Unveiled in a swirl of publicity and tantalizingly glimpsed as a furrowed brow in “Doctor Who”‘s 50th anniversary special, the twelfth resident of the TARDIS made his debut at Christmas.
Peter Capaldi, who became a household name playing the foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in “The Thick of It,” had been a fan favorite to take over, although there was also widespread disappointment that producer Steven Moffat had cast yet another white man in the role, especially given the nature of the casting reveal — a prime time special that implied the casting was going to shake up the format of the show. But there might still be a few surprises in store for this season, which is rumored to be darker than ever — Capaldi describes his character as “100 percent rebel Time Lord.”
For months, we were left to speculate about his character based on two sentences: He didn’t like the color of his new kidneys and he needed Clara to drive the TARDIS. But here are some more (spoiler-free!) details we’ve gathered over the last few months…
1) Twelve is Technically Thirteen
Although he’s being billed as the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi is actually the 13th Doctor we’ve seen. John Hurt appeared in “The Day of the Doctor” as a past regeneration we’d never seen before — the Doctor who destroyed Gallifrey in the Time War… Well, sort of. According to Steven Moffat, John Hurt’s character “doesn’t take the name of the Doctor. He doesn’t call himself that. He’s the same Time Lord, the same being as the Doctors either side of him, but he’s the one who says, ‘I’m not the Doctor.'” (Any clearer? Neither are we.)
2) Cancel Your August Plans
The season premiere, “Deep Breath,” airs 23 August. No word on the plot — even the trailers don’t tell us much — but we do know that everyone’s favorite Victorian crime-fighting triumvirate will return. What will alien lizard detective Madame Vastra, her wife Jenny and their thuggish but sweet sidekick Strax think of the Doctor’s new regeneration?
3) New Body, New Wardrobe
The Doctor’s new outfit was inspired by David Bowie. Capaldi describes it as “simple, stark, and back to basics. No frills, no scarf, no messing.”
4) The Doctor’s Staying Scottish
Unlike David Tennant (a fellow Scot who played the 10th Doctor), Peter Capaldi, who was born in Glasgow, is retaining his Scottish accent – and in true ‘weegie’ style, refers to Clara as “my pal” in the trailer. Capaldi studied at the Glasgow School of Art and started the punk band The Dreamboys with Craig Ferguson, before getting his big break alongside Burt Lancaster in “Local Hero.” He’s also an Oscar-winning director, courtesy of his short film “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life.”
5) Repeat Offender
The Doctor isn’t the first role Capaldi has played in “Doctor Who” — He played Lucius Caecilius in the fourth season episode “The Fires of Pompeii” (which also featured future companion Karen Gillan as a soothsayer). Re-casting actors is a bit of a tradition in the Who-niverse — Colin Baker, the 6th Doctor, had already appeared in the show when he was cast, and companion Lalla Ward played Princess Astra in “The Armageddon Factor” before playing Time Lady Romana.
6) Brace for New Faces
This season is jam-packed with guest stars, including “Da Vinci’s Demons” star Tom Riley and Keeley Hawes (“Ashes to Ashes”). Samuel Anderson is joining the cast as recurring character Danny Pink, a teacher working alongside Clara at Coal Hill School, where the show first began in 1963.
7) A Chief Architect Might Look Familiar
Mark Gatiss may be better known to viewers as the morally ambiguous Mycroft in Moffat’s “Sherlock,” but he’s also a regular writer for “Who,” penning the third episode of this season. He also appeared as a youth-obsessed scientist in the third season, and while he was an out-of-work actor, he wrote “Doctor Who” novelizations. This season is a family affair, with Gatiss’s husband Ian Hallard playing a Merry Man in an episode set in Sherwood Forest.
8) UNIT’s Back
UNIT is returning in the season finale: Eagle-eyed photographers snapped Jemma Redgrave, who plays top scientist Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, looking very serious on set in Cardiff. Kate was an instant hit with viewers when she appeared in Season 7’s “The Power of Three,” especially when it was revealed that she was the daughter of classic series fan favorite, Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart. Redgrave certainly knows a lot about following in her family’s footsteps — her aunt is Vanessa Redgrave and “Nip/Tuck”‘s Joely Richardson is one of her cousins.
9) Expect Some Sparks
Clara may be wary of the Doctor’s new incarnation, but Jenna Coleman couldn’t be happier. The Doctor/companion relationship has been described as “spiky” and “sizzling” — a dramatic departure from the camaraderie of Matt Smith’s era — but Coleman has talked about her excitement at working with Capaldi, and the two were seen sharing a big hug before he shot his first scene.
10) “Doctor Who” is Going Global
Not satisfied with taking on time and space, the Doctor is going on a world tour. The global press junket to promote Series 8 will take place 7–19 August 2014 and feature Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Steven Moffat. They are set to visit seven cities across five continents in these 12 days, where they will attend fan events and media interviews. The destinations include Cardiff, London, Seoul, Sydney, New York City, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro.
11) Get Ready for Change (But Never Trust Steven Moffat)
Steven Moffat says that Season 8 will see the biggest changes since it returned in 2005. Then again, this is man who claimed Moriarty would never return to Sherlock, so maybe we should take his comments with a pinch of salt?
12) Of Course, It Isn’t Actually Season 8.
Although the show was off the air for 16 years — ignoring the 1996 film, with Paul McGann playing the Eighth Doctor — this will technically be “Doctor Who”‘s 34th season. Not bad for a madman with a box.
13) It’s going to be incredible. But we knew that anyway, didn’t we?
In the words of Steven Moffat: “Monsters of the universe, the vacation is over — Capaldi is suited and booted and coming to get you!”