“THE TWELFTH DOCTOR
The Twelfth Doctor is the twelfth incarnation of the protagonist of the long-running BBC science fiction series DOCTOR WHO. She was portrayed by Ruth Wilson from 2013-2016. She is generally remembered as the “definitive” doctor of the second run of the series, and one of the most popular Doctors ever (at least until Olive McDonald’s 15th Doctor supplanted her as “Favorite Doctor” in a 2042 Doctor Who Magazine poll, and fans started saying things like “Let’s face it- everything before the third run was a bit crap.”).
Already known for playing the brilliant-but-dangerous Alice Morgan on the BBC detective drama LUTHER (where she co-starred with former Doctor Paul McGann), Wilson’s name was suggested by writer Neil Cross to DOCTOR WHO’s production team. The 12th Doctor was conceived as being for the “modern” Doctors what Tom Baker 4th had been for the “classic” ones- a more alien, anarchic, and unpredictable take on the character- someone who would “shake things up a bit”.
Much like the 11th Doctor was influenced by the 2nd, the character of #12 was something of a mashup of the 4th and 6th- an eccentric incarnation whose very sanity was often in question. She was one of the ruder, less easy-to-love Doctors, but also one of the most formidable ones. Or as The Radio Times described her, “Greg House from space”.
The 12th Doctor’s first adventure (“The Golden Ones”, a story liberally adapted from a comic strip written for Matt Smith’s Doctor) saw a battle-damaged TARDIS crash-down in 2014 Tokyo (marking the first time a Doctor’s debut story had been filmed abroad since 1996). Battling an Axon invasion alongside Kate Stewart and UNIT, the Doctor crossed paths with Brian, a handsome British college student who was inadvertently caught up in Axos’s plot to drain all energy on Earth. Spending much of the story in a “degenerate” state (as she cycled through her previous personalities, shades of the 5th Doctor in “Castrovalva”) the unhinged, reckless Doctor seemed to be almost as much of a danger to her allies as the Axons. At the story’s end, Brian looked set to join up as the new companion, but the Doctor absentmindedly slammed the TARDIS door in his face. Whispering to the console, “I’m not ready to share you yet,” she tore off into the time vortex laughing maniacally (Brian never appeared in the series again).
Though her Doctor managed to have a small number of “solo” adventures (including a brief meeting with a very confused Jamie McCrimmon in the late 18th Century), she soon found herself grudgingly taking on companions again when fate reunited her with K-9 and Clyde Langer (an acquaintance of the 10th and 11th Doctors, and a protégé of former companion Sarah Jane Smith). In the second season, Jenny, the Doctor’s long-lost “daughter”, joined the TARDIS crew. Though the Doctor often complained about being saddled with responsibility for a family she “never asked for”, it slowly become apparent she cared about them just as much as any previous Doctors would have. But the Doctor was clearly preoccupied with larger, secret matters she wouldn’t share with the crew, and repeatedly sought to drop them off someplace “safe”.
Through the first season the Doctor battled the Howlings, an enigmatic group of immortal (but intangible) beings who sought to “break” the Doctor in order to extract information about the Time War that only she remembered. Led by the mysterious Planck (recurring guest star David Bowie), the Howlings gave assistance to the Doctor’s various enemies, including the Axons, the Celestial Toymaker, and “Word Lord” assassin Nothing Impossible (played by gust star Tim Minchin). In later seasons, Rassilon (Pierce Brosnan) became the “Big Bad”, as the restored Timelord race (claiming to forsake the meddling that brought about the Time War) renewed the hunt for its renegade members who dared to “meddle” with the rest of creation. Ultimately Rassilon’s quest for order caused him to forge an alliance with the Dalek Time Controller and a shadowy “Adversary” with a special interest in the Doctor. (THE REST OF THIS SECTION’S BEEN DELETED FOR SPOLIERS- ed.)
PERSONALITY AND APPEARANCE
The product of a particularly traumatic regeneration, the 12th Doctor often appeared to be unstable, possibly even a bit insane (even by the Doctor’s standards). She was given to acute mood swings- charming one moment, shockingly rude (even misanthropic) the next. She didn’t form bonds easily, and had little interest in companionship. Often a bit selfish and always in a rush, the Twelfth Doctor seemed more motivated than her predecessors to put the Universe to rights, and didn’t have time for hurt feelings.
In her problem-solving, she was less the “Lonely God” or “Oncoming Storm” that her recent predecessors had been, resembling more a wily con artist who underplays her abilities. Many viewers theorized that her eccentric behavior was largely for show to make her opponents underestimate her - a “drunken boxer” of sorts. Noticeably more pragmatic (and arguably darker) in her handling of situations, she wasn’t given to the speechifying of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, and seemed less bothered with notions of mercy or offering her opponents chances to recant their wicked ways.
Probably due to her “point of origin” the 12th Doctor had a special fondness for Japanese culture. This might have explained her fondness for karaoke, and why she installed a dedicated machine (and shipwide public address system) on the TARDIS console at one point (much to her companions’ chagrin). Favorite standards included Badfinger’s “Without You”, The Human League’s “Mirror Man”, and “Gojira to Jaga-de Punch! Punch! Punch!”(from the 1973 film GODZILLA VS. MEGALON). She also had an enthusiasm for pachinko that seemed similar to the 5th’s love of cricket. The Doctor used pachinko balls to sabotage machinery and trip up enemies on more than a few occasions. Possibly confusing her cultures, she also demonstrated a renewed interest in the martial art of Venusian Aikido- though her attempts to use it often garnered mixed results, and she was forced to admit she was “a bit rusty”.
The Doctor’s sudden change in gender was rarely referenced directly by the Doctor herself (though it was a frequent point of bafflement and awkwardness with old acquaintances). On one occasion when pressed on the matter, she said Timelords tended to “swing one way or the other, or both” from early on and that this sort of development so late in a Timelord’s life was rare. She was heard to mutter “probably River’s fault”, possibly attributing the change to regeneration energy passed to her in her previous incarnation by River Song. She didn’t seem to have any regrets about it, appearing instead to relish the chance to experience new things at an advanced age where she thought she’d seen everything.
COSTUME AND PARAPHERNALIA
The 12th Doctor’s dress style somewhat recalled the 4th and 6th Doctors (though the production team cited Diane Keaton’s title character from ANNIE HALL as the main point of inspiration). “In universe”, the costume was influenced by fashions the 12th Doctor encountered in her “birthplace”, Tokyo- most obviously in her “Hello Kitty” tie tack.
Claiming the rather large sonic screwdriver of the 11th Doctor didn’t suit her new look (“Can you imagine what they’ll say if they see this bulging in my vest pocket…? ‘CAN’T ACCESSORIZE!’”), the 12th Doctor opted for a smaller “nano” model similar to the 2nd Doctor’s original model. Though its functionality was more limited, the Doctor insisted (to her companions’ frustration) that it was better because it kept her from “getting lazy and using it for any old rubbish”.
Described as “Verity Lambert with a budget” the 12th Doctor’s TARDIS had a bright, gleaming, and aggressively retro interior that called back to the Wiliam Hartnell era design (only on a grander scale and incorporating later hallmarks like the floor-to-ceiling time rotor). New rooms included an (inexplicable) opera house and a large pachinko parlor that the Doctor used for “meditation”. Also seen on screen for the first time was the “Butterfly Room” originally mentioned in the 8th Doctor novel “Vampire Science”- which became a favorite place of Jenny’s. The 8th Season finale also revealed the TARDIS’s “catacombs” for the first time- a vast ancient stone labyrinth reminiscent of Piranesi’s famous “Prison” etchings. This more ancient section of the TARDIS hid ancient Time lord artifacts and some of the Doctor’s most closely-guarded secrets.
FAMOUS LINES AND CATCHPHRASES:
“Oh, that’s a change. Ginger!” (First line- often used in variations when encountering old friends who comment on a noticeable change: “I know- ginger!” etc.)
“That doesn’t work anymore, does it?” (Used in historical settings when deeply-entrenched sexism proves stronger than the persuasiveness of psychic paper.)
“Shut up, Clyde.” (Substituted where other Doctors would have said, “I’ll explain later.”)
“Spack off!” (Frequent.)”
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