New Series

Eccleston, Tennant, Smith… Capaldi


That was my first reaction up hearing the announcement. I actually punched the air, much in the same way that I do when celebrating an Ashes wicket in England’s favour. A combination of relief that Moffatt hadn’t simply cast another kid with a funny face (I say that while acknowledging how good Matt Smith was), joy at such a good actor being cast – especially one as good, as right, as Capaldi – and the fact that Moff had done what was genuinely thought impossible (by myself as much as anyone else) in casting someone so relatively old and away from the sought-after demographics that have made the revitalised Doctor Who such a mainstream hit.

My second reaction?


I had put the casting rumours surrounding Capaldi down to the usual mixture of fandom wishlists, tabloid character-actor profiling and fairly established use by the production team of red herrings. I was very much of the opinion, last time around, that Paterson Joseph was in on the whole thing of him being accidentally named as the next Doctor, just as I thought Rory Kinnear might have been until his rather irritable denials. I was utterly of the opinion that Capaldi was this time around too – I even thought it was quite likely that the production team was manipulating the bookies, just to keep the surprise going until the end.

But Capaldi it was. I was genuinely very surprised – and very happy. And then, some doubts.

I have no doubts surrounding Capaldi’s ability: from The Crow Road to Neverwhere to The Thick Of It to his wonderful performance in Torchwood. He’s enigmatic, dependable, charismatic, funny, rather odd and vaguely sinister. He’d make a great Master. A great Doctor too, but I can’t help wonder if he is a little long in the tooth.

I didn’t agree with RTD that the Doctor couldn’t be aged over 45. But I do think it’s become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. There would have been no issue with starting the show with an older actor (though it’s a fair question as to whether it would have been as successful), nor with the Tenth being older. But I think Tennant’s imprint on the show made it very difficult to move away from an area that had attracted a big part of the show’s audience. Girls.

Tennant and Smith were very fanciable young men – and the series went out of its way to play to that. The Doctor was lonely; the Doctor was vulnerable; the Doctor had crazy hair; the Doctor fell in love with his everyday, chips-and-beans girly companions. Doctor Who actively courted this audience – and this audience is now very unhappy.

I’m pretty chuffed about this turn of events, to be quite honest, but I do think it will reduce Doctor Who’s overall viewership. Maybe it will regain some of the more traditional audience – or a totally different one.

One thing I am fairly certain about is that Doctor Who will surely change a lot on the basis of Capaldi’s casting. I really can’t imagine him doing any of that stuff that Tennant and Smith did when they got all excitable. Rather like with Eccleston, I suspect he’d just look rather uncomfortable and wrong doing it. And I can imagine Capaldi – a man who’s been a fan for nigh-on 50 years, is at the top of his profession and has won a FUCKING OSCAR – having some firm ideas about what he does and doesn’t see his Doctor doing.

So, a darker Doctor? Perhaps. I’m going to find The Twelfth Doctor’s relationship with Clara interesting, though sadly I do expect to see River Song return to see if she can create a bit of chemistry with the third actor they’ve tried it with. I do expect a Chesterton-style character to do some heavy lifting too.

I just can’t imagine a lot of the last five years of Doctor Who as played by Capaldi. Does that mean a significant shift of emphasis? I do hope so, but I think this amounts to a huge roll of the dice. DW has been box office for the last few years thanks, in no small part, to a casual female demographic of Doc-fanciers. Well, Moff just stuck two fingers up at them.

Fuckety-bye, squee brigade.