Dr. Who, The Big Reveal

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Cat Mahoney

So you may not have heard, but the BBC revealed the identity of the next actor to play the Doctor last Sunday….

Just three days before it was due to air, the BBC announced a half hour live special featuring interviews with cast members, dedicated fans, the outgoing Doctor Matt Smith and, tantalisingly, an interview with the man himself, the new doctor. I say man, because, despite the impressive levels of secrecy surrounding the announcement and despite some fervent hopes that we may finally see woman take up the sonic screw driver, this time it was always going to be a man. Helen Mirren, Sheridan Smith, Miranda Hart and Olivia Coleman all gained some attention from the bookies, but betting on the male favourite had been frozen by Friday evening and on Sunday afternoon photographer Rankin committed a rather large twitter faux pas after snapping the new Doctor’s publicity images and declaring, ‘he’ll make a great Dr.’…

So we knew it was going to be a man .. that’s fine, we still didn’t know who that man would prove to be. Betting on the clear favourite may have been suspended on Friday evening as there was just no profit to be made for bookies in continuing to take bets on this man, but hey, bookies have been wrong before. So the tension building up to Sunday night’s big reveal was still fairly high, they may still surprise us ….

And then they didn’t.

At 24.08 minutes in to a 31.16 minute special, Zoe Ball breathlessly announced that Peter Capaldi would be plying the 12th incarnation of the doctor, to use her words ‘a hero for a whole new generation!’ and at that point, I went “oh … well that was an anti climax …” Don’t get me wrong, after seeing his (7.08 minute) interview I was somewhat won over, he came across well, he’s obviously a fan of the show and he has proven acting chops that make me excited to see what he will bring to the role. However, I was just left feeling that the previous half an hour I’d just sat through had been somewhat pointless. There was this long, drawn out programme of guests (who I’ll get to in a minute) recorded tributes, thoughts and lovely video montages ….and then, with less than 8 minutes to go, a big reveal of the guy that the bookies could have told me would be the next doctor on Friday evening … it was just a bit of a let down.

When the show was announced and a huge fuss was made over it being broadcast simultaneously to America, Australia and Canada I expected, perhaps foolishly, that this would mean that it would be a glitzy, polished affair stuffed with recognisable Dr. Who alumni talking about their passion and delight over a show that has truly become an international phenomenon. Instead we got Bernard Cribbins (fair enough, Donna’s Granddad), Peter Davidson (fair enough the 5th Doctor), the kid from Outnumbered and Rufus Hound. Whilst Cribbins was entertaining as always, because he was the only recent cast member there, I kind of got the feeling that he’d pulled the short straw and was there only because no one else would go. Peter Davidson was charming and gracious, but seemed to leave rather quickly after no one said that he had been their favourite Doctor. As for Daniel Roche and Rufus Hound, they themselves didn’t seem to know why they were there and Hound looked like he just wanted to go home after a couple of Dr. Who fact gaffs. Team this with the fact that the “in depth interview” with the new Doctor lasted for less time than it takes to make cheese on toast, and over all it just seemed amateurish. As though no real thought had gone into it other than, “hey this is a great way to get some high viewing figures and beat the internet to the reveal!!” For a fan base that is so passionate and dedicated it was a bit of a let down to feel that we cared more than they did about the whole thing.

Critics have also been left largely unimpressed with the big reveal, but while the Daily Mail was typically and predictably nasty and engaged largely in a  scathing attack on Zoe Ball, Robert Colvile in the Telegraph interestingly compared the broadcast to ‘an exercise in brand management equivalent to the unveiling of the latest IPhone.’ This was less a celebration of Dr. Who and more of an exporting of it overseas and perhaps that’s why it felt so detached from the fans. Despite this, in the UK it pulled 6.9 mil viewers and a 30% share of viewers. In America, according to Trendrr.tv, it was the number 1 telecast on social media on Sunday (excluding sports) and BBC America announced that it was the most watched telecast outside of prime time and with 895,000 viewers was their most watched telecast after the Royal Wedding. So perhaps it did it’s job.

The casting decision itself has gone down fairly well, with those people who loved Capaldi in things like The Thick of It, enthralled by the possibility of a foul mouthed f**king Time Lord. The internet, predictably, imploded. However, despite some seeing Capaldi as a surprise move given that he is the oldest actor to play the Doctor since William Hartnell, in the grand scheme of things he’s a bit samey. This is not to say that he won’t do a fantastic job, but he is, after all, a straight, white, male. While his age may alter the dynamic of his relationship with Clara, for me the biggest potential shock will be if he’s allowed to retain his Scottish accent. (So much fuss was made over Christopher Eccleston’s northern accent that I can’t see it). Maybe we don’t want surprises or challenges in our Saturday night viewing, but it does seem that a character like the Doctor, who can completely and utterly change almost everything about him, offers a lot of potential to push boundaries and challenge preconceptions and not just in terms of gender. Realistically that’s a whole different blog, but something to think about Moffat?? 

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