Disclaimer: I’m not justifying a choice I didn’t make, I can’t do that and I won’t insult anyone by trying. I can only explain my reaction to it.
Casting yet another white male is a problematic choice. I fully agree that Doctor Who ought to display more diversity than the show currently does, and I, along with everyone else, had been hoping for a female and/or POC actor to get the job. Everyone who ever said that the Doctor can’t regenerate into a different gender or ethnicity is an idiot. It’s a Time Lord, of course he/she can — River did it, remember? There’s also the Corsair, who we know switched genders at least once. The precedents are all there.
From what I understand, Ben Stephenson said that they had a vision of where the character was going, and they followed that vision to Peter Capaldi. As far as I know, Moffat told the RadioTimes that Capaldi had popped up on their radar months (if not years) ago, and that their short list was him, and no-one else (source). I understand how it feels when you’re in love with the vision of a character, and I’m conflicted about it, and I will continue to be; and if viewers want to preface their (hopefully) positive reactions to Twelve by saying, “He’s not who I’d hoped he’d be, but…,” then I think that’s cool and everyone’s own choice.
All the while, I’m still excited for Peter Capaldi, both because he is a life-long Who fan and because I think his performance will rock my world. Also, his relationship with the fans is set to be great, because he’s a great guy and, more importantly, he gets us.
If his gender and ethnicity are a caveat for audiences’ enjoyment of him playing the Doctor, then I get that. Even so, I think he’ll be able to bring us great joy (or, well, misery, this is the BBC we’re talking about) — in short, it’s not his fault, and it’s not the Twelfth Doctor’s fault. If we want the show to change, we have to continue to support it by watching and criticising. (Hurling abuse is not the answer, I think we all agree on that; but that’s a whole other matter.)
This whole situation is similar to the debate around Star Trek Into Darkness, though that was a lot more straight-up catastrophic. I was dismayed at the fact that they whitewashed Khan, which has left me deeply uncomfortable about enjoying the movie (along with the Kirk-turn-your-fucking-back fiasco). At the same time, I appreciate Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as such, because he’s a great actor and I’m happy for him about his career taking off.
I always try to acknowledge the problems while still enjoying what I’m getting. Could and should Steven Moffat (and the other writers, too) do better in terms of representation? Absolutely. Is he full of himself? Definitely. Does the show need more female writers? YES. Are the story arcs getting increasingly contrived? Yes, they are. Is his way of storytelling completely different from RTD’s? Obviously. (I think it’s because Moffat prefers to present us with a mystery from the get-go and then takes a series (or two) to solve it, whereas Russell T. Davies left clues here and there, but the series finales were usually a surprise. I like both approaches, and I’m not here for RTD v. Moffat comparisons and debates.)
Is this a completely subjective account from someone who has no cultural authority whatsoever? YES.
[Posted this first on my tumblr.]
This is a very fair and balanced view on the selection of the new doctor.
The Doctor Who audience has become increasingly polarised over the past three years. I think one of the problems (aside from the actual controversy) is that viewers get angry (and some overstep the line, but only some), which generally leads to others defending the writers, especially Moffat, first because they feel they have to; perhaps because it can often seem like, ‘if I still like his writing, that makes me an asshole, too.’ Which, in turn, only makes the discussion more complicated. (Note, fandom: that is just me looking at the way the communication seems to work on a meta-level, not an assessment of the criticism levelled at the writers itself.)
I still love the show and its characters to bits, so, bearing that in mind, I tried to find the middle ground.