Peter Capaldi Is The Best Doctor Of Doctor Who, Here’s Why

The best Doctor Who is Peter Capaldi as the twelfth incarnation because he displays the widest range of emotions.

By Kevin C. Neece | Updated

Peter Capaldi won’t be everyone’s choice as the best Doctor Who, but there’s a compelling case to be made that he might well be. As the beloved British sci-fi franchise spools up for what is looking to be a triumphant return, it’s a good time to think about where the franchise has been and who might be its top doc.

Let’s get this out of the way first: yes, many people’s idea of the best Doctor Who is David Tennant. To be sure, Tennant is near and dear to our hearts and might be our favorite, most comfortable Doctor. His brief return ahead of Ncuti Gatwa‘s much-anticipated debut in the role heralds not only the return of Russel T. Davies to the head of the franchise but the sense that the series is returning to what fans have loved about it.

But while Tennant is a fan favorite, we think Capaldi is the best Doctor Who over his fellow Scotsman for one simple reason: his complexity. Surely, Tennant’s Doctor is rife with internal conflict and has a strong, passionate sense of justice, but his comical, goofy ways generally cover whatever darker side the Doctor may have. Capaldi, on the other hand, brings that dimension more to the fore and plays the Doctor as an alien, not only through his frequently wacky detachment from the danger in front of him but through his apparent struggles with making emotional connections as well.

The best Doctor Who stories delve into the darker areas full-force and often highlight the Doctor’s deep need for connection, even as his rotating lineage of companions evidence his perpetual inability to hold on to relationships for very long. The River Song arc, begun in Tennant’s era, hints at the shift in his character over time, as River speaks of having encountered an older, more serious Doctor first before meeting the bouncy, comic energy of his younger self. But Capaldi’s performance in the River Song episodes shows the vulnerable, romantic heart the Doctor used to wear on his tweed sleeve bubbling up from underneath a more self-protective, cold exterior (“Hello, sweetie”).

peter capaldi doctor who

That delicate balance of deep feeling and emotional distance makes Capaldi the best Doctor Who because he is most capable of exploring the character’s full range. Prickly and no-nonsense in many ways, he is also still quite mad. He possesses the whimsical, wild energy of previous Doctors, seen during Capaldi’s unhinged, excited moments of high-action and risk-taking, which he still relishes with all the verve of the previous, more jovial Tennant and the softer, more earnest Matt Smith.

The best Doctor Who acknowledges the weight of life, the very real heft of what it means to be afloat in the universe while pointing us continually toward hope. Capaldi’s Doctor carries that weight more visibly than most of his predecessors, but spend some time with him, and you’ll see the gift of hope he passes along to all those he helps. As a timeless being who has experienced countless losses, the Doctor heals a lot of things, but perhaps most essentially, he tends to the wounds of grief.

And it is only Capaldi’s Doctor that could so compellingly deliver one of the character’s greatest summations of his place in the universe in one of the best Doctor Who Christmas specials, “The Return of Doctor Mysterio.”

“Everything ends, and it’s always sad. But everything begins again too, and that’s always happy. Be happy. I’ll look after everything else.”

Peter Capaldi’s Doctor grabbed our hearts in that moment, even as he perhaps most tenderly showed his. And that is why he’s the best Doctor Who.