Welcoming Peter Capaldi

Peter Capaldi Doctor Who“And his name is The Doctor. He has saved your lives so many times and you never even knew he was there. He never stops. He never stays. He never asks to be thanked. But I’ve seen him, I know him… I love him… And I know what he can do.” – Freema Ageyman as companion Martha Jones

My geek is in overdrive.

Doctor Who’s premiere is on August 23rd on BBCAmerica this side of the pond (that’s the premiere date for much of the rest of the world, too) I’ve been hitting BBCAmerica’s website for news and sneak peeks. I’ve binge watched Matt Smith’s last seasons as the Time Lord. I’ve held off doing something else – like raiding the refrigerator or even going to the bathroom – during commercial breaks while watching the channel in case there’s a new teaser. And I switched my ringtone from Buffy The Vampire Slayer to the show’s opening music.

I was one of those who was sincerely pissed off and sincerely mourned the passing of the torch by David Tennant to Matt Smith – Tennant was just so superb (and sexy!) as the Time Lord; he brought so much to the role; humanizing (if you’ll excuse the expression) the alien. I wasn’t ready for him to leave – and as Tennant so brilliantly played his regeneration scene, it was obvious that his Doctor wasn’t ready to leave either. When he said, “I don’t want to go” in “The End of Time – Part 2,” I parroted (along with millions of fans, I’m sure), “I don’t want you to go, either.”

And to be honest, Smith’s premier episode, the one with the “fish and custard,” really didn’t do anything for me; Smith was so different, and the whole “going through this kid’s refrigerator” scene felt forced, not funny. But of course, Matt more than proved himself to me, so much so that I still feel that his Doctor was cheated out of a truly emotional regeneration scene – well, okay, Karen Gillian’s cameo as Amelia Pond (“Raggedy Man, good night.”) was brilliant and definitely teared me up, but overall too much time was wasted on destroying the Daleks…again *snnnnore*. Smith – and the fans he brought in, fans who made the show a truly worldwide phenomenon – deserved so much more.

But I did love Peter Capaldi’s first words (“Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?”) and Jenna Coleman’s – as companion Clara Oswald – horrified “what the fuck?!” look.

I didn’t know that much about Peter Capaldi – not that it bothered me, because I didn’t know Tennant or Smith either before their respective runs as the Time Lord. Well, let me rephrase that. It was more one of those “I know I know Peter Capaldi, but from where?” type of deals. Meaning that I didn’t recognize him as the actor who played the British Home Secretary John Forbisher in Torchwood: Children Of Earth. I didn’t realize that was he playing Caecilius in the Doctor Who season 4 episode, “The Fires of Pompei.” And it took a Google search to discover that he had been in one of my favorite films, 1983’s Local Hero, which starred Burt Lancaster and Peter Riegert. But I have been watching and mucho appreciating him as Cardinal Richelieu in this summer’s The Musketeers on BBCAmerica (Sundays at 9:00 P.M). In fact I think he’s brilliant in the role, and it’s whetted my appetite for his debut as the 12th (13th?) Gallifreyan.

So I’m ready to love Peter Capaldi, if no other reason that I don’t want the show to go away, to be cancelled, to end.

But I don’t know how the younger fans, most of who came in with Matt Smith’s Doctor, will react to him. Will the show lose that part of its fan base? My niece Isabel’s first words about Mr. Capaldi after seeing him for those few moments as the end of “The Time of the Doctor” were quote “He’s so old!” unquote.

Isabel will be fourteen in August.

I remember Mike Gold saying to me once, “Everybody loves their first Doctor best.” Or something like that. And it’s true. My first Gallifreyan was Tom Baker (I thrilled and tingled when he made a cameo appearance at the end of “The Name of the Doctor.”) My first companion was Elisabeth Sladen. (I loved her return as Sarah Jane Smith during Tennant’s run, and how she immediately recognized him despite his changed appearance,) It took me a long time to “catch on” to Jon Pertwee, who, although he came before Baker, was my second Doctor. (It took me even longer to get hip to a new companion – not until Billie Piper. That’s a long time.)

So I get it, Iz. Matt Smith was your first Doctor. And he was cute and funny and resourceful. You’ll always have a special place in your Whovian heart for him. You’ll naturally feel some resentment to Capaldi for daring to take the controls of the TARDIS.

But remember, Iz, without regeneration, you and me, and a whole generation or two, would never have even met the Doctor, never would have traveled in the TARDIS, never would have known Sarah Jane Smith or Rose Tyler or Amy Pond and Rory Williams, never would have known the Daleks or the Cyberman or The Master.

And remember, Iz, like I told you that day, and as I reiterated here, I didn’t like Matt Smith at first. But I grew to love him.

So, Iz, give Peter Capaldi a chance.

I will.