By Matt McIlnay
After three years of playing the beloved Doctor, Matt Smith will be taking his final bow in this year’s Christmas special. He will turn the role over to the significantly older Peter Cabaldi, a turn of events that not everyone in the fanbase is happy about. The fifty-five year old Cabaldi would tie the original Doctor William Hartnell for the title of oldest actor to play the role and would be nearly thirty years older than the youthful Smith. Although I admittedly was one of those fans who groaned when they first heard about the casting of Cabaldi, I have now come to believe that he is a simply fantastic choice for the role. Here’s why:
First, and perhaps most importantly, Cabaldi has already proven himself to be a formidable actor—both inside and outside the “Doctor Who” universe. Sharp-eyed viewers might remember his cameo in the fourth season episode ‘The Fires of Pompeii.’ Fans of “Doctor Who” spinoff “Torchwood” will remember him for his haunting performance as John Frobisher, one of the most memorable antagonists in the series. Outside of “Doctor Who,” he has enjoyed a long and successful career, having won numerous awards and held critically acclaimed roles on other series. His age might be a sticking point for many, but it is that same age that gives him so many of his qualifications for the role. Plus, the time when we needed younger actors is already over.
When the reboot of “Doctor Who” started in 2005, the decision to cast younger and more handsome men as the Doctor was a sound choice. The franchise was on life-support after being put on indefinite hiatus in 1989 and needed every edge it could get if it were to secure a modern audience. Using proverbial eye-candy such as Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant was undoubtedly a key part behind the show’s surge to mainstream popularity. However, if the producers want to keep the show fresh, they can’t keep the Doctor typecast as a young hyperactive man with rock-star good looks.
We’ve watched the Doctor get younger and goofier with every incarnation over the last eight years. It’s time to mix up the formula before the show grows stale. It’s impossible to say just yet what direction Cabaldi will take the character in, but his age and extensive experience will allow him to bring an emotional maturity and gravitas that has been lacking from the last several Doctors. Many of the series’ best moments have occurred when the Doctor discarded his clown persona and showed a more serious and mature side to his character.
Furthermore, having the Doctor played by an older man will help discourage the writers from staging any more love stories between him and his young female companions. I think it’s safe to say that particular subplot is played out after having four of the last five of the Doctor’s companions fall madly in love with him. Without having to worry about making every companion into a romantic option for the Doctor, the writers could expand into much more varied companions—older, male, perhaps even alien or robotic. The sky’s the limit.
Although much of this is speculation, I’m confident in saying that big changes are in store for the series. It’s impossible to guess just how Cabaldi will play the Doctor, but his stellar track record leads me to believe that he will pull off the role with flying colors and perhaps even take the show to new heights. As much as I may hate to see Matt Smith go, I’m already excited to see Cabaldi don the costume and travel the galaxy in the TARDIS.