Monday, August 5, 2013

Peter Capaldi: The Doctor We Need?

There was a tiny bit of me that was disappointed when Peter Capaldi was chosen as the Twelfth Doctor for BBC's smash hit sci-fi series "Doctor Who."

It's nothing against Capaldi. It's just that a part of me was desperately hoping that the BBC and showrunner Steven Moffat would really shake things up and cast a woman or a minority or (shockingly) a minority woman.

But, you know what? I think Capaldi might be just what "Doctor Who" needs right now, and maybe - just maybe - he'll be the perfect lead-in for a more shocking casting choice the next time the Doctor regenerates again.*

It's easy to forget that Matt Smith was kind of a shocking casting choice when he became the Doctor. He was extremely young and fairly untested, and he took the Doctor in a more manic direction than the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant. Smith is like a crazed puppy in the role, and although he does have moments of darkness and grief (which is very necessary for the Doctor!), I always felt that Eleven was lighter than Ten, who was lighter than the brooding Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston). Overall, through the entire run of the series, I feel like the Doctor has gotten progressively sillier and more manic. Casting Capaldi, who is a generation older than Smith and seems much more reserved, tells me that they're ready to reign things back a little bit and insert a bit more darkness and make the Doctor a bit more sinister and brooding.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think that "Doctor Who" will take a giant left turn and suddenly be a massively dark show. "Doctor Who" is a show for all ages, and while it's definitely not opposed to scaring the bejeezus out of children (and adults!), the BBC is never going to let it get anywhere near, for example, "Torchwood" territory. But I think that Nine's underlying darkness has been slowly changing to Eleven's huge swings between massive amounts of silly fun and absolute gut-wrenching anguish. I think Capaldi will be able to reign that in and give the audience a more subtle performance. As much as many of us love Smith's performance as Eleven, I think everyone has to admit he's a bit exhausting because he's so wild. I feel like Capaldi as Twelve will be a nice shift and allow for some different kinds of stories to be told.

So why will this possibly pave the way for a more shocking casting choice? I feel like Capaldi will be able to take the Doctor down a notch or five and allow the fans some breathing room. I truly think that Smith will be remembered as one of the craziest Doctors, and while that is a perfectly wonderful way to be remembered in the annals of Whovian history, I think that viewers will be very, very happy to have a more normal, older, refined, calm Doctor for a few seasons. Then, when it's time to regenerate again, as always happens, the viewers will be more ready for a more groundbreaking casting choice. (And while it's sad to think that casting, for example, a black man or a woman would be so out there that viewers will need to be primed for it, it's just the way it is.)

I don't want people to think that I think Capaldi will be a throwaway Doctor between the especially manic Eleven and a potentially groundbreaking Thirteen. I haven't seen Capaldi in much, but he has always stuck with me because he was so good in "Torchwood: Children of Earth." (It does make you wonder: If Captain Jack Harkness ever comes back, will he go, "Hey! You look like that one guy!"? Or, will The Doctor look in the mirror and be like, "I look a lot like that guy I saved from Pompeii!" since Capaldi was in the episode "The Fires of Pompeii"?) I am actually incredibly excited to see what Capaldi will bring to the role. As much as I fell in love with Nine, Ten and Eleven, I was more excited than sad when they regenerated, because part of the beauty of "Doctor Who" is seeing what the new Doctor will do.

And now the wait begins ...

* A note to super-nerds (with Series Seven spoilers!): I know that the Doctor technically should only be able to regenerate one more time after Capaldi, since Time Lords can only regenerate 12 times, and if the John Hurt character in the 50th Anniversary Special actually turns out to be another regeneration of the Doctor (as opposed to Moffat's trickery! *shakes fist*), then Capaldi would be the last (thirteenth) version of The Doctor. However, the Master has regenerated more times than that, so it's clearly possible that Time Lords can regenerate more than that in special circumstances. And if a rabid, worldwide fanbase, fantastic ratings in several countries and merchandising opportunities out the wazoo aren't "special circumstances," I don't know what is!

(Photo from

1 comment:

  1. The way I've always understood it, the Time Lords' total number of regenerations was only limited due to restraints put in place by the leaders of the Time Lords. And since The Doctor is the "Last Time Lord" said limits should no longer be applicable.