Yes, we’re afraid it’s true. Peter Capaldi is leaving Doctor Who.
Doctor departures are a shock at the best of times, but this one really came as a surprise. Only yesterday, Peter revealed on Jo Whiley’s radio show that Series 10 will be his last. We anticipated a few tantalising morsels of information about the new season, sure, but it’s fair to assume no one expected him to say that.
And yet, of course, it’s arguably not really a surprise at all. Peter’s decision to leave has all the hallmarks of the status quo. Three series across four years? A Christmas regeneration? A Doctor and a showrunner bowing out at the same time? Check, check, and check. But that doesn’t make it any less impactful an announcement. This is a big, big moment for Doctor Who. It feels like only yesterday we were welcoming Capaldi into the TARDIS, now the countdown is on to wave goodbye. Already the bookies are placing bets on who will replace him as The Thirteenth Doctor. To put it in the words of a wise old Brigadier: “Here we go again…”
“I’m The Doctor… and I save people!”
Peter’s Doctor Who journey so far has certainly been an interesting one. He first made a one-off appearance back in 2008, as Caecilius in Tenth Doctor adventure The Fires of Pompeii. For an episode all about prophecies, it certainly left quite a mark on the show’s future. Not only would it be our first glimpse of Karen Gillan, but also a brand new Doctor! Little did we know it at the time though. Capaldi would then reappear in the Whoniverse a year later, starring as John Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth. A very different role, but just as memorable a performance.
Then, in August 2013, came his star turn. Peter was unveiled to the world as The Twelfth Doctor in the dazzlingly glitzy Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor. By comparison, his exit announcement seems incredibly low-key. At least it came full circle, with Jo Whiley present on both occasions. Anyway! It wouldn’t be until Christmas that we got our first glimpse of our new Time Lord. Or would it? In a delightful treat, Capaldi’s attack eyebrows scored a surprise cameo in The Day of the Doctor. One month later, we finally saw the rest of him. Matt Smith disappeared in a flash of energy, and Capaldi had officially arrived.
“The man that stops the monsters!”
Or at least he did, after another gruelling 8 month wait. Long periods of patience seem to be a staple of the Capaldi era, especially after 2016’s year-long hiatus. But each time, it was worth the wait. Deep Breath was an exciting feature-length debut, heralded in with the Doctor Who World Tour. Peter and his co-star Jenna Coleman flew all across the globe to promote Series 8, and they were met with a warm reception. From there, it was onwards and upwards. A lot has happened in our three years of Capaldi so far. Daleks! Cybermen! Missy! Davros! Time Lords! Gallifrey! It’s fair to say that Peter’s list of fanboy dreams must have a lot ticked off by now.
Because, deep down, that’s something that defines Capaldi’s Doctor. He’s not just a Doctor. He’s a fan of The Doctor. A fan since the very beginning, in fact. As great as the three preceding modern Doctors were, none of them embodied the series’ 50+ year history in quite the same way. Capaldi’s age, attitude, and gravitas harkened back to the show’s early days. Perhaps a bit too much for some. While Matt Smith was met with cries of “too young!”, Peter got the opposite: “too old!”. Opinions and mileage may vary, but for our money, he was a perfect choice. If the show does revert to the younger Doctor formula again for Series 11, at least we can say we got this once.
“Am I a good man?”
What is there to say about Peter himself though that hasn’t already been said? He’s a glorious actor that’s commanded every role he’s ever played. As The Doctor, he was rebellious and spiky, but always lovable. He completely owned the part in stories like Heaven Sent and The Zygon Inversion. His strong performances even managed to make the more questionable episodes feel worthwhile. If that isn’t the sign of a good actor, then we don’t know what is!
Off-screen, he is an equally captivating presence. Speaking personally for a moment, I have been lucky enough to meet Peter twice, and both occasions were an absolute delight. He is extremely warm to his fans and always makes a concerted effort to please them. Whether it’s engaging in chit-chat or taking requests for photos, he makes meet and greets an experience, not just a fleeting moment. He may sport the rock ‘n’ roll look, but you couldn’t hope to meet more of a gentleman. Those memories, and my signed copy of the Series 9 box set, will go down as the pride of my collection. To answer the dilemma that punctuated his first series as The Doctor: yes, Peter, you are a good man. And a bloomin’ good ambassador for the show, too.
“How many seconds in eternity?”
Perhaps all of this is a little premature though. Peter may not be coming back for Series 11, but he’s not done yet. He’s keen to stress that there’s still a year to go, and epic things to see. Undoubtedly though, this news will throw up a lot of questions about the forthcoming series. How will The Twelfth Doctor meet his end? Will his farewell be a wrap-up of the Moffat era, like Tennant’s was for RTD? Will we see Clara again at the regeneration? And, more significantly, what does this all mean for Pearl Mackie’s future in the show?
Those are, at present, questions for another time. For now, let’s just look forward to what’s in store. It’s an exciting time for Doctor Who – a brand new series, a brand new companion. And soon, a brand new Doctor. In Twelve’s own words: “Everything ends, and it’s always sad. But everything begins again too, and that’s always happy”. That’s a message we’re sure Peter would want us to take to heart right now.
Nevertheless, we’ll all probably need a lot of reminding come December. You may as well forget about the turkey and the trimmings this year. Christmas Day is already guaranteed to be a teary one. Stock up on tissues and prepare yourself for feels – The Twelfth Doctor is on his way out. As a wise Time Lord once said: “Nothing’s sad ‘til it’s over. Then everything is…”.
We can only hope his departure does him justice. But, either way, Capaldi’s era will always be remembered fondly: the majestic tale of an idiot with a box.