From spin doctor to Doctor Who: Is Peter Capaldi the right choice to play the regenerated Time Lord?

The well-respected Capaldi is a popular choice, but as the oldest actor to take on the Time Lord for some time, will he be able to connect with younger fans?

Neela Debnath
Monday 05 August 2013 10:09
Actor Peter Capaldi
Actor Peter Capaldi

With baited breath I waited with the rest of the nation yesterday for the BBC to reveal the identity of the next Doctor. After 25 excruciating minutes of teasing involving a Doctor Who nostalgia fest presented by Zoe Ball, that played out like a segment of Live & Kicking, Scottish actor and The Thick of It star Peter Capaldi was announced as the twelfth incarnation of the Time Lord.

It’s always an exciting and terrifying experience when a new Doctor is announced. It’s like electing the next Prime Minister or the pope depending on your political or religious leanings. In fact there was probably as much interest surrounding the name of the next in line to the throne as there was around the actor next in line to the Tardis. Will they get it right? This time there has been a unanimous "yes".

The news came as something of a surprise to me after my predictions earlier this year that the role would go to an unknown whippersnapper, given the energy needed to cope with the juggernaut that is the Doctor Who publicity machine coupled with the ability to run away from Daleks and explosions.

However, this curveball from Doctor Who creator Steven Moffat, which seems like a Scottish conspiracy theory, has not left me reeling. Capaldi was named the bookmakers' favourite last week and I actually think he will make a terrific Time Lord, although I will be expecting him to periodically break into a foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker rant.

Unlike current Doctor Who star Matt Smith, Capaldi has earned his acting stripes. He’s even won an Academy Award for his directorial skills, so there’s none of the scepticism that Smith had to overcome. Capaldi even made an appearance on the show before he became the Doctor in 'The Fires of Pompeii'. Coincidentally the episode also featured Karen Gillan who went onto play fiery companion Amy Pond. It was history in the making.

But that’s not all; Capaldi also starred in Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood as the tragic Home Office civil servant John Frobisher. He gave a measured and subtle performance that showed a new side to him that viewers don't usually associate with the actor. The Tuckerisms were absent from the Whitehall setting but it worked wonderfully. A bit of trivia: Capaldi is not the first actor to have starred in Doctor Who before becoming the Time Lord, Colin Baker starred in 'The Arc of Infinity' before taking on the role.

Capaldi is a perfect fit for the role because he was a fan of the series as a child. It’s something that always adds a new dimension to the performance. David Tennant was a big fan of Doctor Who as a child and his love for the show influenced his portrayal of the character. Through a childhood love of the show Capaldi's performance will be well informed. He knows the history and he has a passion that any actor playing the Doctor needs to wear the mantle of Time Lord.

There is no doubting Capaldi’s talent and his popularity with older members of the audience, the only question is whether he will catch on amongst children? At 55, he is the oldest actor to play the Time Lord since the show returned in 2005 and he is the same age as William Hartnell, who took on the role of the first Doctor back in 1963. It will also be fascinating to see how the twelfth Doctor’s relationship with his companion Clara develops. Will the romantic tension be maintained with Capaldi’s Doctor or will there be a shift given the actor’s age? In Time Lord years it doesn’t really matter because he’s over 1,000 but will the fact he looks older make a difference? There’s also the Doctor’s relationship with River Song played by Alex Kingston. It will be marvellous to see the sparks fly between the pair.

Capaldi will be making his debut on Christmas Day when the Doctor will be regenerating and Matt Smith leaves the Tardis. Before the regeneration, fans can enjoy the 50th anniversary special in November which will feature Matt Smith and David Tennant in a double whammy of Time Lord adventure.

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