The XX Factor

Will Young, Female Doctor Who Fans Tune in for 55-Year-Old Peter Capaldi?

Possible heartthrob?

Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Sunday was an exciting day for the nerd/Anglophile population in the U.S., when the BBC, with a great deal of pomp and silliness, announced that the new actor to play the Doctor on Doctor Who would be Peter Capaldi. While this is a disappointment to those of us hanging onto the thin hope that the Doctor would be a woman or person of color, within the apparently mandatory “white man” parameters laid out by the BBC and showrunner Stephen Moffat, Capaldi is an exciting choice. As June Thomas explains, “Capaldi is an astonishing actor” with a wide range of roles in his past, and it’s genuinely an open question of what kind of Doctor he’s going to be. 

But one thing that’s not in question in Capaldi’s age. The last Doctor, Matt Smith, was 27 years old when he kicked off his run, but Capaldi is 55 years old. Smith’s youthful giddiness in the role certainly had something to do with the increasing popularity of the series in the U.S., with teenagers and young women crushing on Smith all over Tumblr. It makes sense: Smith’s version of the Doctor had the unthreatening, tamped down sexuality of a boy-band heartthrob. 

Will the younger female fandom depart en masse now that the Doctor is much older and has a gritty, instead of cute, vibe? There was some concern on Twitter:

Of course, the show’s stand-in for the audience, the Companion, is still going to be played the young and almost too-cute Jenna Louis-Coleman. It will be interesting to see how this age difference shifts the flirty dynamic between the Doctor and the Companion. Will the Doctor go from “potential boyfriend” to a more fatherly figure? And will young women who swooned over Smith tune in for a mentor/protégé relationship? Maybe the show is so good, and it’s audience so intelligent, that age won’t matter at all. Or maybe young women will just start crushing on an older guy. It’s been known to happen.