After much speculation, Matt Smith’s replacement on Doctor Who was announced yesterday during a live simulcast aired on BBC and BBC America. The 12th Doctor was revealed to be 55-year-old Scottish character actor Peter Capaldi.
During the broadcast, executive producer Steven Moffat revealed that, unlike the casting of the then-unknown Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor, they specifically had Capaldi in mind for the role and reached out to him for a secret screen test.
Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning explained: “We started thinking Peter Capaldi might be the right person to take on this iconic part a few months ago. But it was only when he did a secret audition at Steven’s house under the cover of darkness that we knew we had our man. He’s an extraordinarily talented actor who can seemingly turn his hand to anything. We can’t wait to premiere his unique take on the Doctor on Christmas Day and we are sure he’s going to become one of the all-time classic Doctor’s.”
I know some fans were hoping for a major shakeup with the role. And while they didn’t change The Doctor’s gender or ethnicity, the casting of Capaldi does at least give us an older Doctor. Matt Smith was 26 when he was cast. Capaldi is 55.
Capaldi also has an extensive resume under his belt. He is perhaps best known for his role as Malcolm Tucker in the TV show The Thick of It and its spin-off film In the Loop (which were both helmed by Veep creator Armando Iannucci). Americans most recently saw Capaldi playing a W.H.O. Doctor in World War Z. And, Doctor Who fans have already seen him as Caecilius in the 2008 David Tennant episode “The Fires of Pompeii” (which coincidentally also featured a pre-Amy Pond Karen Gillan playing “Soothsayer”) and as John Frobisher in the Torchwood miniseries “Children of Earth.”
I rewatched “The Fires of Pompeii” last night after word got out. It’s hard to gauge how Capaldi will fit into the Doctor Who world based on that episode. While Caecilius is predominantly featured in the episode, he’s really just a straight man. He buys the TARDIS from an unscrupulous merchant in the marketplace who sells it as modern art. Mostly he and his family exist to give the audience people to connect with in Pompeii as the city is about to be wiped out by Mount Vesuvius. Capaldi does get to show off his dramatic acting chops though at the end of what is actually one of the most depressing Doctor Who episodes ever made.
I’m interested to see his take on The Doctor. Malcolm Tucker is a funny character and it shows that Capaldi can handle snappy dialogue and a larger-than-life character, but Tucker is so angry and Scottish and dickish that it is hard to envision much of Tucker ending up in The Doctor. (Though The Doctor can be quite cold, especially under Moffat’s creative direction … and the Scottish accent isn’t totally out of the question, I suppose, if Moffat wanted to mix things up.)
I am happy that they went with someone older. While I have greatly enjoyed David Tennant and Matt Smith (and at times Christopher Eccleston, though he often seemed disinterested and too cool for school in the role), I think the dynamic of the young, handsome Doctor with a pretty companion fawning over him has run its course. It will be nice to see an older Doctor have Clara and any future companions relate to him in a a more fatherly, or at least less overtly sexual, way.
We’ll get out first look at Capaldi in the role during this year’s Christmas special, which will be the “fall of the 11th,” though it’s likely to just be a quick glimpse of his face as Matt Smith regenerates. We still have the 50th anniversary special to look forward to in November as well, which will feature three other Doctors – Smith, Tennant and John Hurt.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.