Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi’s best episodes
James R | On 30, Sep 2018
It was back in Season 4 of Nu Who that Peter Capaldi first showed his face in The Fires of Pompeii, but in 2013, he became the unlikely successor to Matt Smith in the TARDIS proper, ending a run of heartthrob young actors in the role. Capaldi brought with him the maniacal energy of a mad granddad, but also the weary melancholy – and stubbornness – of a man who had lived for a long, long time.
He brought renewed maturity, and vulnerability, to the Time Lord, a man who could be brooding yet logical and spiky, a Time Lord who was finally the match for Alex Kingston’s River Song, and the cathartic antithesis to William Hurt’s War Doctor. No ageing prosthetics were required here: after regenerating as youthful runaways in the wake of the Time War, The Doctor, quite simply, had grown up. Towering, warm, imperious and twinkling, he was the perfect bookend to draw the Moffat era of the show to a close.
Top three Peter Capaldi episodes to watch online
Flatline (S8, E9 – 2014)
There aren’t many actors who can make an impression even when they’re off-screen for most of the episode, but Peter Capaldi manages just that, as he winds up stuck in the TARDIS – which keeps shrinking as its external dimensions feed the growth of killer graffiti, fighting to move from two dimensions to three dimensions. The result showcases Capaldi’s comic timing, but also highlights how generous Doctor Who is during his run, turning Clara Oswald into one of the show’s most compelling and rounded companions (a trick that would be repeated with the introduction of Pearl Mackie’s Bill Potts in Capaldi’s final season).
The Zygon Inversion (S9, E8 – 2015)
The strength of Russell T Davies’ Doctor Who was its social awareness, and Moffat’s era briefly recalls it with this stunning two-parter that delves into the complex politics involved in a human-Zygon war. Shape-shifting infiltrators give Clara, Osgood and more the chance to play hilarious two-faced enemies, but it’s Capaldi who walks away with the show, as he delivers his best speech, a rousing reminder of the casualties of war and how he once almost hit the proverbial red button back in the 50th anniversary special. Smart, funny, but above all compassionate, this is what being The Doctor is all about.
Heaven Sent (S11, E9 – 2015)
Like Smith before him, Capaldi was underserved by some uneven scripts – promising plots involving Michelle Gomez’s Missy, for example, only came to fruition in Capaldi’s final two-parter, featuring guest star John Simm – but this episode (directed by Rachel Talalay) almost makes up for it by offering that rare thing: a solo outing for The Doctor. Capaldi rises to his one-man show with aplomb, talking to himself as he tries to find his way out of a labyrinthine castle, chased by a mysterious, death-like creature. It climaxes with a chilling, poignant and thrilling reveal that’s built entirely upon this old Time Lord’s shoulders.
Where to watch on-demand: