I'll probably be making a bona fide Twelfth Doctor icon before very long, though, because I am pretty damned sure I'm going to like him. That's the advantage of casting a well-known actor, of course. I have already seen Peter Capaldi demonstrating real range and flair, so I know in advance that he has what it takes to play the Doctor - and has it in bucket-loads, I'll venture. We know now in retrospect that David Tennant and Matt Smith did too, of course, and obviously the casting teams for each of them knew it at the time. But at the time when they were first cast in the role I had only half-heard of either of them (David Tennant reaction post here; Matt Smith reaction post here), so wasn't really sure what I could expect.
By contrast, Peter brings with him the strongest established star image since Christopher Eccleston, and probably one of the top five strongest since the show started. People on Twitter are already having enormous fun mashing up his back-catalogue roles with Doctor Who genre-markers, while poor old thanatos_kalos (who is in the closing stages of a PhD about Torchwood) is tearing her hair out at the thought of the para-texts now springing up around his character in Children of Earth. Obviously the older an actor you cast in the role, the greater a chance there is of his having acquired a strong public profile before he takes the part on - and as stealthmunchkin has already pointed out, at 55 years old Capaldi is actually the joint-oldest actor ever to have been cast in the role, right alongside William Hartnell.
Capaldi in real life wears his years much more lightly than Hartnell, of course. He could be asked to do what Hartnell did and play older than he is, but I'd be surprised if so, because it would be such a huge leap from the way Matt Smith has played the character, and I think would be considered too risky from the point of view of the younger contingent in the audience. I'm expecting a Doctor much in the vein of Troughton, Pertwee, Baker (T) and McCoy, and am very happy indeed at the prospect. Witness my words of eight years ago, when I had just heard that Christopher Ecclestone was stepping down from the role:
Also, if this must happen, I'd ideally like to see an older Doctor follow Ecclestone, just to keep a bit of variety in the role. Sure, there's a fine tradition of younger Doctors to follow - especially Peter Davidson. But I'd like to see an actor who can tap into those aspects of the Doctor's character so splendidly explored by people like Jon Pertwee.Yes, I want a Doctor who can really look as though he has the weight of unimaginable ages on his shoulders sometimes, and who can be properly fatherly when he wants to. David Tennant and especially Matt Smith both managed those things better that I would have guessed, but I think Moffat was right to say on tonight's live show that the time has come for a genuinely older actor now.
I still hope that some time in the future we will get a non-white Doctor - above all for what it would say about where we have collectively got to as a country on race issues. But the sad truth is that we are not there yet. We need to make Britain a better place for all minority ethnic groups in real life before we are ever going to get a non-white Doctor. Meanwhile, it has been established (via the dialogue about the Corsair in The Doctor's Wife) that Time Lords can change sex if they want to, and I certainly wouldn't say no to a female Doctor. But above all I am of the school of thought which says that what we really need in Doctor Who is more strong non-white and female characters around the Doctor, acting on his level and even pricking his ego when he needs it. The best way to set that up is to bring back the Time Lords - and oh, do I hope that the plot-line involving John Hurt will do that somehow.
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