It’s been more than two months now since The Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, announced he would be leaving Doctor Who during the 2013 Christmas Special. After three years in the role, Smith has gone from a virtual unknown – his first TV role came in 2006 alongside now-former Who companion Billie Piper in the BBC’s adaptation of Phillip Pullman‘s The Ruby in the Smoke – to one of the best-loved actors on television. The first Doctor to be BAFTA nominated in the role, Smith would seem to be an almost impossible act to follow.
There’s been speculation that, in casting his second actor in the role, Steven Moffat might choose a female Doctor or maybe an actor of another race. While the casting of The Twelfth Doctor has hardly been groundbreaking in that regard, it at least represents a break from the “handsome and progressively younger” streak of David Tennant and Smith. Also, unlike his immediate predecessors, the newest actor to play The Doctor, as announced on the BBC last night, The Twelfth Doctor is hardly an unknown.
So, who is this mysterious individual, the one codenamed Houdini, the revelation of whose identity has held Who fans across the world with baited breath? The one for whom we will say farewell to Smith’s Eleventh, who will pick up the keys to the TARDIS, and whom we will follow in his adventures in time and space till whenever he decides to leave the role? This man who could make or break the show, who should make us laugh and break our hearts, who has to uncover their own take on the character while staying fundamentally true to who The Doctor is: who are they?
Malcolm f****ing Tucker?!!
The actor best known for playing TV’s sweariest man, Peter “Come the f**** in or f**** the f**** off” Capaldi will be picking up the mantle of The Doctor. While it might be the role of The Thick of It‘s spin doctor that won him the British Comedy Award for Best TV Actor, Capaldi’s career goes all the way back to 1983’s Local Hero. Since then he’s appeared as a vulnerable transsexual in Prime Suspect 3, the angelic embodiment of Islington Underground station in the 1996 BBC adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s Neverwhere and more recently in Jimmy McGovern‘s Accused, ITV’s The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, and was BAFTA nominated last year for his supporting role in The Hour.
Capaldi’s previously appeared in Doctor Who as Caecilius, a Roman marble merchant, in Series 4 episode The Fire of Pompeii – which also introduced former companion Karen Gillan in her first role in the Whoniverse – as well as in Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood: Children of Earth. Strangely enough, his most current film appearance was in World War Z in which he was billed, bizarrely enough, as a “W.H.O. (World Health Organization) Doctor”. From The Vicar of Dibley to Skins and Dangerous Liaisons to In The Loop, the 55-year old Capaldi will be the second oldest actor to play The Doctor, losing out to First Doctor William Hartnell by a matter of months.
Here’s a video where he introduces himself in the role:
Now, if you’ve never seen him in anything before, you’d be forgiven for thinking, based on that video, that Peter Capaldi looks a bit, well, sinister. I saw him last year on the London stage in a version of Ealing comedy The Ladykillers in the role of Professor Marcus, played by Alec Guinness in the original film: he was wonderful, creepy, insidious but with an endearing incredulity to his performance. He’s haggard, distinctly middle-aged, not Tennant or Smith handsome. And that is, in my opinion, exactly what Doctor Who needs right now.
After David Tennant’s quirky, on-the-ball Tenth Doctor and Matt Smith’s lovably spazzy Eleventh, it makes sense that The Twelfth Doctor would be more subdued, downbeat even. Series 7 has been all about The Doctor’s past and with John Hurt due to appear as a past incarnation in the 50th Anniversary Special (if so, it would make him the oldest Doctor by about twenty years), and Capaldi feels instinctively more like Hartnell than any Doctor since then. There’s also the small matter of The Doctor’s lifespan…
It was established long ago, back in 1976 episode “The Deadly Assassin”, that The Doctor was limited to twelve regenerations, thirteen lives. If the current continuity is current – Eccleston‘s Ninth, Tennant’s Tenth, etc. – than that makes Capaldi’s Doctor the penultimate one, but, if Hurt is an as-yet unseen Doctor (likely the real Ninth), then everyone gets bumped forward one, making Capaldi’s Doctor, in theory, the last. The Doctor, at more than 900 years old, is coming to the end of his life and that has to have some repercussions on the show’s tone.
Even if this is the case, more likely than not Moffat and Co. will find a way round it here: they’re hardly going to bring Doctor Who to a premature end for the sake of a throwaway line almost forty years ago. Regardless, Capaldi is a brave, unlikely choice for the role, one that will inevitably create a backlash from the show’s tween-y fans or those used to a more snoggable Last of the Time Lords. Betting shop William Hill might have seen it coming – Capaldi was apparently a 5/6 favorite when betting closed – but I sure didn’t.
Doctor Who returns to our screens on November 23rd with the 50th Anniversary Special, featuring the (albeit brief) return of Tennant’s Doctor and the first appearance of John Hurt, then, just over a month later, we’ll be saying goodbye to Matt Smith and hello to Peter Capaldi. Jenna Coleman is apparently sticking around for the new series – her dynamic with The Twelfth will inevitably be far different than with his younger predecessor. For now, here’s the first official BBC photo of Peter Capaldi in association with the role.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Twelfth Doctor!