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article imageOp-Ed: Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi is the Doctor — the countdown continues

By Mathew Wace Peck     Aug 2, 2014 in Entertainment
Scottish actor Peter Capaldi has been talking about his decision to take on one of the most high-profile and publicly demanding television roles in the world.
Apparently, despite being a huge fan of the show and having wanted a go at the part for many years, he still had reservations about doing so once it came his way.
The Glasgow-born actor was speaking to the Scottish Herald just a few weeks ahead of bursting onto TV screens as the latest incarnation of the Time Lord known only as “the Doctor,” in the BBC’s popular science-fiction drama series, Doctor Who.
A person of many creative talents and an actor of many parts, Capaldi was hitherto probably best known for playing Malcolm Tucker, the foul-mouthed spin-doctor in Armando Ianucci’s The Thick of It, the British political sitcom that led to Veep in the US . More recently, Capaldi played the evil Cardinal Richelieu in Season 1 of The Musketeers, Adrian Hodges’s re-interpretation of Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers.
Universal recognition
However, in terms of public recognition, as Capaldi himself realises, taking on the mantle of such an iconic part as the Doctor is a totally different kettle of fish… fingers and custard. “People spoke to me before [Doctor Who] and recognised me,” he says in an interview with the Herald, “but nothing like this.”
And that’s even before any episodes of his first season in the role have aired!
Since Capaldi’s casting announcement, his Doctor has been seen just briefly in two Doctor Who adventures — The Day of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor — but his introduction proper will occur in Deep Breath, a feature-length episode that will be broadcast on television and screened in cinemas in several countries on Saturday, August 23.
The responsibility associated with what has become a global phenomenon was not lost on Capaldi when he was approached by the BBC last year to
The Attire of the Doctor: Peter Capaldi in costume as the Doctor
The Attire of the Doctor: Peter Capaldi in costume as the Doctor
BBC/Steve Brown
take over the role from then-incumbent Matt Smith. “I had to think about the level of visibility […] I had to decide if I was ready to live with that,” he says in the Herald.
Obviously, he decided he was ready because, almost a year ago — Sunday, August 4, to be precise — in an unprecedented move that highlights how huge Doctor Who has become, Peter Capaldi was unveiled live on television to millions of viewers world wide as the actor chosen to play the Twelfth Doctor.
Although introduced last August as the actor chosen to be the Twelfth Doctor, Capaldi is in fact the fourteenth incarnation of the Time Lord, though the thirteenth actor to officially portray the character on television. Doctor Who lore has always stated that Time Lords can regenerate a maximum of 12 times (NB: in Doctor Who parlance, to “regenerate” is to adopt a new body when the current one is clapped out — and who wouldn’t welcome that?). The 12-times rule means there can only ever be 13 Doctors. Honest, that’s the deadly truth, so beware the assassin if you disagree … except, the Doctor’s people weren’t even referred to as Time Lords till six years into the show’s run, the 12-times limit didn’t crop up for another seven years after that and Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor is definitely this particular Time Lord’s fourteenth incarnation because Steven Moffat said so.
Confused? You will be!
In order of TV appearance, then, the 12 actors responsible for using up the Doctor’s 12-times-only regenerative cycle (i.e. the 13 incarnations of the Doctor) are: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Petwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and John Hurt.
Why 12 and not 13 actors? Well, as the Tenth Doctor (in reality, Moffat) once said, it’s all a bit timey-wimey. Tennant’s Doctor(s), you see, took up two regenerative slots … And if that isn’t mind-boggling enough, try this: Although Hurt didn’t arrive on the scene till mid-2013 — while Smith was still very much the Eleventh (though, as it subsequently turned out, Thirteenth) Doctor — his was in fact the incarnation between McGann’s and Eccleston’s!
Hence, how Capaldi can be at one and the same time the Twelfth Doctor and the Fourteenth Doctor. Point of reference here: in real life (don’t laugh!),
The Prisoner
The Prisoner
Doctor Who fans and the BBC refer to each Doctor by their number, hence, for example, William Hartnell is the First Doctor, Tom Baker the Fourth Doctor, Matt Smith the Eleventh Doctor. However, in the fictional context of the Doctor Who universe itself, there’s just “the Doctor”; he’s never referred to by a number — to slightly misquote Patrick McGoohan, if I may, “I’m not a number, I’m the Doctor!”
“But what about the cast-in-Dalekanium rule that Time Lords can regenerate a maximum of 12 times?” I hear those of you who haven’t nodded of say. “Surely, the Doctor would die once and for all once his alloted life-span was used up?” (Oh, how the non-Who-ites were waiting to welcome that day!)
Well, you see, at the end of last year’s Christmas special, The Time of the Doctor, when the Eleventh-but-in-reality-Thirteenth Doctor (Smith) died, the Time Lords sprinkled some magic gold glitter through Amy’s Crack (seriously, I’m not making it up), so that the Doctor would survive another 2,000 years and the BBC be spared the ignominy of being sued by the fans for leading everyone on to believe that they’d cast Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor (which, strictly, they hadn’t!) when in reality it’d been part of the Ergad’s wicked thirty-year plan to rid the universe of Doctor Who once and for all.
If any of that makes sense, you’re awarded Adric’s Gold Star for Mathematical
Adric (Matthew Waterhouse)
Adric (Matthew Waterhouse)
BBC / Doctor Who
Excellence. If it doesn’t — or, Ragnorok forbid, you don’t care! — perhaps you’re better off watching Coronation Street.
Anyway, as the Doctor urged last weekend, “Listen!” Doctor Who: Deep Breath thunders onto TV and cinema screens in the US, UK, Germany, Canada and Australia, with several other countries to be confirmed, on August 23/24.
Written by Steven Moffat (Sherlock) and directed by Ben Wheatley (Sightseers), the feature-length adventure stars Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and Jenna Coleman as Clara. Dan Starkey (Strax), Neve Mcintosh (Vastra) and Catrin Stewart (Jenny) return as guest stars.
Doctor Who Season 8 begins three weeks today and will run for 12 weeks before taking a short break, returning on Christmas Day for what has become the now-traditional Christmas special.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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