A Few Thoughts on the 12th Doctor (or ‘Why I’m Wrong About Everything’)

5 Aug

New Doctor

I am one of life’s worriers. Sometimes I think it’s genetic. I come from Welsh stock, and we’re a nation renowned for its dourness. I heard one friend refer to us as “Italians in the rain”. Darker, swarthier and more phlegmatic than our neighbours “over the bridge”, but tinged with pessimism.

So… I am a worrier, and as I get older I find I don’t just worry about things; I panic about them. I get mini anxiety attacks over the silliest of things. Take last night’s Doctor Who Live, for example. This was the very showbizzy way in which the BBC announced who has been cast in the role of the 12th Doctor. I spent the days building up to this show (which was only announced a few days ago) in a state of mild disinterest.

“Oh, I’m not really that bothered,” I thought, fooling myself. “As long as it’s somebody good, I really don’t mind.”

Then, about an hour before the show, I started to panic. There was mention, on Twitter, of fresh-faced 26-year-old Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard, currently appearing in The White Queen, and who played David Bailey – opposite Karen Gillan’s Jean Shrimpton – in a BBC4 drama that screened last year. Reading too much into the space between this mention and a tweet written by a friend who might potentially know who had been cast, I decided that it was definitely going to be Aneurin Barnard, and my heart sank.

Still. It could have been worse.

Still. It could have been worse.

Not because I don’t rate him (Barnard, I mean, not Pasquale) as an actor. He’s been very good in everything I’ve seen him in. No… My heart sank because the worrying hemisphere of my brain (and yes… my brain has a whole hemisphere dedicated to worry), had created the following scenario:

INT. STEVEN MOFFAT’S OFFICE. DAY

Steven Moffat is on the phone to one of the HEAD HONCHOS at BBC America (because, in my head, this is the kind of thing he has to do all the time). We cut back and fore between Moffat’s office (with a view of grey skies and rain through its window), and the office of the HEAD HONCHO, which has a view of the Hollywood sign. The HEAD HONCHO is tanned, and has very white teeth.

HEAD HONCHO:

Steve, Steve, Steve… Listen to me. You’ve gotta cast someone young. Dave Tennant was younger than… uh… whatsisname… guy out of Gone in 60 Seconds. Bernie Ecclestone.

STEVEN MOFFAT:

Christopher.

HEAD HONCHO:

Whatever. Neil Tennant was younger that him. Matt’s younger than Neil. It stands to reason that the new kid…

STEVEN MOFFAT:

It doesn’t have to be a kid.

HEAD HONCHO:

It stands to reason that the new kid should be younger than Matt. Now, listen, I’ve been making a couple of calls, talking to a few contacts. Turns out they’ve finished filming the Twilight movies. Which means… now, don’t get too excited… but this means that Taylor Lautner is available from October.

STEVEN MOFFAT:

Taylor who? I don’t even know who… Isn’t she a girl?

HEAD HONCHO:

You’re thinking of Taylor Swift. But now you mention it… New companion?

STEVEN MOFFAT:

We’re not having Taylor Swift as the new companion.

His face like this, throughout.

His face like this, throughout.

In my head, the Powers That Be would get bullied by accountants into picking someone young and pretty, and the show would paint itself into a corner for the rest of its days, casting ever-younger actors in the role of the Doctor until, by the 75th Anniversary, we would end up watching a 6-year-old in a three-piece suit, turban and flip-flops run around, pointing his sonic screwdriver at things and saying, “Pew pew! Pew pew!”

And I was wrong.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved than when, in the seconds before Zoe Ball said his name, they showed a close-up of the Doctor-to-be’s hand, and it was a hand that’s lived. Not some puppy-fattish collection of digits which has never seen a hard day’s work, never held a cigarette, never had to put up shelves, or done its fair share of washing up. This was a dad’s hand.

“The 12th Doctor,” said Zoe Ball. “A hero for a new generation. It’s…Peter Capaldi!” (There was a nervous pause as if she was terrified she might say, “Keeter Pacaldi!”)

The audience cheered. I cheered. I think everyone cheered. Except, possibly, the guys and gals at Den of Geek.

It's almost like they wanted to write the 1D piece.

It’s almost like they wanted to write about One Direction.

But everyone else cheered.

Obviously, it’s early days, too early to speculate about “what kind of Doctor” Capaldi will be (though this won’t, I fear, stop a great many fans from doing just that). And, obviously, his tenure in the TARDIS will depend entirely on the quality of stories he’s given. But, in short, I am over the moon about his being cast, and if this incident has proven anything, it’s that I should worry a lot less, and that when I worry, I am invariably wrong about everything.

In fact, if this post has any point at all, it’s that to be a fan of a long-running show like Doctor Who is to exist in a state of permanent and wrong-headed worry. Despite the fact that this will be the 11th time the lead actor has changed, Doctor Who fans still worry about it. We worry when there’s a change of show runner. We worry about the ratings. We worry that the show is no longer as popular as it once was, and we worry that it’s getting too popular. (I once read a fan comment wishing the show could get cancelled so that conventions would feel “more intimate” again.)

A friend once shared a convention anecdote in which two fans dressed as the 6th Doctor had noisy sex in a neighbouring hotel room. That's just too intimate.

A friend once shared a convention anecdote in which two fans dressed as the 6th Doctor had noisy sex in a neighbouring hotel room. That’s just too intimate.

Worry, in the case of fandom, leads to pointless speculation, because there is – in the mind of the fan – nothing worse than not knowing. Except, perhaps, admitting that you don’t know. You can guarantee that before he’s even set foot in the TARDIS, Capaldi’s first episode will have been critiqued, at length, based on what very little information is made available. Some fans will have made up their mind about the next series, from start to finish, months before it airs. But not me.

This coming Friday I’m appearing at Nine Worlds Geekfest, in Heathrow, taking part in a round table about Doctor Who’s gay fanbase, and I’m fairly sure I’ll be asked, at some point, “what kind of Doctor” I think Capaldi will be. And do you know what? I have no idea. I don’t know what personality he’ll have, what other Doctor he’ll most resemble, what costume he’ll choose, or what kind of stories he will appear in. Sadly… That isn’t the kind of answer that goes down well, so I should probably quit writing this, and start working on something clever, preferably incorporating “Schrodinger’s Cat”, and a minimum of passive aggression.

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3 Responses to “A Few Thoughts on the 12th Doctor (or ‘Why I’m Wrong About Everything’)”

  1. beddyburc August 5, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Haha! What a great article in here. I can totally understand your anxiety and I agree with you 100%. There were rumors about the identity of the 12th Doctor, obviously. But I was not expecting someone older than Matt Smith or David Tennant.

    And I like the idea of Aneurin Barnard becoming the 12th Doctor. Sorry that didn’t happen. He is doing such good work as “Richard the Son of York”.

    Becoming the last Doctor is such big burden to carry out. I hope Capaldi will do great work and won’t mess it up. From now on, we will know him as the Doctor.

  2. twistie1 August 5, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Great article and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I’m currently undertaking my first marathon in which I watch every episode broadcast, in chronological order, and then blog about it – 50 Years in 50 Weeks. You can check out my blog at http://doctorwhomindrobber.wordpress.com/

  3. psychedk August 5, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    Haha! Keeter Pacaldi! That’s exactly why I’d never want her job, I’d say that for sure.

    Oh, the joys of being the speculative type, eh? 😉 I watch too much news to be an optimist, but I must admit I wasn’t worried with this casting of the Doctor. Biting my nails, stomach in a knot, shaking hands kind nervous, yes, but I actually felt confident that whoever they cast would be the right person. I haven’t seen all Doctors, but so far I haven’t been let down yet. And I’m very happy with the choice. Maybe now we can move away from the Doctor flirting with the young female companions!

    (he can flirt with me any day, though)

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