When Is a Face Not ‘Just’ a Face? When It’s on DOCTOR WHO!

doctor12When Peter Capaldi was announced as the face of the 12th Doctor last summer, his reception was almost universally hailed as brilliant.

There was, however, one teeny-tiny little potential fly in the ointment: The actor had already appeared on the series in a significant guest role — as Caecilius in “The Fires of Pompeii.” And, not only that, he had also shown up in all five episodes of the TORCHWOOD story “Children of Earth,” as John Frobisher.

This is not unprecedented, even for a Doctor; Colin Baker previously played Commander Maxil before donning the hideous garb of the Sixth Doctor. But back then, fans didn’t have instant access to clips of the actor’s previous appearance, nor did they have the Internet (as it currently exists) to discuss/agitate/troll about it. Nowadays, “recycling” an actor gets noticed.

After Freema Agyeman was cast as companion Martha Jones, then-showrunner Russell T Davies had to explain away the actress’ small role in “Army of Ghosts,” Adeola Oshodi, as Martha’s cousin. (Because we all know that on TV identical cousins are the norm.)

Interestingly, current executive producer Steven Moffat did not feel the need to connect Amy Pond with actress Karen Gillan’s previous role as the Soothsayer in “The Fires of Pompeii”; but perhaps he will address it, however, because the showrunner has said that he will be explaining why the 12th Doctor looks exactly like Caecilius.

In an interview with Nerd3, Moffat said:

“We are aware that Peter Capaldi’s played a big old part in DOCTOR WHO and TORCHWOOD before, and we are not going to ignore the fact.

“I remember Russell told me that he had a big old plan as to why there were two Peter Capaldis in the Who universe, one in Pompeii and one in Torchwood. When I cast Peter and Russell got in touch to say how pleased he was, I said, ‘Okay, what was your theory and does it still work?” and he said, ‘Yes, it does. Here it is…’ We’ll play that one out over time. It’s actually quite neat.

“The face is not set from birth. It’s not like he was always going to be one day Peter Capaldi. We know that’s the case because in ‘The War Games’ [the Doctor] has a choice of faces. So we know it’s not set — so where does he get those faces from? They can’t just be randomly generated because they’ve got lines. They’ve aged. When he turns into Peter he’ll actually have lines on his face. So where did that face come from?”

Where, indeed?

This is a very interesting concept, and it could make for an intriguing storyline. I’m hoping it isn’t something along the lines of “The Doctor subconsciously took note of an interesting face and unconsciously chose it during regeneration.” Perhaps the case is that there are certain “important” people in the universe — e.g. Caecilius, Frobisher and now the Doctor — and they keep being born with the same face until they fulfill their destiny, or whatever.

I don’t know; I’m just reaching here. Let’s wait and see what Davis came up with, and how much of it Moffat uses.

5 thoughts on “When Is a Face Not ‘Just’ a Face? When It’s on DOCTOR WHO!

  1. Ohhhh good theories! I’ve only read one of the older DW books (Lungbarrow) that dealt with Gallifrey and the Seventh Doctor. It was quite interesting, and I believe it says the Time Lords were “loomed” whatever that means.

    I’m still not sure about River, though your theory fits, as she “gave” Eleven her future regenerations (possibly the nuclei) so perhaps the TARDIS gave those to River in the womb. Whatever it was, it was clear that Eleven was very concerned about Amy’s pregnancy onboard, maybe even indicating even he didn’t know what the outcome would be.

    Good stuff!


  2. That’s an interesting theory about the Doctor. We know so little about what actually makes one a Time Lord or Lady (as opposed to merely being a Gallifreyan). It also makes you wonder if technically River Song is a Time Lady (she did have most of the attributes). Even though she definitely comes from human stock, the TARDIS did *something* to alter her DNA. Jenny I think, would be the opposite, though she comes from Gallifreyan stock (Ten’s DNA) she did not seem to have the ability to regenerate or time travel (that we know of anyway) and Ten makes it pretty clear he doesn’t consider her a Time Lady or even his daughter.

    And then there’s Captain Jack… Is he still human in his immortality? What exactly did the TARDIS/Rose do to alter him so?

    Just love how the TARDIS seems to make up her own mind about doing certain things. 🙂 More please!


    • I believe one of the books (which I haven’t read) suggested that Time Lord status was attained over the years at the Time Lord Academy, where one is given the “symbiotic nuclei” that take the Rassilon Imprimatur that the Sixth Doctor said was necessary for safe time travel in “The Two Doctors.” (Though he may have been lying to throw off the Sontarans.)

      The symbiotic nuclei is supposedly required for regeneration — however neither River nor Jenny were granted this genetic gift by the academy, so in theory neither should be able to regenerate, though River has done so several times and Jenny came back to life in what could be considered a regeneration. However, both cases have extenuating circumstances: Being conceived in the Vortex could well have altered River’s human DNA enough to function like symbiotic nuclei, and Jenny, being a clone of the Doctor, would presumably have cloned symbiotic nuclei.

      Personally, I think Rose just wasn’t specific enough when she resurrected Jack, and made him immortal because she didn’t think to specifically bring him back to life for only a normal human span of years. The 10th Doctor said she made Jack immortal, and that he would live “forever.” This argues against him truly being the Face of Boe in the future — despite living for billions of years, he would never snuff it. “Forever” doesn’t end.


  3. I think they explained that with Romana… she “chose” a face and look from someone she’d already met, and liked the look of.


    • Yes, in fact, I believe Romana choosing Princess Astra’s form was discussed in the dialogue of the show.

      I forgot to include in this piece my pet theory that the Doctor is one of the few Time Lords who cannot control his regenerations. It’s a random genetic quirk, like people who are lactose-intolerant, and it just happened to him — or maybe it’s related to his human heritage.

      The Doctor has said over and over that he never knows what he’s going to get with regeneration, and has constantly expressed surprise at his new appearance. Clearly, he has no conscious control over it. But consider the Master, whose Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley incarnations looked very similar — as if he liked the look. And then he was dark-haired and blond-haired John Simm — way too similar for coincidence. And the previously mentioned Romana clearly had total control over her regeneration.


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