OK… We’re a bit late to the party on this one. I’m sure that if you care at all about the BBC’s Doctor Who you probably already know this; but, in an event simulcast around the world on Sunday, they announced who will play the 12th incarnation of their eponymous Doctor.
In case you’re actually trying to avoid spoilers on this one (Good luck!), I’ve hidden it below the cut!And Doctor number 12 is….
Who? Exactly! Just kidding!
For those that don’t know, this year, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the show Doctor Who on the BBC. Though it was canceled for a time (the 1990’s, basically), it is one of the longest-running television series of all time! One of the ways they have achieved this feat is through a rotating cast.
Doctor Who typically features the adventures of the time-traveling alien known only as The Doctor along with one or more companion characters – typically from contemporary Earth. The Doctor tends to adopt new companions every few years, keeping that aspect of the cast fresh. In addition, The Doctor also belongs to a race of people who can “cheat death” through a process that has become known as regeneration. If and when The Doctor suffers a (near) fatal injury, his body can repair itself on the cellular level, with the cost of his body being completely re-written. He comes back with a new appearance and an altered personality; and there is no predicting any part of it. In fact, The Doctor never even seems to be sure whether he will even come back as a humanoid. This process allows the BBC to re-cast his role to keep the show fresh.
Though there has been a great deal of speculation on changes that may come to The Doctor (will The Doctor finally regenerate into a female? Will The Doctor be ginger? Will The Doctor be black? Will The Doctor be young or old? Will The Doctor be Rupert Grint?), we can finally put many of those questions behind us. With the casting of Peter Capaldi, the producers have made a very conservative choice. He will still be a white male. He is a bit older this time (as old as he gets, really, at 55!) Though, we still won’t know what sort of man he is. We likely will not for some time! The rumor-mill says that The Doctor will regenerate during this year’s Christmas Special, but if they follow their pattern, it will be at the very end of the story, and we won’t actually meet the new Doctor until the next season starts. What a wait!
For what it’s worth, I think they made a good choice. I am relatively unfamiliar with this actor, so I have no preconception of what he ought to be like. That is important in order for this new Doctor to assert his own, unique persona. Though I may be hated for saying this, I think an old white man is proper for this. That’s ‘who’ the Doctor is! He’s the “Madman with a box” and he is quintessentially British. Eleven Doctors before him have all been madmen. They have all either been older, or at least capable of acting with a gravitas that leads the viewer to believe they are ancient. And, not that race matters much, they have all been white, and since British are a traditionally pale people, it only seems fitting.
If you have never seen Niel Gaiman’s Neverwhere, now is the time to do so! It’s not a very good mini-series (though, I loved the book!), but Pater Capaldi plays a fallen angel character who is very, very Doctor-esque. I think if you watch his scenes from Neverwhere you can get a good idea of what his Doctor is likely to be like.
There’s also the question of John Hurt. The 73-year-old actor appeared in the final moments of a recent Doctor Who episode as an unnumbered incarnation of The Doctor. The dialogue reveals that, though he is a ‘regeneration’ of the same man, this incarnation does something dark – perhaps even evil. The John Hurt Doctor breaks the promise of the Name of The Doctor. Where does he fit into the time line? Who is he? Fans may speculate that he is the 13th Doctor – a version of him who has been psychologically destroyed by his own deeds and has taken the name of The Valeyard. Some may speculate that he is a rejected past-self… A Doctor 8 and a Half, that fought in the Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks and the same man who committed a double-genocide on both races to end the war! Whatever the case, I can’t wait for the 50th anniversary special in November!