From Spin Doctor to New Doctor

Steve Withers

Bookies favourite Peter Capaldi revealed as new Doctor Who in live BBC One programme

It was one of the worst kept secrets in recent memory but last night the BBC finally revealed the actor replacing Matt Smith as Doctor Who. Clearly more than a few people had blabbed because there was so much money going on Peter Capaldi that the bookies stopped taking bets on Sunday morning. Given that they're rarely wrong it came as no real surprise when Zoe Ball announced that Peter Capaldi had been cast in one of the most coveted roles in television. It's a sign of just how popular the reboot (or is that regenerated) Doctor Who has become that the BBC could broadcast a live show on a primetime Sunday evening slot, just to announce the actor who will be taking over the role.

Of course this is a big year for the titular Time Lord, with the programme's 50th anniversary being celebrated with a 3D Doctor Who special and a BBC film about the creation of the show. The Doctor Who special will be broadcast on the 23rd of November and will not only star Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman as the Doctor's current companion but will also see David Tennant return to the role along with Billie Piper's Rose Tyler. If that wasn't enough, there's John Hurt playing another version of The Doctor, so that's a total four different Doctors on our TVs this year - blimey they're a bit like buses!

Matt Smith's decision to bow out after four years seems sensible, it will be hard to top this year and a regeneration during the Christmas Day special seems like the perfect way to end the show's 50th anniversary. Smith is now busy starring in Ryan Gosling's directorial debut, which explains his short hair in the recorded segments he did for last night's programme. He isn't the only Who alumni to land a role in a Hollywood film or have to cut their hair as Karen Gillan had to shave her head for a part in Disney/Marvel's upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy.


Matt Smith has presumably finished shooting the Christmas special and thus his regeneration scene, which would explain the need to announce Peter Capaldi last night. Clearly on-set secrecy hasn't been especially tight given all those bets but no one can question the logic of show-runner Steven Moffat's decision to cast the Scottish actor. Although best known for playing the foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It, Capaldi is a superb actor who will bring real gravitas to the role. He's also a life-long fan of the show, a fact that was evidenced last night when Zoe Ball showed a letter that the 15 year old Capaldi had written to the Radio Times.

Capaldi has actually appeared in Doctor Who already, as a guest star in the Tennant episode 'The Fires of Pompeii', which funnily enough also featured Karen Gillan prior to her casting as Amy Pond. Peter Capaldi also had a major part in the third season of show's spin-off series Torchwood, so there's no doubting his Who credentials. He's also the best known and most established actor to play the role since Christopher Eccelston helped relaunch the show with original show-runner Russell T. Davies back in 2005. When Eccelston decided to leave the show after only one season, Davies cast David Tennant whom he had worked with on the TV series Casanova. When Tennant bowed out at the end of 2009, new show-runner Steven Moffat conducted a long search for a replacement Doctor eventually deciding on the then unknown Matt Smith.

At the time it was a controversial decision, not only because Matt Smith was an unknown but also because at just 27 he was the youngest Doctor by far. However, Smith brilliantly made the role his own, bringing real energy to the part thanks to a very physical performance. He also handled the comic moments well but managed to deliver the more emotional scenes that Moffat has frequently written into the show. His relative youth also allowed for a great deal of on-screen chemistry with his two companions, Karen Gillan and Jenna Coleman, both of whom are a similar age to him. However his youth did make it more difficult to sell his relationship with Alex Kingston's more mature River Song. Steven Moffat will now have the reverse problem as he pairs up the 27 year old Coleman with the 55 year old Capaldi, assuming of course Coleman survives the Christmas special.

After three relatively young actors recently taking on the role, it will be interesting to see where Moffat and Capaldi take the character and that alone makes the prospect exciting. It probably won't bother younger children, who hopefully won't be familiar with Malcolm Tucker's foul-mouthed exploits, but for the rest of us it might take some time to exorcise the spin doctor's ghost. There's no doubt that in the first couple of episodes, if someone knocks on a door we'll be waiting for Capaldi's Doctor to say “come the f#@k in or f#@k the f#@k off!”


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