Peter Capaldi leaving Doctor Who
Today during an interview on BBC Radio, Peter Capaldi announced that the upcoming tenth season of Doctor Who will be his last. His final appearance as the Doctor will be in the 2017 Christmas special, which will also be the final episode for current showrunner Steven Moffat.
“One of the greatest privileges of being Doctor Who is to see the world at its best,” Capaldi said. “From our brilliant crew and creative team working for the best broadcaster on the planet, to the viewers and fans whose endless creativity, generosity and inclusiveness points to a brighter future ahead. I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s been cosmic.”
The announcement was unexpected, it certainly wasn’t shocking. Rumors have been circulating for months now that the BBC wants incoming showrunners Chris Chibnall and Matt Strevens to have a clean start when they take over, beginning with the eleventh season. Some of those reports cite the BBC’s concern that the show isn’t doing as well under Capaldi as it did under previous Doctors David Tennant and Matt Smith, and the studio/network wants a younger, more energetic star to win back the younger audiences that may not have stuck with the show.
That is all unconfirmed though. It is equally likely that the 58-year-old actor simply felt like it was time to move on and the changing of the guard was just one more sign it was time. Capaldi is an old school fan of the show, and several of the actors playing the Doctor stayed for three seasons (although not all of them). Tennant and Smith seemed to follow this tradition as well, so Capaldi may have just felt like it was time, regardless of the BBC.
Whatever the reason, Doctor Who is a show that thrives on change. Launching in November 1963, it is one of the longest running programs in the world (despite a lengthy hiatus). The protagonist himself is defined by the concept of change, having regenerated 11 times (12 if you count Tennant twice) into a new Doctor. Capaldi is the twelfth actor to take the role, and a 13th will be named in the near future.
Each new producer throughout the show’s history has also added their own stamp. At one point, Doctor Who was historical fiction, then it became 60s science fiction. It then redefined itself as an action series, and then again as a gothic horror before yielding to more traditional sci-fi.
Change is part of the deal, and the next season will mark yet another chapter in the show’s history. No word yet on when to expect that new season complete with a new Doctor and showrunners. Traditionally the show since its relaunch has aired in spring, but with so many changes the show might revert to fall, as it did with the ninth season.
The tenth season of Doctor Who will also introduce the new companion Bill, played by Pearl Mackie. When the reports began to circulate that the BBC was considering a fresh start, there were also hints that Mackie would only appear in the upcoming season, as her contract was for just one year. That isn’t uncommon – both Catherine Tate and Freema Agyeman each appeared in a single season – but it would make sense to do a complete reset, much like Moffat received when he took over at the start of the fifth season.
“For years before I ever imagined being involved in Doctor Who, or had ever met the man, I wanted to work with Peter Capaldi. I could not have imagined that one day we’d be standing on the Tardis together,” said Moffat. “Like Peter, I’m facing up to leaving the best job I’ll ever have, but knowing I do so in the company of the best, and kindest and cleverest of men, makes the saddest of endings a little sweeter.”
An official air date for the new season hasn’t been announced, but April seems likely. Given the intense interest and scrutiny around who plays the role of the Doctor, the BBC may want to wait on announcing Capaldi’s replacement until after the season. Assuming they can keep it a secret that long.