“It’s the end. But the moment has prepared for” –The Fourth Doctor
It was these immortal last words from the Fourth Doctor that saw Tom Baker exit Doctor Who at the height of the show’s popularity back in 1981. It can also be viewed as an unofficial slogan for change within the show — it’s almost always the home office’s response to fans when an actor playing the Doctor decides to leave the role.
Instantly the rumor mills began as to who will take to the TARDIS next and while many speculate very few knew for certain. June 1st of this year saw Matt Smith announce his departure after four incredibly successful years as the 11th Doctor and much like his predecessor David Tennant, many have wondered if his successor will be able to fill his shoes. After two months of wondering we learned on August 4th that established British actor Peter Capaldi will become the 12th incarnation of everyone’s favorite Timelord at the end of this year’s Christmas Special.
So for those expecting a Benedict Cumberbatch or Idris Elba or, God help you, a Rupert Grint, I’m a terribly sorry for your misguided and overblown train of thought. Just kidding. So who is Peter Capaldi? In the UK, Capaldi is a well established actor known greatly for his comedic work as the foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker on the show The Thick of It and its film spin-off In the Loop (both created by Armando Iannucci whose most recent success is the hit HBO comedy Veep). He is also a well known dramatic actor in film and TV (both in the UK and US) but it was his role as Tucker that gained him the most notoriety entering households in a tornado of insults and foul language over some four series in a seven year period.
In a way the announcement of his casting is still a bit surreal. On one end it probably squashes some of the recent comments that The Doctor should be portrayed by a non-white actor or even an actress. Some online publications were disappointed by a lack of progression in the choice but at the moment Doctor Who doesn’t need to be progressive in order to instill a level of interest it just needs to be shaken up a bit every once in a while. I am all for either idea but they have be taken with a level of care if they are to be done down the line. It’s also a bit surreal because Capaldi is not exactly an unknown actor and is a rather established figure in British television. This brings into question how long his tenure on the show will run considering the kind of in-demand actor he is but something tells me his casting will not be for just one season otherwise that might as well have been a publicity stunt.
For me, the casting of Capaldi is a more than brilliant choice and one that should give the show the shot in the arm it needs to get back into the swing of things. For those who read my weekly Who reviews will know I was slightly disappointed by the final outcome of Matt Smith’s most recent and final full series mainly due to some lacking stories and directions rather than Smith himself who stayed wonderful throughout. Eight years after the show returned it has never been bigger but Doctor Who is feeling a sense of fatigue and needs a bit of revitalization after playing a safe but always interesting path for the span of its current run. An older Doctor and possibly a more conservative and statesman-like Doctor is something that hasn’t been done in a very long time and it allows the Doctor to be examined more in silence rather than through an action packed nature.
Capaldi breaks the recent trend of having the Doctor portrayed rather young and in a way this is a smart move deviating away from the show’s current expectations as well as harkening back to the show’s lineage. At 55, Capaldi is the oldest actor to be cast in the role since the First Doctor William Hartnell, who also was 55 at the time of his casting. He is also the first actor since Peter Davison to be an established and for the most part well known actor in England taking on the part. Stateside, Capaldi is probably known for a spattering of things so he comes to international audiences with some notoriety even if it’s on a smaller scale. He is already familiar to Doctor Who thanks to an appearance in the David Tennant story “Fires of Pompeii” back in 2008 as well as his awe-inspiring performance as John Frobisher in the chilling miniseries Torchwood: Children of Earth. Capaldi isn’t the first actor to have previously appeared on the show before becoming the Doctor as sixth Doctor Colin Baker appeared in his predecessor Peter Davison’s story “Arc of Infinity” a year before being announced in the role.
For those who aren’t as familiar with his work I recommend checking out some of it because Capaldi’s biggest strength his range especially in comedy and drama. Besides his iconic role as Malcolm Tucker he has played regular roles on shows like Skins and the recently cancelled British drama The Hour. He is also on the radar of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie having appeared as a W.H.O. Doctor (hehe) in this summer’s World War Z and will be seen in a role in Jolie’s Maleficent coming out next summer. While I will leave you to seek out one of the many great internet montages of Malcolm Tucker I leave you with my belief that this is a perfect course of action for the long running Sci-Fi series. With the 50th anniversary special already hotly anticipated the casting of an actor of the caliber of Peter Capaldi to take on one of the most iconic roles in England shows that Doctor Who is still firmly in the public eye and growing with every chance it has.
All Photos Credit: BBC America