The time of the Twelfth Doctor has nearly run out. Peter Capaldi will be making his final run as 12 (or 13, or 1 version 2, depending on how you want to count and your personal semantics here) in the Christmas special of Doctor Who this year, making New York Comic Con his final major convention appearance as The Doctor.
While that's a sad thought to many fans of his run, it's also the nature of Doctor Who, in which new actors are routinely brought in to play the lead character, a Time Lord aged hundreds of years who goes on epic adventures across time and space, usually with a human companion (or two). The Doctor "regenerates" and reappears as a new version of the character; in the Christmas special this year, 12 will emerge as 13, played for the first time by a woman, actress Jodie Whitaker.
The actor received a standing ovation when he took the stage, as the packed house cheered, some with tears in their eyes.
The tears came from the Twelfth Doctor retrospective that played ahead of his appearance, showing the highlights of Capaldi’s time in the role. From there, he began to reminisce about the Doctor.
“You don’t know what you’re going to do with it until they see you do it!” he said of jumping head-first into the role. He sympathized with Jenna Coleman, having to deal with a new Doctor and re-establish her relationship with the character.
He also said that director Rachel Talalay was one of his favorite people to work with.
“She shoots so cinematically; she’ll never just shoot for coverage, every time the camera is on she lines up every shot herself,” Capaldi said of Talalay. She came back to Cardiff to film his final episode, the Christmas special, “Twice Upon a Time.”
“My Doctor is refusing to regenerate. He’s just not having it, he’s fed up with it. He doesn’t want to turn into someone else, whether or not it’s someone as talented as Jodie Whitaker. So he has to be persuaded to do it, and the person who persuades him is the First Doctor, played by David Bradley,” he revealed. “He plays him rather brilliantly, he’s not doing an impression of William Hartnell, he somehow embodies him.”
Why is it time for him to move on? Capaldi said he never wanted to feel comfortable in the role. If he did, and wasn’t always finding and doing something new with the character, then “that’s how I knew it was time to leave,” he said.
“It was sad. You’re going through something all the Doctors have to go through,” he said of his final day on set. “We all sort of said goodbye at the same time. But I still have to go into the studio to do some voice recording, so I haven’t completed the role yet! It was fun, and then it was sad, too.”
Whitaker will be taking on the role of the Doctor after Capaldi. He said it was a surprise, but he “kind of had a feeling it would be … not a man.”
“I got a call from my tailor that said they’d got a call from Doctor Who looking for a pair of my trousers, but with a 30-inch waist. They called me a couple days later and told me,” he said. “It was wonderful. And it was funny, I called Jodie and it turns out she lives up the road from me! She told me, ‘We sat in the same café for the last three months and I couldn’t come say hello to you!’”
“I saw what she’s done, and it’s great. It’s in really good hands,” Capaldi said of Whitaker.
During the fan Q&A, Capaldi said that he thinks “it’s time for me to go, it’s time for me to leave this universe” when asked if he’d ever return for a special. “I think it’s just time to go. Sorry!”
Capaldi said he’d have loved to have Jimi Hendrix come on as a character. The Doctor builds a custom amp for Hendrix on the TARDIS, and they go to fight Flower-People, with killer petals. What would we call them? "Purple Haze!”
Capaldi said he had a bit of input in his final moments, “an idea, an attitudinal concept of how the Doctor would feel,” and Steven Moffat “folded that into the story,” which he was very grateful for.
“Get it together. Stop all this. It’s not a joke. Get people in power who are intelligent and are leaders. Get people in power who understand what life is about. Get people in power who understand the future. That’s what we need to do, everywhere" is what the Doctor would say to humanity with today’s tumultuous times, Capaldi said.
“I wanted to keep him at a distance, because he’s not human. I wanted to have him not always sympathize with humanity, and not always thinking they’re great,” Capaldi said of his take.
When did he singularly think that he was experiencing a Doctor Who moment? “When Jenna and I are running from Davos and the Dalek is screaming … that couldn’t have been anything else,” Capaldi said. He also brought up “Listen” for the second time, referencing the speech he gave. “Fear is a super power was spun from a Hartnell quote. I’ve had a lot of fans tell me they used that speech to help them” get through tough times.
“I liked all my finales, but I liked 'Hell Bent' because I got to run around an old TARDIS! And I had the wonderful scene with Jenna when we had a go at wiping each other’s memories. She brought such grace to that, and also Rachel directed that, so it looked amazing,” he said of his favorite finales.
What should Doctor Who do going forward?
“Everyone says Doctor Who is about change, but I don’t really buy that. It’s all about having the same thing dished up in different ways. Doctor Who will be about a mysterious, funny, strange person or creature from another place, who will be played beautifully by Jodi. Hopefully she’ll be running around the Universe blowing up monsters, and if they do that they’ll do great! Then a bunch of stuff I can’t even think about.”
A fan question about Capaldi’s evolving hair cracked the actor up. “There’s no controlling it, it just does what it wants,” he said with a laugh. “There should be an episode about the Doctor battling his own hair. I think that’s why it was time to leave, if I had stuck around you’d no longer be able to see my face.”
Capaldi mused that it feels like he “just had a dream I was Doctor Who.”
A second video ran, featuring fan art and fan videos saying thank you for his time as The Doctor. It’s a tearful goodbye, but a goodbye to "a fantastic Doctor, and more importantly, a good one," as one fan so eloquently put it.