With Peter Capaldi stepping in as the latest incarnation of the Doctor, the show will be diverting from the path it’s followed in its “modern” run so far. David Tennant was in his 30s when he took on the role. Matt Smith was in his 20s, and as the first of the revamped show’s time lords, Christopher Eccleston was in his 40s. Capaldi, however, is 55. He certainly isn’t the first older actor to take the lead of Doctor Who, but his age will be a major change for fans who only got hooked on the show in the era of dashing young “sexy” Doctors. But aside from letting his centuries of experience show a bit more, what can we expect from this new Doctor? According to executive producer Steven Moffat, this new “kick-up-the-arse Doctor” is designed to “flip the show around” and establish that Who will be taking a very different direction during Capaldi’s tenure.
There would be little point in making as radical a change as we’ve made unless you’re going to go quite different with the Doctor. The last two Doctors have been brilliant, and have been your ‘good boyfriend’ Doctors. But the Doctor isn’t always like that. There is the sort of Tom Baker, Christopher Eccleston end of the spectrum, where he is mad and dangerous and difficult.
If we’d cast Ben Whishaw, you’d know what we were doing. You’d think, ‘Well, that’s another quirky young man with entertaining hair!’ And he’d be a brilliant Doctor, but Clara would just think, ‘Okay, you’ve rearranged yourself a bit…’
Going with Capaldi might chase of some of the show’s latter-day fans, but if they can’t handle a Doctor with a few years on him, who needs ‘em? Of course, the Doctor has always had a menacing side to him — this is a powerful, long-lived being whose lives have had untold impacts on the cosmos. It’s one of the things every Doctor actor has to prove, that he can play the dark, intimidating moments as well as the quirky, funny ones. Both Tennant and Smith had such a moment in their respective first episodes: Tennant’s “No second chances, I’m that sort of man” moment in “The Christmas Invasion,” and Matt Smith’s “Basically…run” speech in “The Eleventh Hour.” And for my money, the Doctor’s dangerous nature has never been demonstrated better than in “The Family of Blood.”
Given his roles in In the Loop/The Thick of It, there’s no question Capaldi can handle the heavy moments. Hell, he was intimidating in “The Day of the Doctor,” and that was just a couple of seconds of his a eyebrows.
I also think the change to an older Doctor will be an interesting thing to play off of current companion Clara. Rose had an undeniably romantic relationship with the Doctor. Martha Jones had a bit of the crush on the guy, even though he was still too broken up over the loss of Rose to reciprocate. Donna Noble was sort of the crazy sister that was always getting into trouble. And breaking down the Doctor’s relationship with the Ponds (and their daughter) would require a chart of some sort. So far Clara, however, has been very much an equal partner with the Doctor. They’ve got chemistry together, but it’s definitely not a romantic chemistry. So that makes Clara a perfect companion for the transition to an older Doctor. Sure, she’ll still be sad for the loss of “her Doctor,” but once they settle in I’m betting they’ll be more Steed & Peel, less Han & Leia.
But what about the lady who actually earned the title of the Doctor’s wife? River Song (Alex Kingston) had a lovely bit of closure in the past season, but this is a show that spans across time, space, and reality, so there’s no question they could bring her back for more if they so desire. As for Moffat, he sounds a bit conflicted about the idea of River’s return, but doesn’t rule it out. He told DWM:
It’s always down to whether there’s a good story. My immediate instinct was that story’s probably done. Not that we saw all of it, but I never thought we should see all of it. I’m slightly tempted, because I imagine Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston would be absolutely hilarious together…
She could certainly have met other Doctors. So there’s nothing stopping us… But is there anything new we can do? Or is the new thing that Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston would be very sexy together? Is that enough? We’ve always had fun with the fact that they don’t look like a couple.
Peter Capaldi and Alex Kingston would look like a couple — that’s the thing. Whereas I thought Matt and Alex were gorgeous together, but it looked slightly strange, because he was so much younger. Alex is just great fun to have on the show. It’s when you want to throw the Doctor a bit, because what River does so well is to make him a bit on the back foot and a bit flustered.
Doctor Who will return with a new season of episodes sometime in 2014.