Just over a year ago, the BBC revealed the next resident of the TARDIS to the world amid fanfare usually reserved for the revelation of the next resident of the Vatican.
The Aug. 4, 2013, announcement of veteran Scottish actor Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor didn't spur any smoke, but lit a fire of anticipation that's grown into a geek-fanned inferno with his full-fledged BBC America debut set for Saturday on "Doctor Who."
The new Time Lord’s arrival carries a steep challenge to live up to the hype – as well as to the legacy of the storied British science fiction series a half-century after its debut and nine years into its internationally popular modern revival.
Capaldi's Doctor, judging from press interviews with the show’s creative team and preview snippets, is shaping up as a tougher, more caustic world-saver than his recent forerunners. Which isn't a bad thing: We may just be getting a Doctor made for our times.
At 56, Capaldi is considerably older than his three predecessors – Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith – whose Doctors boasted boyish good looks and tendencies, to differing degrees, toward quirk and sentiment. Capaldi's interpretation holds the promise of shaking up an already generally unpredictable show. With the universe in the shape it's in, perhaps we need a Doctor who gets the job done with less human handholding and more sonic screwdriver wielding.
"I don't think I know who The Doctor is anymore" Clara Oswald, the latest of The Doctor’s human companions, notes in a preview of Saturday’s eighth season premiere.
Not that The Doctor can ever be heartless: After all, he has two of them, the brilliant creative stroke that's allowed the character to "regenerate" into new forms over the last 2,000 or so years – and nearly 51 years of actors coming and going.
Capaldi is old enough to have grown up watching the original series, which ran from 1963 to 1989, tracing the time and space travels of the high-energy interstellar do-gooder. The same can be said for Steve Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the writers most responsible for giving the series new life while holding onto the old-school edition’s spirit with a Dalek-like tenacity.
Only, well, time will tell whether Capaldi can capture the hearts of this generation of "Doctor Who" fans. Check out a trailer as the new Doctor prepares to begin making house calls:
Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.