Yesterday, it was announced that Peter Capaldi would be the 12th Doctor on the long-running sci-fi series Dr Who. This was understandably followed by a huge hooplah and lots of speculation about what kind of a Doctor he would make, how the story will change to accommodate this new version of the character, etc.
What few people seem to talk about, however, is that a huge and monumental surprise has been partially ruined. The extent of the surprise ruined depends on which surprise you’re referring to: who the new Doctor will be, or that there will be a new Doctor?
Now, it’s true that the finale of the current Doctor, Matt Smith, had already been announced, but the speculation as to when and which would be his last show helps to negate much of the tension of each episode. Knowing for a fact that the show’s frontrunner will not be leaving until a very specific definite time undermines part of the tension. And while it is usually pretty safe to assume the show’s frontrunner won’t die in a given episode, in a show like Dr Who, a new doctor could conceivably be introduced at any time. But by knowing the date and time of the current Doctor’s last episode undermines much of that.
But then there’s still a chance of the surprise at finding out who the new Doctor will be. What if it was Hugh Laurie? Or Idris Elba? Or Cate Blanchett? Or somebody anybody had ever heard of? Or what if it was David Tennant again? (Oh don’t give me that; it’s Dr Who! If they want to find a way to make it happen, they could make it happen.)
But now we know. We know precisely who it is. We know what he looks like, what he sounds like, and can review his entire acting resume to get an idea of what he’ll act like. So much of the future of the show has already been defined when it should be a time of great uncertainty and excitement.
Not only has the surprise been ruined, but in many ways, the surprise was already partially ruined by being aware of the surprise. Announcing Matt Smith’s departure was bad enough, but announcing the next Doctor so far in advance (by ‘so far’, I mean at any time before he appears in-role in the show), a great excitement has been lost.