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“Star Trek,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Tonight Show.” Few television shows have quite the age, success, and multi-generational appeal as “Doctor Who.”
Although regarded as something of a cult phenomenon by American audiences, it is actually among the most successful science fiction serials of all time, and is certainly the oldest; beating out the adventures of the Starship Enterprise by a good three years.
Part of its longevity is owed to the frequently changing face of its protagonist, who will be played by a new actor who was announced earlier this week. But since the announcement, much of the world outside the fandom has questions; who is this new actor, and has anything really changed?
As longtime fans can attest, the show is famous for its constantly revolving starring role. Eleven people have played the primary role of The Doctor, a nameless, immortal “time-lord” with the ability to regenerate himself into a new form out of necessity every now and then.
As a result, the writers and production staff are more or less free from the constraints of other, more star-dominated shows. The plots do not have to revolve around the schedule of one actor, who in turn is not paid quite as much as Hugh Laurie or Charlie Sheen would be for their respective characters.
Already, since the show’s dramatic resurgence in 2005, when it was rebooted following a decade-and-a-half –long hiatus, three prominent English actors have played the role; Christopher Eccleston, who can be seen as the villain in the upcoming “Thor” movie, “Harry Potter” alum and fan-favorite David Tennant, and the current , and youngest incarnation, Matt Smith. So, naturally, fan interest and hype went through the roof when it was announced earlier this year that a new actor would be chosen to play the character.
The choice, for those who did not stay up all night awaiting the BBC’s unveiling, was Scottish actor and screenwriter Peter Capaldi. English audiences quickly recognized Capaldi as the bitter, rabid, and incredibly profane Malcolm Tucker, the Director of Communications for the British government in the hilarious series “In the Thick of It,” for which he received wide acclaim.
American audiences were a bit more baffled, many of whom only recognized the actor from, ironically enough, previous roles on the very show. Indeed, Capaldi is a much older actor than Tennant, Smith, or even Eccleston, which may seem odd for a show whose audience is primarily young adults.
However, the choice also raises other questions. In the entire history of the series, never once has anyone other than a caucasian male played the lead, despite the fact that the show’s very nature seems to suggest that any actor being forbidden from playing the role is ludicrous.
Upon producer and series runner Stephen Moffat’s confrontation with the subject, he suggested that a woman playing the role would be akin to a man playing the Queen; a figure who is neither fictional nor a regenerative shapeshifter, to the present knowledge of those in the Grapevine.
Besides, this evades the possibility of a non-white actor in the role. Indeed, Idris Elba seemed like a fan-favorite choice in several outlets, even if an actor with his price and schedule seemed a bit far-fetched.
Although the statements regarding the “limitations” on the Doctor’s casting seem relatively absurd considering how the character has been handled, the nerd world does not seem to have shown too much fervor over the new doctor, who will join the show officially later this year. Whichever the direction the show takes, one thing is for certain: he certainly won’t be the last.