The news is in! Peter Capaldi will be playing the 12th Doctor, and I for one am very pleased with the choice. Capaldi has always been an amazing actor, and, more to the point, he was brilliant in both roles he played in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe.
Wait.. What? Two roles?
Yup! Peter Capaldi played Lucius Caecilous in the 10th Doctor episode, ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ (which also starred a pre-Amy Pond Karen Gillan), as well as John Frobisher in the ‘Torchwood‘ serial, ‘Children of Earth’. That last role, by the way, should have won him every BAFTA in every category from every era ever.
Now, he’s the 12th Doctor, and I guess that means we all know how to answer Gwen’s question of “Where is the Doctor in our time of need?” on ‘Children of Earth’. He was there… unwillingly facilitating children’s deaths… so…
Anyway, reusing an actor in ‘Doctor Who’ is not a very surprising turn, and, in fact, has been done for decades. So, in celebration of Peter Capaldi’s promotion from guest star to star, let’s take a look at some of the more famous reused actors in ‘Doctor Who’ history.
Having the distinct honor of playing a Space Security Agent named Bret Vyon in the 1st Doctor serial, “The Dalek’s Master Plan”, Nicholas Courtney would go on to play one of the most well-loved characters in the history of ‘Doctor Who’, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Though the Brig’s status as a companion is somewhat contested (he never really traveled with the Doctor), he still stands to have one of the longest tenures on ‘Doctor Who’ ever.
When Mary Tamm moved on from ‘Doctor Who’, she regenerated into Lalla Ward, who was instantly recognizable as Princess Astra, from the “Key of Time” 4th Doctor serials. Their reasoning for why she looked exactly like the princess? Romana liked how the princess appeared and decided to take her form. That means two things: 1. There are two people who look like Romana wandering around the solar system and 2. Time Ladies, at the very least, can choose their appearance as River Song was able to as well in the episode “Let’s Kill Hitler”, but it has yet to be established that Time Lords can.
Most people would recognize Colin Baker as the 6th Doctor, but before he became the star of the show, he was the antagonistic Commander Maxil in the 5th Doctor serial, “Arc of Infinity”. Though initially reluctant to take the role on account that he thought it would mean he would never get to play the Doctor, it’s a good thing he did because it eventually secured him the role when Peter Davison stepped down. Unlike with Romana, they never explained why the two characters looked the same.
Before the departure of Rose, there was a Torchwood employee accidentally contributing to her alternate dimensional exile. The Torchwood employee, Adeola Oshodi, was played by Freema Agyman, who would we later come to know as Martha Jones, the 10th Doctor’s second companion (not including Kylie Minogue). The reasoning for their likeness was that the two were cousins…. Identical cousins is a thing, right?
Most people remember Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper, the kickass Torchwood agent who likes to kick ass, take names, and then kick more ass (well, by the fourth season, in any case). Before that, she was Gwyneth, a psychic house maid who appeared in ‘The Unquiet Dead’, a 9th Doctor episode. Like Freema’s characters, there was some attempt made to explain why the the two looked the same. The answer? Spatial Genetic Multiplicity, or rather, genetic traits that are shared via a rift in space and time. Hurrah for made up science!
As mentioned above, Karen Gillan also had a small role before she went on to dominate two and half seasons of ‘Doctor Who’ as the 11th Doctor’s companion. In the 10th Doctor episode, ‘The Fires of Pompeii’, she played a soothsayer. The role was minor and the make up thick. It’s a wonder anyone recognized her when she returned as Amy Pond, so there was no reason given for Amy looking exactly the same as the unnamed soothsayer.
Whether or not they explain why Capaldi’s appearance is similar to two memorable characters remains to be seen, though I think it’s highly unlikely. He is not the first actor to be reused in ‘Doctor Who’, and is likely not the last. But in light of his experience with the show (and drama in general), I expect to see great things from such a talented actor.