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Confused by Doctor Who? You're not alone. Peter Capaldi's debut is most-watched TV moment

Doctor Who, BBC1
  • @NeelanjonaD

It all happened in a flash. One moment, Matt Smith’s floppy-haired, lanky-limbed 11th Doctor was hunched over the Tardis console; the next, the confused figure of Peter Capaldi’s Time Lord was standing in his place. No warning, no explosions, no groans of pain that usually precede regeneration. It was as instantaneous as the flick of a switch, as if Smith had sneezed himself into Capaldi’s body.

With only five minutes of the episode left, there was no time to mourn as the 12th Doctor, still dressed in his former incarnation’s outfit, ambled around the Tardis and adjusted to his new body.

In between checking to see if he could still hop, Capaldi showed off his comic timing. He dispensed with the erratic flailing and the clumsiness that characterised his predecessor’s “mad professor” style, opting for a more subtle and less slapstick performance. 

But while it was comical to see the new Doctor adapting to his body, he came across as disappointingly hapless. Perhaps this was down to the recent regeneration – it has been known to cause disorientation. Those hoping for a Malcolm Tucker-esque rant would have been left equally dismayed. There was no hint of the spin doctor, apart from his Scottish lilt.

Given all the hype - the Doctor's regeneration was the most-watched Christmas Day television moment with 10.2 million viewers - fans will have hoped the new Time Lord would know what to do from the moment he appeared on screen, at the very least how to fly the Tardis. But his confusion will surely be dispensed with when the time is right.

Viewers who caught the 50th anniversary special back in September will have seen the look of dogged determination in the 12th Doctor’s eyes – a shape of things to come from Capaldi’s Doctor.

And let’s not forget Smith: he gave a cracking final performance before bowing out. He even managed to convincingly portray a wizened old Doctor. While David Tennant’s departure from the role of the Doctor was drenched in saccharine, self-referential sentimentality, there was very little of that in Smith’s final adventure. There were little nods to the 11th Doctor’s adventures and even a surprise guest appearance from Karen Gillan, who played his companion Amy Pond, but the nostalgia was reserved for Christmas.

Overall, as Doctor Who Christmas specials go, The Time of the Doctor was a sci-fi spectacular: there was time travel, spaceships and plenty of villains for the Doctor to face, including Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels.

While some aspects of the story may have been lost on the casual viewer, it was nevertheless an adventure the whole family could enjoy.

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Capaldi's debut as Doctor Who is most watched TV moment