the Cybermen, with Bill being converted into the very first of them. After the return of John Simm’s Master and a Cyberman attack, the Doctor and his companions find themselves defending a village on one of the other decks against an impending Cyber assault. I have included this episode because of the speech that 12 gives both incarnations of the Master as to why he does what he does; because it’s kind. While not on the level of his Zygon Inversion speech, we see a dignified 12th Doctor refusing to give in even when things look their bleakest.
This episode gave us a truly ingenious villain in the dimension stealing Boneless as well as Peter Capaldi’s first big “I am the Doctor” moment. When people from a town in Bristol go missing the Doctor and Clara investigate only for the external dimensions of the TARDIS to shrink to the point where the Doctor is trapped inside. Clara must become the Doctor, discovering the alien threat and coming up with the plan to defeat it. This episode is notable for its look into the Doctor’s modus operandi as seen by his advice to Clara and his caveat to her at the end “You were an excellent Doctor Clara. Being good had nothing to do with it”. I really love the Boneless and I’m hoping we’ll see them again in Doctor Who. I also liked Joivan Wade’s Rigsy and I was glad to see him return the following year.
Do you agree with the episodes I have chosen? What were your favorite 12th Doctor moments? Leave a comment below and remember, I am totally against bantering.