The Doctor, The TARDIS and Peter Capaldi
7:30 AM. Somewhere in the room, there was an alarm clock wailing and dog barking. I must have been more tired than I thought because I slapped the dog and gave the alarm clock a Milk-Bone. There was something looming in the back of my thoughts but I couldn’t muster the energy to decipher it that early on a Sunday. Covers were tossed to the ground, closet doors slid on their tracks, a man across the street started up a lawnmower for some ungodly reason. You know that sort of haze that clouds your vision in the morning? You rub your eyes all you want, but there’s always something there in the corner of your periphery that doesn’t subside. You forget your real existence for a few, brief minutes before once again repeating the tiresome, mundane tasks that turn a zombie into a human being. Walking down the hallway that morning to find my toothbrush, I realized, suddenly, what I had forgotten.
‘Doctor Who’ Day.
My stomach twisted at the passing thought and my nerves began to sizzle just thinking about how the world was sitting in wait on their sofas and bean bag chairs, bar stools, and blankets in the park with a smartphone propped up in front of them. The entirety of Britain alone was desperately anticipating an answer to a question they had been repeating for months: Doctor… Who?
Somewhere, halfway across the world, someone else’s day had begun similarly: after a restless night’s sleep, Peter Capaldi most likely woke up early to put the kettle on. One can imagine him smoothing his hand through his wavy grey locks and slapping away an edgy tic. He may have had nerves (or perhaps, as a seasoned veteran, he didn’t). It’s funny how a little cup of tea can calm and wake you at the same time.
After anxiously waiting around, trying not to spill the beans, Capaldi was probably more nauseated that morning than he had been in the previous weeks, the last few precious days he had left before every Whovian on the face of the planet would be ogling and Googling, stocking everything he’d ever appeared in on their Netflix queues. The tea was most likely the last bit of comfort he would get that day before being simultaneously congratulated and thrown in front of a metaphorical speeding freight train. And that evening, as he waited in the wings of the BBC stage and heard the crowd roaring something akin to his name, he must have glanced at his own face in the dressing table mirror and realized what we all did in that same instant:
Peter Capaldi, The Doctor.
Peter Dougan Capaldi was born 14th of April, 1958 in Glasgow, Scotland to Irish/Italian parents. He displayed a penchant for acting at an early age, putting on shows in primary and secondary school before eventually being accepted into the Glasgow School of Art. It was there that he honed the skills that would later win him memorable turns as Danny Oldsen in ‘Local Hero’, a young, regional oil representative who experiences a change of heart, and the foul-mouthed political spin doctor Malcolm Tucker on the BBC’s ‘The Thick of It’ and the companion film, ‘In the Loop’. He gained recognition with Neil Gaiman fans by voicing the character Islington in the radio adaptation of Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’.
Eagle-eyed ‘Who’ fans note that this is not the first time Capaldi has appeared in the hit series: a huge fan himself, he guest starred as a fictionalized Lucius Caecilius in the 2008 David Tennant/Catherine Tate episode, “The Fires of Pompeii”. In addition to a memorable turn as Caecilius, Capaldi has also held guest roles on the ‘Doctor Who’ spin-off, ‘Torchwood’. In his five episode arc, Capaldi played the role of John Frobisher, Permanent Secretary to the Home Office and Torchwood Three liaison to the British Government.
More recently, Capaldi won rave reviews on BBC Two’s ‘The Hour’ as Randall Brown, a slightly OCD Head of News among a troupe of journalists who stumble across a dark secret. BAFTA rumors threaded their way through the halls of the television network. In the end, a trophy or a plaque didn’t suit him, but the outpouring of emotion over Capaldi’s interpretation of a father losing his daughter seemed to matter more.
Throughout Peter Capaldi’s varied career, fans have watched him take on role after role and make them his own: Caecilius’ stubborn love for his son, Capaldi’s terrifyingly sad rendering of a politician in over his head, even the slight vocal intonations that gave life to a faceless character only heard over the radio.
As with any transition phase, the ‘Doctor Who’ fandom has had its share of naysayers; monotonous chants of “But he’s old!” and “How will he and his companion flirt now?” have already began manifesting themselves in print all over the internet, though the rest of the base has been largely positive. Some have rushed to his defense, decrying ageist jabs and thinly veiled attempts at mockery.
After refreshing my Twitter page about 4 dozen times on Sunday afternoon, I was finally greeted with a welcoming sight: “And the next Doctor is…” the screen read, “…Peter Capaldi!” About 3 million U.S. fans screamed for joy before logging onto Wikipedia to find out who, exactly, this brilliant actor was. “Have we seen him in anything?” “I think he’s that guy from ‘Harry Potter’ or something.” My personal favorite was the much spouted, “It’s a good thing David saved him from the Fires of Pompeii….”
When the Whoniverse explodes, the rest of the world knows about it. By Monday morning, “Capaldi” was a household name. Stills from ‘In the Loop’ and ‘The Hour’ were already circulating the media. Fan-made 12th Doctor artwork had popped up on Tumblr overnight. And as for the charming, dedicated actor from Glasgow, the one who had written his local paper as a boy pleading for a 25th anniversary Doctor Who special, the one who gave regularly to others, the one who was able enough to keep life-changing news a secret from everyone (including his own daughter), the world had changed.
Who does he see when he glances in the mirror now? “I’m surprised now to see Doctor Who. You look in the mirror and, suddenly, strangely, he’s looking back. And it’s not me yet. But he’s reaching out… and hopefully we’ll get it together.”
So today, we raise a cuppa to you, Peter Capaldi—no, scratch that.
Here’s looking at you… Doctor.
All images courtesy of the BBC