Culture Questions: Is Peter Capaldi the right choice for Doctor Who?

As surely everyone from Gabon to Gallifrey knows, Peter Capaldi is set to play the beloved Time Lord following Matt Smith’s departure at Christmas. But was this a great casting move or an omnishambles? We asked two of our writers to fight it out below, with the winner decided by you, our readers, in our poll at the bottom of the page.

Yes

By Sophia Hammond

So Peter Capaldi has been revealed as the twelfth Doctor and I, for one, am ecstatic. There has been controversy over Capaldi’s casting, with fans pointing out that he is too old or just another white male Doctor. However, I am here to argue that he is the right actor for a number of reasons.

While I have enjoyed Matt Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor over the last few years, I feel that as we near the 50th anniversary and perhaps revelations about the Doctor’s role in the Time War, the series would be better served by a more mature actor. One who has already been successful in his own career and may feel more able to take risks with his portrayal of the Time Lord. I believe Peter Capaldi to be the perfect choice for this, he is not only an established actor who is respected by his peers (see Stephen Fry’s recent tweet of support) but he has also excelled in mainstream roles such as the brilliant Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It. Tucker is famous for being a character with a penchant for swear words and a sarcastic wit, and while I am certainly not suggesting that the Doctor begin swearing in front of millions of young fans, it would be interesting to see him in a darker incarnation, adding to the mysterious characteristics the Doctor possesses.

There have been complaints that Capaldi is too old to play the Doctor, something that I would respectfully disagree with seeing as the character he is portraying is over a thousand years old. Capaldi may be one of the oldest actors to portray the time lord, but the symmetry between his casting, and that of William Hartnell at the same age is undeniable. After 50 years of the show, a nod to the past with an older Doctor may be an excellent way of bringing the show away from the recent Doctor/Companion ‘will they-won’t they’ storylines and back to its roots; examining human behaviour and ethics through the alien character of the Doctor.

In regards to complaints about the race and gender of the actor who plays the Doctor, I too am disappointed that there is not more diversity in the show, as the two main leads in the next series will both be white British. However, I feel that Capaldi’s tremendous acting ability makes him right for the part. There is great debate over the issue of the Doctor being a female, and I feel that I could not give it the time it deserves in this piece. However, it is good to have such a great actor in the show and I feel that the debate surrounding the Doctor’s casting should be a separate issue from Capaldi’s future performance.

Fellow fans should be reassured that Capaldi is a life-long Whovian, whom genuinely cares about both the character and the show. Therefore, he is also likely to empathise with the fan community and our sometimes obsessive behaviour. He has already professed that he is humbled to have got the part, and his use of old scripts as research shows that he is serious about his responsibility towards the character and the fans. Overall I think that we should give him a chance, I have a feeling he’s going to be fantastic.

No

By Cameron Bray

Peter Capaldi should not be the new Doctor. There, I’ve said it.

There are many reasons as to why I think this and none of them have absolutely anything to do with Capaldi’s acting ability. His skill as an actor is remarkable and he’s won dozen of accolades for a fantastic body of work and that, in itself, is one problem. The Doctor needs to be a blank canvas. I like the unknown, mysterious aspect of The Doctor. I like knowing very little about the actor. By doing so, the audience get to feel like The Doctor’s companions, who are unsure of this stranger calling themself ‘The Doctor.’ Previous Doctors tend to be a little recognisable but not overtly so. Newspaper headlines after Matt Smith was announced read ‘Doctor Who?’, reinforcing the idea of the actor being plucked from obscurity. This said though, I could perhaps overlook the casting of an established actor, if it meant the end of a casting trend. Anyone not familiar with the old series would be forgiven for thinking that Time Lords only appear as white men.

Steven Moffat is on record saying ‘There was a shortlist of one name.’ This reveals that the choice of Peter Capaldi was not much of a choice at all. Neil Gaiman, being the beautiful man that he is, made it canon in The Doctor’s Wife for Time Lords to be able to switch sex when they regenerate. Even before this, Joanna Lumley played The Doctor briefly in 1999 for a Red Nose Day parody.

Moffat himself even acknowledged that during the overwrought announcement such a thing was possible, whilst knowing full well that he had never even contemplated such a thing. Moffat then goes on to say that his writing of the show will be done ‘to allow the new man to come in and spin it their way.’ It becomes solidly apparent that, to his mind, The Doctor = A MAN.

I got into Doctor Who when Russell T. Davies brought it back onto our screens. The Doctor was dark, dashing, remarkable and grew up a few streets away from me, albeit years apart. Christopher Eccleston’s northern charm and oversized ears made me feel that I could  be The Doctor.It seems, however, that I am lucky to have been able to feel that way. A recent study by Indiana University found that watching TV boosted the self -esteem of white boys, whilst lowering the esteem of white girls as well as boys and girls of colour. The white boys of this world have 11 (now 12) Doctors to look up to and pretend to be. What about everybody else?

Whoopi Goldberg, upon seeing Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, said ‘I knew right there and then that I could be anything I wanted to be, and I want to be on Star Trek.’ Whoopi Goldberg went on, amongst many other amazing things, to star in a recurring role on Star Trek: The Next Generation. This is a brilliant quote, and story, which illustrates the positive power that media can have on how children see themselves.

Peter Capaldi should not have been cast. Instead, the BBC should have used their power responsibly, and acknowledged that who The Doctor is played by matters to more people than Steven Moffat.

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1 Comment

  1. Susana Nascimento

    5 September, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    The question is not whether the man is old or not, but more of that idea of sternness bestowed upon the image that the actor seems to display of the character. I was a firm believer that Callum Blue would fit the perfect idea of the Doctor.
    I have this idea of Capaldi of a dad who grounds you when you misbehave that is so not Doctor Who. Both Matt and David portrayed the quirky and misbehaved child that went around playing pranks. I liked it. It gave some edge to the show. MY major concern is the thought that one of my favorite show is to become too serious. Also, the amazing chemistry ElevenxRiver should be surpassed if we had a different actor. This is my opinion, but I’m hoping to be proven wrong.

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