Ten Reasons Peter Capaldi Is - and Isn't - a Good Choice for Doctor Who

By Natalie Nichols in Daily Lists, Nerdery, TV
Monday, August 5, 2013 at 6:00 am

5. He's Rude and Definitely Not Ginger.

One name that was briefly bandied about this time was Domhnall Gleeson, the redheaded Irish actor best known as Bill Weasley in the last two Harry Potter films. Would the Doctor at last get to be ginger? Nope, sorry - Capaldi is a much snowier choice.

But a bigger challenge is that his best known role is Malcolm Tucker, the sweary hothead on The Thick of It, who at least on the surface seems universes away from the Doctor. (But, man, are the foul-mouthed Time Lord memes already getting old!) Dubbed "Iago with a Blackberry" by U.K. weekly The Spectator, Malcolm is a ruthlessly manipulative character who is largely hated and feared. Yet he's also said to be extremely intelligent, righteous in his motivations, intolerant of cronyism and surprisingly respectful of underlings. Hm. Maybe it's not such a challenge, after all.

6. He'll Probably Rein in the Mania.

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Though 55 is by no means geriatric, I'm guessing Capaldi won't be playing the Doctor with the wildly abandoned physicality that the fez-wearing, mop-wielding Matt Smith brought to the role. I thought David Tennant was a maniac as the 10th Doctor, until Smith came along and positively reveled in pushing the limits of how many busy little movements he could make and verbal torrents he could spew in any given scene. It's gotten to the point where Moffat seems to use that mania, and the confusion it creates, to disguise how little is really going on in some stories. I'm hoping Capaldi has a fresh take on how the Doctor moves and speaks, because that will challenge Moffat to do things differently too.

7. But He Was Already on Doctor Who.

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Yes, I know: Sixth Doctor Colin Baker first appeared on Doctor Who during the tenure of Fifth Doctor Peter Davison, playing the sniffy Gallifreyan Commander Maxil. Despite his previous role, the BBC hired him to play the Doctor anyway. Look how well that turned out.

But generally, I don't think having had a previous role on the show should prevent someone from getting the job as the Doctor. Or as a companion, as both Freema Agyeman and Karen Gillan were in episodes before becoming Martha and Amy. But those were all supporting parts, whereas in the Series 4 episode "The Fires of Pompeii," Capaldi played the central role of Caecilius, the head of the family around whom most of the action revolves, and who owe their survival to the Doctor. I just hope Moffat will refrain from feeling obligated to address the resemblance on screen, like Russell Davies did with Agyeman (explaining that her previous role was Martha's cousin) and also for Eve Myles, the actress who appeared in "The Unquiet Dead" before joining the Torchwood cast as Gwen Cooper, a fact that Davies self-indulgently couldn't resist drawing unnecessary attention to.

8. Who Cares, Because Another Scotsman, Yay!

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I don't know what you'd call someone who loves all things Scottish beyond reason - an Albaphile (after the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland)? Anyway, I am one, and two of my fave Doctors are David Tennant and Sylvester McCoy, who played the Seventh Doctor. I think it's awesome that Capaldi was once in a punk band called the Dreamboys with countryman and future late-night host Craig Ferguson (another avid Whovian). I kind of doubt that he'll be as tartaned-up as McCoy sometimes was, but I'm hoping that, unlike Tennant, Capaldi will get to add a little Scottish flavor to the Doctor's accent.

9. Never Mind Caecilius, What About Frobisher?

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Capaldi's In the Thick of It role, however different to the Doctor, is outside the Whoniverse. His having played Caecilius isn't a huge problem because the character was just a guy caught up in the events of history, who happened to cross the Doctor's past.

But the actor's turn as John Frobisher in Children of Earth, the third series of Who spin-off Torchwood, is what really made me cross him off the list of potential Doctors, and still kind of unnerves me about this choice. That may change once I actually see him as the Doctor, but right now it's hard to shake off the memory of the tormented middle-manager who is a willing, albeit unhappy, participant in a government conspiracy to appease an alien threat by handing over Britain's least-likely-to-succeed children.

Though sympathetic at times, perhaps because he is caught between a rock and a hard place, ultimately Frobisher reflects all the very worst rationalizations for going along to get along. He pays a dear price, which he thinks is a necessary sacrifice but ironically isn't, but he's still an awful person.

10. The Only Constant Is Change.

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Whether you became a Doctor Who fan yesterday or have been one for 50 years, you know the drill by now: The Doctor's gonna change, and we won't see his face again. But we'll see a new one, and that still marvelously clever conceit is why the show has lasted this long. Changing Doctors creates a sense of excitement and possibility that doesn't really need all the fanfare the BBC brought to it this time. One of the more moving parts of the special was Matt Smith's goodwill message to Capaldi: He seemed a little sad and reluctant to say the words, as though he couldn't completely hide some regret at his decision to depart.

But, like the old showbiz saw goes, always leave 'em wanting more. Here's hoping that, when the 12th Doctor finally turns up, he won't leave us wanting something else.

Previously by Natalie Nichols:

The 10 Best Moments in "The 24 Hours of Gallifrey One"

11 Cult TV Shows Besides Veronica Mars that Deserve Kickstarter-Funded Movies

5 Ways Defiance Reminds Us of Firefly... and 4 Ways It Needs to Be More Like Firefly

The 10 Best Deaths on Fringe

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