In the modern-era incarnation of Doctor Who, when the Doctor regenerates or a new companion joins the adventure, it's almost like being a new kid and starting at a new school. Who are these people? How should I react to them? Why does everyone look so funny to me? It's a big adjustment period where you get a feel for things and if you get comfortable, it's a wonderful experience. In the rare instances where you don't get comfortable (see: Martha Jones and Donna Noble), it can be a bumpy ride.
Dammit I loved David Tennant and Matt Smith. The two of them exuded a charisma with a hint of danger that made the Doctor a compelling character. I still feel a bit indifferent toward Christopher Eccleston and I have a feeling it's because he never had that time to settle in and find the character. But when Peter Capaldi first came out of the gate, I had worries that he'd be more akin to Eccleston in terms of my feelings toward him rather than those other two lovable scamps we've been spoiled with over the past several years. Capaldi was playing surly, the character was confused and uncertain who he was and why (apparently a common side-effect of Time Lord regeneration), and his relationship with Clara seemed strained to the point where you wondered if there would be any chemistry there at all.
But over the past couple episodes (two weeks ago's Caretaker especially), how Capaldi is going to handle his Twelfth Doctor has become incredibly evident and I'm really liking it. In fact, during this past weekend's episode "Flatline", my wife turned to me and essentially said the same thing: "You know, Capaldi is growing on me."
Where Matt Smith played the role with a child-like wonder and a bit of a manic charm, Capaldi's Doctor reaches back to David Tennant's portrayal of the character and shows him capable of being cold and mean. While he still has the infusion of humor that keeps the energy up, there are hard decisions that Capaldi's Doctor makes where he doesn't even bat an eye - where you would have seen Smith's Doctor play it with the weight of the world on his shoulders. I don't see Capaldi's Doctor taking up residence in a town called Christmas and making toys for all the kids, like Eleven did. He'd call them all a bunch of "pudding brains" (my favorite Twelve-ism so far) and be done with it.
Similarly, as Capaldi settles into the role, we're really getting a sense of his dynamic with Clara. There was an extreme disconnect between the two of them in the first couple episodes of series eight but now their relationship seems well-defined. It took Clara's realization that this Doctor was not the same man that she had jumped into a time stream for, even going so far as to casting him out of her life, then mysteriously showing back up in the next episode for one last hurrah in "Mummy on the Orient Express", perhaps one of the biggest puzzling moments so far this season. After such a hard line drawn in the sand, did Clara have a change of heart and agree to have one last adventure? It seems there was a passage of time there that needs explanation. Whatever the reasoning, I was glad to have Jenna Coleman's Clara on that train as it was one of her strongest episodes of the season (right behind "Flatline" which was also a good showcase of what she can do in the show).
At any rate, with three more episodes to go in this very short series it feels like we're going to just have gotten to know Twelve by the time we're waiting for a Christmas Special and Series 9. And now that the guy has grown on me, it's going to be a hard wait indeed.