Doctor Who is an odd show. I adore it, it has a piece of my soul and heart, but it’s an odd show. Society doesn’t take it well when we lose the actors who embody our favorite characters. Dr. Who, however, is built around this premise. Every few years the Doctor regenerates into a different version of the Doctor. He’s still the Doctor, his insides are the same, but he looks different. Doctor Who is constantly losing and gaining companions. This is both great and terrible. It means the show can refresh, adapt itself, and could quite possibly go on forever (I can only hope so). A true Fan appreciates this deeply in their soul, but what about if your new to Doctor Who? What if Matt Smith was your first Doctor? We all love our first doctor the best, and it takes some time to warm up to the idea of a new one. You have to go through your feelings of resentment, anger, and loss before you can appreciate a newly regenerated doctor. What I’m saying is you have to give yourself time to grieve, accept that the new doctor will never truly replace your first doctor, and that if you persevere in time you can learn to accept the new ones.
How does Doctor Who get away with changing the doctor? You can’t just replace a new actor into a developed story and have people be okay with it. For the millennial out there you most likely will have no idea what I am talking about with my first example but I will get you sorted with my second one. Did you watch Bewitched? The TV show not the movies. In the middle of its run it replaced one of the main characters, Darren, with a new actor. I have never heard of one single person who liked the second Darren and quite a few followers quit watching Bewitched completely. A more contemporary example is Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies. Richard Harris was Dumbledore in the first two movies and sadly died before the other movies were made. Michael Gamdon bravely took on the new role. I say he was brave because he was. It is hard enough to step in and play one of the most beloved characters of a generation but to have to step in after Richard Harris did a stunning job was difficult to say the least. Fans had a hard time. He did something very smart, however, he did not try to be Richard Harris. He knew that wouldn’t work. Maybe he learned something from the Darren debacle. Anyhow, he created his own interpretation that fans grew to love, but it was no easy task. The only time we seem to accept replacement actors is when the original actor died. Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death was tragic but it didn’t take long for people to start asking how the Hunger Games movie franchise was going to deal with his role of Plutarch. We get attached to an actor’s interpretation of a character. To a degree they become it. We simply can’t see the character being done by anyone else. Think about reading a book before a movie comes out. You have your own picture of the character in your head and you hope those who cast the movie get it right. After you see the movie again and you read the book it’s very hard to see in your mind anyone other than the actor.
My first doctor was the fourth, Tom Baker, better known as Curly. I would crawl up on the couch and snuggle into the crook of my dad’s arm and watch Doctor Who. We loved spending this time together laughing at the Doctor’s antics, the situations he got into, and the signature move of his touching his finger to the side of his nose. When I saw him on the 50th anniversary special it made me so happy and brought back all the memories and joy of my father and I watching his very genuine, and humorous interpretation of the doctor. We had a hard time when he left. I was a child that did not handle change well. To the point I cried about my mother wanting to pull up the disgusting martini olive-green wool carpet in our living room. At one time it was a beautiful forest green. I didn’t want it to go because that meant things would be different. I’m sure you can imagine how well I took my first regeneration of the doctor… Not well. Over time my dad would ask me if I was going to watch Doctor Who with him. I did with a grimace on my face, my arms folded, and all the determination in the world to dislike Peter Davidson. My dad would smile kindly down at my internal fight while he enjoyed the episode, and then one day I was smiled, another episode I laughed, and finally I started racing my dad to the couch waiting for it to come on PBS.
Curly will always be my doctor but I’ve learned to love and appreciate the other doctors. Okay, maybe not all of them, but most of them. I appreciate what they are supposed to be – different versions of the doctor on his own journey learning his own way. The first episode of the season this year beat us over the head with that message. Clara had to decide if she was going to accept him along with all the fans. Make no mistake the episode was very purposeful. Matt Smith, our eleventh doctor, was amazing. He grew a huge audience and expanded Doctor Who to a much larger American fandom. The question is if the show and Capaldi can retain the fans. People who have never gone through a regeneration are going to have a hard time. Some won’t even give Capaldi a chance. Some already say that allowing Matt Smith to leave destroyed the show. I recommend if you are a new fan to find an old fan. They will help you through this transition. We won’t abandon you. We won’t force it on you, but I do ask you to give Capaldi a chance. He’s not Matt Smith, he can’t be, and he’s smart enough not to try to be. He is a Doctor though, and this doctor has a different path. He’s here to finally do something about his mistakes. I ask you to give the Doctor the opportunity.