After months of speculation, rumours, and pub-conversation, tonight, it was finally revealed that Matt Smith will be handing over the TARDIS keys to Peter Capaldi.
My first reaction was surprise. He’d become the bookies’ odds-on favourite in the last few days leading up to the announcement, and quite often, whoever receives this honour, winds up having no correlation whatsoever to the actual person cast.
Also, I genuinely wasn’t expecting to have heard of the new Doctor; I was completely convinced they’d choose an unknown again. The consequence of them having chosen someone as well known as Capaldi is that my Facebook and Twitter feeds immediately filled with incredibly sweary Malcolm-Tucker-meets-The-Doctor jokes (“It’s my f***ing TARDIS now, you f***s” was a prime example of this).
The fact that Capaldi even took the role though is very interesting to me. Malcolm Tucker is something of a landmark character; had Capaldi not accepted the role of the Doctor, a reference to The Thick Of It would’ve inevitably been in the first line of his future obituary. The reason his decision interests me, is that for a long time, I’ve said the best way to avoid being typecast after playing an iconic role, is to immediately play another of equal or greater status. It’s one of the reasons I wouldn’t have been surprised if someone like Rupert Grint had taken the job (Doctor 13?). So for Capaldi to do exactly that it will be interesting to see whether my hypothesis is correct; which role will he be remembered for? Tucker, The Doctor, or both, equally?
In my previous post on casting the twelfth Doctor, I was adamant that the new Doctor would be male, and 45-55 year old. Capaldi is a 55 year old man, so I’m quite pleased with that prediction. This is one of the things I’m most excited about with Capaldi’s casting; he’s so much older than Matt Smith, and that change alone will allow the regeneration to do what it does best as a narrative device: entirely reboot the show, whilst keeping it exactly the same.
Would I have preferred someone who hadn’t been in the show before? Yes. Would I have preferred someone who hadn’t been in the show before, and hadn’t ALSO been in Torchwood’s Children of Earth series as a third separate character? Certainly (especially since, in Torchwood, Capaldi’s character shot and killed his wife, two small children, and then himself, in order to save them from the impending alien menace – probably the least Doctor-y action I can think of).
For every fan who’s complaining about this point, however, I believe we’ll have to engage the suspension of disbelief (an almost forgotten discipline in this day and age). Treat Capaldi’s past characters as though they had been played by an entirely different actor; I’m sure, after all, that his previous characters will bear no resemblance, other than physical, to his interpretation of The Doctor. Just as The Twelfth Doctor will bear nothing but physical resemblance to Malcolm Tucker (or at least, one would certainly hope/pray). From now on, the fact that these people all happen to have the same face is but a co-incidence.
Some people will be disappointed because the new Doctor isn’t black and others will be because he’s not a woman. To the first group, I would say this; I am completely confident that, at some point, there will be a black Doctor; there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be, and I look forward to that, when it happens.
To the second group, I say this; good. While I try to be pro-feminist in my outlook on life, what I really am, is an equalist, and making the Doctor a woman, just because “it’s never been a woman, and women are every bit as capable as men” is, for me, not a good enough reason to do it. The Doctor is the only character in all of popular fiction who changes his physical identity within the show’s canon. James Bond’s actor changes every few years, but nobody campaigns for Jemima Bond, do they? That’s because Ian Fleming gave him a male name, rather than a genderless title.
Also, demanding that the Doctor be played by a woman is of severe discredit to Jenna Coleman and her predecessors. Since the show returned in 2005, has the Doctor/Companion dynamic ever been anything other than an equal partnership? They’re two travellers with an unquenchable curiosity and never-ending sense of adventure. Sure, the Doctor brings the knowledge of alien worlds and customs, but the companion always brings heart; in many ways, it is the companion who defines the Doctor, perhaps even more so than the actor. And it’s not like the women don’t have the opportunity to be the hero: Rose saved the ninth Doctor from the Daleks; Martha saved the world from The Master; Donna saved the universe from Davros; Amy prevented the Doctor’s erasure from history, and Clara has been saving the Doctor since he first started travelling. And don’t even get me started on River Song...
The Doctor is a man; one who treats women as equals, and long may he continue to be. Anyway, enough of my pro-equality diatribe; back to Peter Capaldi...
There can, of course, be no real judge of a new Doctor until his first episodes, or even, in some cases, his first full season, but I am incredibly confident that Capaldi is going to be a strong choice as the TARDIS’s main resident going forward. And not only this, but there will of course be two new Doctors this year (well, perhaps one and a half), and both of them are over fifty! It seems that 2013 will be the year that proves Doctor Who is not just about youth and beauty, but history and wisdom.
I can’t wait for the 50th Anniversary. That’s the thing with Doctor Who; there’s always something to look forward to in the future... and occasionally, the past.
Oh, and for those who aren't happy about the casting, let me remind you of the life cycle of Doctor Who fandom: