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Peter "Who"? Meet Peter Capaldi, the 12th Doctor (UPDATE)

Thompson on Hollywood By David Chute | Thompson on Hollywood August 4, 2013 at 2:38PM

The producers of "Doctor Who" announced their choice of Peter Capaldi Sunday on a live TV special on BBC One and BBC America -- the 12th actor to portray the Time Lord with two hearts in the world's longest-running scripted television series. But London's bookies already knew.
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Peter Capaldi
Peter Capaldi

Of course it could have all turned out to be a massive fake out, one of the best ever if anyone other than Peter Capaldi was announced Sunday as the 12th actor to portray the time-and-space traveling Doctor, the protagonist of the world's longest-running scripted television series, "Doctor Who."

Well, the BBA America announced Sunday that Capaldi is indeed the new "Doctor Who." 

Star of the political satire series "The Thick of It" and its feature film sequel "In the Loop," Capaldi might seem a strange fit for what started out as a children's show.  He is renowned for the virtuosic splendor of his character Malcolm Tucker's obscene tirades. According to the Guardian, "Twitter users have suggested a few Tucker-esque one-liners for Capaldi ...'Oi, Dalek. Stuff your lollipop up your shiny metal arse, you mincing tin twat,' offered reader Nathan Gower."

Capaldi, a Scot like fan favorite Doctor David Tennant, is a prolific writer and director as well as a performer, with credits dating back to 1982. He was seen most recently in the reshot last section of Brad Pitt-starrer "World War Z," playing a doctor for the World Heath Organization (W.H.O.). He also starred in the 2012-2013 BBC and PBS series "The Hour," as the troubled producer of the 1960s magazine show within the show. He has past connections with the Whoniverse, as well, having played a Roman merchant in a 2008 "Doctor Who" episode, "The Fires of Pompeii," with 10th Doctor Tennant and companion Catherine Tate. In the 2009 "Who" spin-off "Torchwood: Children of Earth" he portrayed a weasley functionary willing to hand over 10% of the Earth's offspring to placate alien invaders.

Capaldi, as of Friday August 2, two days before the announcement, had become such an overwhelming favorite for the Doctor role that London bookies were reportedly no longer accepting bets on him to win.

Olivia Colman and Chiwetel Echiofor (with Dominic Cooper, left)
Olivia Colman and Chiwetel Echiofor (with Dominic Cooper, left)

As often happens in the run-ups to new Doctors, rumors that sounded more like wishful thinking have proliferated over the past few weeks. I responded favorably to the notion that the first female Doctor was long overdue, as fans rallied around actress and comedian Olivia Colman, coming up later this week in the excellent "Broadchurch," also on BBC America.

Some of us felt the same way about the prospect of the first black Doctor in the show's 50-year history. Fans nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor, starring this fall in Steve McQueen's historical drama "12 Years a Slave."

Obviously, both Colman and Ejifior were extreme long shots.

Other names frequently mentioned were actor Bill Nighy ("Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"), "House" star Hugh Laurie, "Luther" and "Pacific Rim" hero Iris Elba, "Fringe" mad scientist John Noble, "Hobbit" and "Sherlock" mainstay Martin Freeman, "Skyfall's" Rory Kinnear and "Homeland's" vaporized Counterterrorism chief David Harewood.

"The decision is made and the time has come to reveal who's taking over the Tardis. For the last of the Time Lords, the clock is striking twelve," showrunner Stephen Moffat told The Guardian.

"Doctor Who" was created at the BBC in 1963. It faced an early production crisis in 1966 when the original Doctor, William Hartnell, became ill. The Doctor, a Time Lord from the distant planet Gallifrey, was then discovered to be able to regenerate, taking on a different appearance while remaining fundamentally the same person. This is considered one of the secrets of the show's unique longevity, as the effects of re-casting were incorporated into its premise.

As part of the BBC's 50th Anniversary celebration for "Doctor Who," a historical drama about the show's creation has been produced, "An Adventure in Space and Time," with "Game of Thrones'" Walder Frey, David Bradley, portraying William Hartnell.

The cast of a "Doctor Who" 50th anniversary special, scheduled for November 23, will include past Doctor Tennant, current lame duck Doctor Matt Smith, companions Jenna-Louise Coleman and Billie Piper, and John Hurt, introduced at the end of season seven as a future regeneration of the Doctor, perhaps the final one.

The new Doctor will make his (or her) first appearance in the show's annual Christmas Special in December.

This article is related to: Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Olivia Colman, Idris Elba, Television, Television, TV, TV News, TV Videos


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.