Hail to the new Doctor!

Peter Capaldi is everything a classic Doctor should be

Topics: doctor who, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, Torchwood, In the Loop, The Thick of It,

Hail to the new Doctor!Peter Capaldi (Credit: AP/Joel Ryan)

For plenty of us, the most important new arrival to come out of the United Kingdom – and, for that matter, the known universe — this summer wasn’t that royal baby. We were far busier waiting for somebody else. As it turned out, it was a foul-mouthed 55 year-old man. On Sunday, the BBC put an end to weeks of nail-biting suspense and introduced Scottish actor Peter Capaldi as the 12th incarnation of the Doctor on “Doctor Who.” He replaces current Doctor Matt Smith in a special holiday episode this December. It’s a glorious day in the TARDIS!

Even for those of us who bristle at Steven Moffat’s recent snooty dismissal of the possibility of a female Doctor, Capaldi is a fantastic choice. The Who franchise is one of the most beloved institutions in all of science fiction, and the man who regenerates into the Doctor’s shoes has to be a very special person. Fortunately, Capaldi is. As current Doctor Matt Smith says, “If I had to pick someone, I’d pick him, because I think he’s great.”



Capaldi is already known to fans of the series for playing Caecilius in “The Fires of Pompeii” episode, and for his gut-punchingly haunting arc as Home Office Permanent Secretary John Frobisher in “Torchwood’s” “Children of Earth.” (If you haven’t seen it, you should, immediately. Suffice to say Capaldi can do more with closing a door than most actors can do with chewing a roomful of scenery.) But Capaldi’s also had a lengthy and enviable career outside of the realm of the Time Lords. Thirty years ago, he costarred as a sweetly awkward, multilingual corporate drone in the sleeper classic “Local Hero.” Twenty years ago, he wrote and directed Richard E. Grant in the terrific and weird BAFTA and Academy Award-winning “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life.” More recently, he’s been the ridiculously quotable expletive enthusiast and political enforcer Malcolm Tucker of “In the Loop” and “The Thick of It.” Oh, and he’s been brilliant in dozens of other films and television shows along the way, ranging from a transvestite in “Prime Suspect” to an angel in Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere.” He’s a versatile everyman who’s also utterly unique. In short, he is everything a classic Doctor should be – able to pivot from slapstick goofball to heartbreakingly tragic figure in the span of a single scene. And as one of the oldest actors to play a man who’s already nine centuries old, Capaldi also brings a worldly gravitas that will serve in contrast to the lithe physicality of his previous two predecessors.

But maybe his greatest qualification for the job is that he’s also a self-described “lifelong Doctor Who fan.” He gets how important the role is because he loves the series too. “He’s not me yet,” he told reporters Sunday, “but he is reaching out and hopefully we will get it together.” And though we’ll miss Mr. Smith, we can’t wait till Christmas.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...