Come Christmas Day 2017, Peter Capaldi will no longer play the Doctor in the BBC’s long-running series Doctor Who. The science fiction show’s transition won’t come as a surprise, as the 59-year-old actor announced his decision to leave in January. Capaldi even hinted at the possibility in an Uproxx interview one month prior, though he was smart enough then not to let Schrödinger’s cat out of the bag (or box, rather). For as soon as the British broadcaster made it official, all anyone could talk about — including the Doctor Who team itself — was when, where and how the character would regenerate.
Rumors concerning Capaldi’s replacement, who will be selected by new showrunner Chris Chibnall, have also plagued Doctor Who news feeds ever since — and therein lies the problem. The acclaimed The Thick of It and In the Loop actor deserves far better than a constant barrage of questions about his eventual regeneration (even though I admittedly based an entire column on it), though asking fans and critics alike not to pepper the lead of a popular series with such inquiries is too much. Besides, at least the show itself can provide Capaldi some refuge while allowing him to focus on the work, right?
Wrong, as the show chose to add more fuel to the fire by constantly teasing viewers with fake regenerations (“The Lie of the Land”), as well as what may be a preview of the real deal (“World Enough and Time”). Throw in a season-long advertising campaign hellbent on reminding audiences the 12th Doctor is on his way out and eureka! — just about everything else gets drowned out. Which is sad, since Bill Potts’ (Pearl Mackine) introduction in “The Pilot” promised a whole new vantage with which to see Doctor Who. Like Rose Tyler’s (Billie Piper) first meeting with the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) 12 years prior, this new phase hinted at something fans hadn’t experienced in a while: awe.
When the Ninth Doctor saved Rose from certain death in “The Parting of Ways,” he offered her and those watching at home the program’s first explanation of regeneration in decades:
“I might never make sense again. I might have two heads, or no head. Imagine me with no head! And don’t say that’s an improvement, but it’s a bit dodgy, this process. You never know what you’re going to end up with… Every cell in my body is dying… Time Lords have this little trick. It’s sort of a way of cheating death, except it means I’m going to change, and I’m not going to see you again. Not like this. Not with this daft old face.”