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Why Capaldi’s Previous Appearances Shouldn’t Really Matter

Guest contributor Elliot James explains.

caecilius-the-fires-of-pompeii

Since his casting, we’ve heard on numerous occasions that Series 8 will offer an explanation for the fact that Peter Capaldi has appeared several times before in the Whoniverse; as Caecilius in The Fires of Pompeii, John Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth and now as the Doctor himself. When it comes to this ‘issue’, there seems to be two sides among us Whovians; the yes-we-absolutely-need-an-answer side, and the not-too-bothered-but-it’ll-be-interesting-to-see side. For me, I am on the latter side – I’m not opposed to a well-founded explanation, but I don’t really see the reason to make a big deal out of it, and in this article I hope to show you the reasoning behind my opinion.

I remember this… Almost remember.

Let us not forget that this has happened before. Colin Baker appeared in Doctor Who as Commander Maxil in the 1983 serial Arc of Infinity, a year before he himself took up the role of the Doctor. Karen Gillan also starred in The Fires of Pompeii alongside Capaldi, and then was announced to be the Eleventh Doctor’s companion in the year after. The actress Chipo Chung played Chantho, Professor Yana’s assistant, in the Series 3 episode Utopia before returning in the next series as the fortune-teller Donna encounters in Turn Left. Alexander Armstrong voiced Mr Smith in the Sarah Jane Adventures and the Series 4 finale of Doctor Who, before returning (although as a human this time) as Reg Arwell in the 2011 Christmas special. Julian Bleach played the ‘Ghostmaker’ in an episode of the second series of Torchwood, and then played the part of Davros in Doctor Who’s Series 4 finale, The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, before making it a hat-trick and playing the ‘Nightmare Man’ in the fourth series of the Sarah Jane Adventures back in 2010 – equalling Capaldi’s ‘collection’ of three Whoniverse characters.

Now whilst all but the first are admittedly less of a problem as their facial appearances are different for each of the roles they played, these numerous coincidences, alongside Mr.Capaldi’s, prove that in the world of television and of Doctor Who, these things can be quite common and it is not unheard of for an actor to return as a different character in the same show.

“Don’t worry; I started a very long time ago.

frobisher-torchwood-capaldi

The fact that it has happened before isn’t the only reason why this shouldn’t really matter. Peter’s first appearance in The Fires of Pompeii was 6 years ago, and his appearance in Torchwood: Children of Earth was 5 years ago. Naturally, he would have aged slightly over the years, meaning that whilst he is still recognisably the same person, he won’t look like an identical image of the characters he has played before. Combine this with the fact that the Twelfth Doctor has a costume that is quite different from Caecilius’ robes or Frobisher’s glasses, suit and tie, and you can see that all three characters generally look different. Their respective costumes show that they are from different time periods and/or different places, to the extent that they can be seen by a viewer and be immediately recognised as separate characters.

We also know that Capaldi’s Doctor will be darker and less approachable, and whilst he hasn’t fully appeared on our screens yet, I think it is clear to say from what we have seen that all three characters will also have differing personalities and mannerisms. This, for me, seems to contradict the popular theory that all three characters are the same person (the Doctor), as they all behave quite differently and make different decisions and judgements of a situation. Despite not seeing the new Doctor onscreen yet, I wouldn’t think that Twelve, even if he is darker than we think he will be, would agree with some of John Frobisher’s decisions. Likewise, I don’t think Caecilius, with his bumbling personality, would have the mindset of the stricter, less caring Twelfth Doctor we will shortly meet.

“You forgot! Four hundred years, is that all it takes?”

My final point is perhaps my biggest point, and like the above paragraph, it’s also to do with the progression and effects of time. Not counting his cameo in The Day of the Doctor or the closing scene of The Time of the Doctor, it has been five years since his last appearance in the Whoniverse, and six years since his first. Had he have played a different character only last year, then I may not be writing this article; my previous point about his appearance wouldn’t really be as applicable and his previous role would still be fresh in the audience’s mind. Whilst us Whovians who were watching in 2008 and 2009 may remember back then quite well, five years is a fairly long time, certainly long enough for new viewers to come in and casual viewers to forget. Spending a decent amount of time going back into the history of the show may confuse and seem unnecessary to those viewers, and could also use up valuable episode time (and production costs) that could be better spent on new adventures. The show has a new Doctor, and a new direction, and I think that Moffat and the team of writers will be aiming to look forwards, not backwards, for Capaldi’s first series.

“What’s the mad fool talking about now?”

Okay, I’ll stop with the The Day of the Doctor quotes. Now, don’t get me wrong; like I said at the start of this article, I’m not opposed to the show coming up with a clever explanation for this, so long as it doesn’t seem forced or too massive. I’m actually quite interested in seeing what this explanation could be, but the point I’m trying to make is that I don’t feel that a big, detailed and timey-wimey explanation like some may want is really needed. I believe that we could get on quite fine without one – I think the reasons I’ve touched upon in this article are enough to dismiss this issue as a coincidence of the world of television, and not much else. As I mentioned before, I wouldn’t really want the explanation to be too much of a plot point in either an episode or to become a story arc, and instead a throwaway line or two that gives a good idea of an answer but not necessarily set it in stone would do quite nicely, in my opinion.

Of course, these are just my thoughts, you might be in agreement with all of this, some of this, or you might be resting your head on your keyboard in despair because I’m talking complete rubbish – regardless, let me know what you think in the comments!

Step back in time...

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114 comments
Dameon
Dameon

Don't forget Peter Purves appearing as two characters in the same story.


I personally don't have any problem suspending my disbelief and actually prefer unimportant enigmas such as this to remain unanswered.

 It helps the program retain it's sense of bizarre intrigue, one of the elements which I believe have contributed to it's enduring popularity throughout the years.

 Although not quite the same, I feel the Darth Vader back story told in the woeful Star Wars prequels is an example of explaining far too much. The mystery of the character was completely destroyed, taking with it much of his menace.

 I would have been quite happy forever wondering why he needed scuba gear on dry land...

 

Possible Girl
Possible Girl

I have yet to see a whovian on the yes-we-absoloutly-need-an-answer side.

KingOfTheInterWebs has Kidneys
KingOfTheInterWebs has Kidneys

To be honest. No one is taking it seriously and the only people who think it'll be made a big thing of is the fans. The cast and crew (Especially Moffat) have stated otherwise. It is just going to be a small thing to explain why the 12th Doctor looks like Caecilius or John Frobisher. Just like they did with Martha and a few other characters. It's just since this is The Doctor we're talking about and since it's 2 previous instances of a character played by Capaldi, it'd be nice to have an explanation, which they have said will be a light explanation anyway. The idea is there, they have the story set up, it'll probably be wonderful anyway. I don't see why it matters if they do it or not. 

microbat98
microbat98

Am I the only one that has actually read into this? It ISNT an explanation hastily made by Moffat. The idea was created five years ago by Davies. The idea ISNT based on Twelve, as it wasn't made for the Doctor in the first place. He's just included now.

Moffat heard Davies's idea and decided to go through with it, so it really has NO BASIS on Capaldi being Twelve.

Tardis Stowaway
Tardis Stowaway

Thank you to DWTV for publishing my article! It was the first one I've written for the site, so I was overjoyed to see it on here last night.


I'd also like to thank everyone who left a nice comment here, I've read them all and I really appreciate the compliments!


Again, this is just my opinion and I know not everyone will agree, and of course I completely respect and understand everyone's views on this. Some people have said that just because it shouldn't really matter, it doesn't mean it can't - and I totally agree. Like I mentioned in my conclusion, I'm looking forward to the explanation, as with both RTD and Moffat's ideas combined I'm sure it will be brilliant, clever and quite original, but the point I was trying to make was that this issue could be left unexplained as it is, and so when we get the explanation I don't think it should be shoehorned into the plot just because the writers feel they need to include one - I'd rather have no explanation at all than one that feels forced and not quite right.


But again, thank you for all your comments, it was great to write this article and to see everyone else's views on this matter, and I hope to write some more articles in the future! :)



Doctor Whom
Doctor Whom

I really enjoyed this article very much, loved the style of writing too. I wanted to talk a little bit about my paranoia surrounding the new series. Do we all think that Peter Capaldi is in fact playing the actual Doctor? Is it possible he is 'possessed' by someone/something which causes him to be dark and mysterious? If he is then I hope this series is about how he shakes this off and becomes the Doctor proper. These are just my thoughts. As I say, its paranoia I'm sure, but why does Capaldi insist on referring to his character as 'Doctor Who'? Maybe he's doing it on purpose because he's not playing the Doctor? Argh... Someone put my mind at ease!






The Bish
The Bish

Great article. I too aren't that bothered about Capaldi being in Who before. To me it's just one of those things. Again, like you, I'm intrigued by what they will come up with as an explanation though.


My personal theory is this (it's a work in progress that I only started thinking about yesterday): I think the Doctor gets his faces from some sort of limbo for lost souls seeking redemption and he now has the face of John Frobisher. Not sure how that ties Caecilius into it. Maybe he's simply an ancestor of John Frobisher.













A Friend of the Ood
A Friend of the Ood

No one said that it absolutely had to be explained. The only reason anyone is talking about it is because Moffat said he's planning on explaining it. So what's the point of all this "It's happened before, no one should care" stuff? We know that. It's being discussed because it's fun to make theories about how it will be explained. What's all the complaining for?

Tomb of the Cyberbob
Tomb of the Cyberbob

Better not to explain it in my view. One of the most ridiculous - and unnecessary scenes in Doctor Who history was the attempt to explain Romana's new appearance in Destiny of the Daleks.   There is simply no need.   Virtually no casual viewers will even notice that he was in the show before - and the nerds like us will accept it as a curiosity - no more.

Undiscovered Adventure
Undiscovered Adventure

Great article! Personally I'm in the same camp as most seem to be: not that bothered but interested none the less. Also, is this becoming a trend now? characters having multiple faces and lives? First there were Clara's popping up everywhere, now Capaldi's, in the next Series there'll be Steven Moffats appearing all over time and space!

Diana van der Pluijm
Diana van der Pluijm

I agree with you completely. I don't think is necessary to explain, but we'll probably get an explanation, whether we like it or not. I for one think that any explanation, be it a short, subtle or a long, contrived one, will not be satisfactory. I just don't see WHY, when these coincidences have never been explained before today.

ColbyOrrick
ColbyOrrick

You forgot Gwen Cooper, Martha Jones and Wilfred Mott.  All 3 have played more than 1 character on the show.

Mercy Reborn2
Mercy Reborn2

since the doctor may very well have skipped his regen class at the academy, so he cant control his regens as other timelords can maybe he gets his faces by chance. I guess anyone he has ever met or heard about can be used. I think faces from other humanoid races might be used as well. I dont think it really matters


Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

I don't really care if they explain it of not. If it's a good explanation, go for it, but I wouldn't be bothered if it went ignored.

Oodkind
Oodkind

I don't mind that they're explaining it, as long as it isn't too contrived or complicated. I'm fine with an answer, but making a whole story about it would just be a waste of time. Because I agree: it doesn't matter. 

I recently rewatched Fires of Pompeii and noticed just how different Capaldi looks. In fact, if I hadn't been told they were the same person, I might not have even noticed! Put a picture of The Doctor and Caecilius together, and you'll see the difference. Frobisher looks more like The Doctor, but he's not as well-known because he's in a spinoff that the majority viewers haven't seen. Besides, just one person who looks identical (but with a different accent and getup and everything) can easily be passed off as a quirk of the universe. Probability states that in a universe so big, two people must look alike. The Doctor and Frobisher aren't even the same species, so it's possible that the universe simply repeated itself.

Furthermore, Pompeii was over a millennium ago for the Doctor. Who's to say he even remembers the event well enough too recall that a certain man had a similar face? If he forgot how many children died in the Time War after 400 years, he will forget a man's face in 1000. 

The matter really doesn't need an answer. If Moffat has a good explanation that doesn't take too much time, then I'm fine with it. But Commander Maxil is a far bigger "problem." (though the Doctor becoming him could be some Time Lord conspiracy. We know the High Council was pretty corrupt at the time)

NineTenElevenTwelve
NineTenElevenTwelve

I fall into the latter category as well. I never saw this as a real issue as this obviously isn't the first time actors have played multiple roles in the show. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested in seeing the show address something like this. The only time something like this was addressed in-universe before this was when the character Freema Agyeman played in the Series 2 finale was later identified as Martha Jones's cousin in "Smith and Jones".

MrRazza, General Rogue Timelord Identifier
MrRazza, General Rogue Timelord Identifier

An excellent article, and one that I think represents my views perfectly. I'd also add the possibility of it leaving other repeat appearances feeling out of place - if we simply can't make do with a "we just want that actor again" explanation. 


The Classic Era reused actors like there was no tomorrow, there was Bernard Horsfall (The Mind RobberThe War GamesPlanet of the Daleks and The Deadly Assassin) and Peter Miles (Doctor Who and the SiluriansInvasion of the Dinosaurs and Genesis of the Daleks) for example, and we've seen actors who appeared in the Classic Era reappear post revival such as Geoffrey Palmer (Doctor Who and the SiluriansThe Mutants and Voyage of the Damned) and Christopher Benjamin (InfernoThe Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Unicorn and the Wasp). I just don't see why it should be an issue now, though I am intrigued to see how it is explained.

StephenAHayes
StephenAHayes

I really like this articles subtitles: very well thought of

maelstrom07
maelstrom07

Don't know if the list was meant to be exhaustive or just an example but: Martha.

DasManiac
DasManiac

"Whilst us Whovians who were watching in 2008 and 2009 may remember back then quite well, five years is a fairly long time, certainly long enough for new viewers to come in and casual viewers to forget. Spending a decent amount of time going back into the history of the show may confuse and seem unnecessary to those viewer". 

The number of times people bring up this idea of catering to casual viewers is just baffling to me. It's clear that people on here don't really understand how TV works. If you don't watch the show every week, then nobody cares about you. Casual viewers don't matter. If TV started catering only to casual viewers TV would cease to exist. Every week Doctor Who would have to explain everything all over again just to make sure a casual viewer wasn't lost.

Arkleseizure
Arkleseizure

I just hope it'll be a better explanation than "she was Martha's cousin". That's not an explanation at all, and it actually annoyed me that they bothered to draw attention to it in that way. I'll be happy with a good explanation, but I'd rather have none at all than a rubbish one.

microbat98
microbat98

I am one of them, as Russell had this idea five years ago, so for Moffat to use it now must mean it's amazing! We need that answer as to why there were two (and now three) Capaldis in the universe.

Doctor Whom
Doctor Whom

@Tardis Stowaway Yep I look forward to reading more. Was checking to see if you'd written any previous articles - didn't realise this was your first. Excellent job.

Undiscovered Adventure
Undiscovered Adventure

We've disscussed this, Clara is the real Doctor, its obvious. Capaldi is either the Master, or this Rani or Omega I keep hearing things about...

Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!
Amy says Peter Davison is the Thirteenth Doctor!

Nah, Wilf only ever played the one part. He was originally meant to be a different character in "Voyage of the Damned", but RTD made it more interesting by making him Donna's grandfather after the actor who played her father passed away.


microbat98
microbat98

It isn't Moffat's idea. It's Davies's. It isn't based around Twelve, as it was created five years ago.

Oodkind
Oodkind

@NineTenElevenTwelve Gwen of Torchwood being in Victorian Cardiff was addressed The Stolen Earth. Also just a passing line. So RTD did it a couple times, but other than that, it's unexplained. (unless you count Romana)

microbat98
microbat98

It's not an issue. It was an idea with nothing based on the Doctor. It was made by Davies about two completely different characters over five years ago. The Doctor is just included now.

floppy_who
floppy_who

@MrRazza, General Rogue Timelord Identifier You forgot Michael Wisher (Ambassadors of Death, Terror of the Autons, Carnival of Monsters, Genesis of the Daleks, Revenge of the Cybermen and Planet of Evil...and I could cheat and include his dalek voices in Frontier in Space, Planet of the Daleks and Death to the Daleks..!)

Also Stephen Thorne...played Azal in The Daemons, Eldrad in The Hand of Fear and some bad guy in the Three Doctors....

Tardis Stowaway
Tardis Stowaway

@StephenAHayes  Hi there, I was the writer of this article. Thank you very much - I spent a fair bit of time trying to come up with the right quotes for the right paragraphs and I'm glad that they've been enjoyed. :)

Undiscovered Adventure
Undiscovered Adventure

Sorry couldn't resist, being serious, I'm pretty sure he is the genuine Doctor. I thought Capaldi referring to the Doctor as Doctor who was just because he'd grown up with the show and knew the Doctor as such. Its highly unlikely that he's possessed, maybe the Timelords meddled with his regeneration a little though?

Possibly one of the reasons he's a bit 'darker' is because he spent centuries watching people live and die for generations, making him realise that he's not like a human. Moffat gave that explanation anyway. That said, maybe there is a bit more to it, I don't know.

Planet of the Deaf
Planet of the Deaf

@Oodkind  @NineTenElevenTwelve The Freema one was more awkward, as both characters were identical looking (modern dress and hair) and within the same time era.

Indeed if my identical cousin had been killed by Cybermen, would I want to travel with the Doctor or stay well away from 'aliens' as possible?

YaelMoise
YaelMoise

@ilyootha is back in home Universe @DasManiac Considering he didn't say that... and considering his point isn't even related to that... why treat him so rudely? 

Honestly, it's getting so a person needs to think twice before opening their mouth here. :(



Doctor Whom
Doctor Whom

@Undiscovered Adventure Hmm. The Rani eh... Heh heh. I must admit when he said "Trust no one" in Sydney my heart jumped into my mouth and I started thinking that there might be a reason to mistrust the Doctor. Hope not. I trusted 9 and he was waaaaay dark.

ilyootha is back in home Universe
ilyootha is back in home Universe

@YaelMoise @ilyootha is back in home Universe @DasManiacThere are thousands of fans but millions of casual viewers, so saying that they don't matter is... very strange, to say at least - just like keeping saying that the show is loosing its popularity severely in the UK, despite people responding with facts that prove otherwise.



But, yeah, why did I bother to reply, if apparently none of us here understands how TV works anyway?...

Arkleseizure
Arkleseizure

They did indeed look very similar, but that's the advantage of beards!

YaelMoise
YaelMoise

@ilyootha is back in home Universe @YaelMoise @DasManiac Well, there you go. You could have said that (preferably without the second paragraph) and you would be replying to what he said in a to-the-point polite manner. 

You make a good point, I just wish you didn't need to go through attack mode to get to it.