5 Ways Moffat Might Address Capaldi’s “Familiar Face”

Steven Moffat has hinted at how the new series will explain why the new Doctor looks just like not one but two other characters who’ve cropped up in the Who-niverse before.

Said the show runner: “Truthfully I don’t think it’s something you have to resolve because audiences do understand that the same actor can play different parts.”

“When Peter Capaldi turned up in Torchwood Russell said he had a plan in his head on why he looked like the guy in The Fires of Pompeii. So I emailed him and said what was the explanation and does it fit with the new Doctor? And it sort of does.”

“So in a very low-key way we’ll address it. It won’t be a major deal because in the end people know the real reason is he’s played by the same actor.”

It seems we shouldn’t expect some new season-long plot arc to be devoted to this issue, then, thank goodness, but let’s get a little creative here. Yes, Kasterborites, it’s time to indulge in a bit of speculation as we present five ways (some more serious than others) Moffat might address Capaldi’s familiar face!

1. ‘So Caecillus was the Doctor all the time…’

Simple enough, surely? Well-to-do Roman merchant Caecillus was really the Doctor who, in an elaborate plan to get his tenth incarnation to rediscover the quality of mercy, plonked himself in ancient Pompeii, sorted himself out with a nice life trading and sculpting, landed himself a wife and a couple of kids, then hung around for his earlier self to arrive, get into an adventure and be persuaded by Donna that he really ought to go back and save himself. Or something like that. What’s that you say Skippy? That explanation doesn’t account for why he also looks like Frobisher from Torchwood? Oh, right…

Plausibility rating: Zero

2. ‘You will have an opportunity to choose your appearance…’

Long-term viewers will be well aware of the continuity confounding scene apparently cooked up by Douglas Adams in part one of Destiny of the Daleks, where Romana seemingly raced through her regenerations at a recklessly cavalier pace, finally settling on the look of Princess Astra. Game fans have retrospectively tried to explain this away in some amusingly tortuous forum posts as the Time Lady effectively previewing her options, rather like trying on new tops in Dorothy Perkins.

What if the Twelfth Doctor was somehow dispersed through time and space?

Maybe something similar has happened off-screen, with the Doctor filling those long winter evenings on Christmas looking through some kind of space photo album made up of images of the many friends he’s met along the way. “Hmmm, Caecillus, there was a striking looking fellow,” you can just about imagine the ancient Doctor saying, “if only I had any more lives left I wouldn’t mind looking like him. Ah well…”

Plausibility rating: 1


3. Scattered through time

Listen up, I’ve spent ages thinking up this one and I’m feeling a pretty darned proud of myself. In fact I might just apply for a job writing on the next series; with an imagination like this they’d be sure to snap me up. What if the Twelfth Doctor was somehow dispersed through time and space, with different versions of himself, each unaware of the others, cropping up at crucial points in history to influence events?

What’s that Sooty? They’ve already used that idea with Clara the impossible girl? And way before that with Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth? Oh bother.

Plausibility rating: 2

4.  A note to himself

What if the Doctor, in regenerating into Peter Capaldi, is giving himself a reminder to act more humanely? As the new Doctor says in the trailer, he’s lived a long time and he’s made a lot of mistakes. Maybe his near failure to rescue Ceacillus and family counts in his mind of one of his biggest ones, and he wants to be reminded of that every time he has a shave? Granted, this would require some pretty densely plotted explanation from Steven Moffat, possibly delivered over a number of episodes in a few years’ time, but lord knows that’s never stopped him before.

Plausibility rating: Knowing Steven Moffat, 5.


5. Don’t explain a thing

Surely the most sane response to all of this is not to explain the resemblance at all? Actors have played different roles in the series over many decades, with only one instance I can think of (Gwen Cooper/Gwyneth) where there was any sort of on-screen reason provided. As noted by our Kasterborous podKasters last week, there’s been a worrying tendency in recent episodes for minor points to be retconned to the far end of a floppy scarf, almost always unnecessarily. Leave it be. Move along. Fuggeddabadid.

Plausibility rating: Given we now know there will be some kind of explanation given, Zero.

But enough of what we think! What crazy explanations can you think of why the Doctor looks strangely familiar?

(With some thanks to Doctor Who TV.)

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  1. vidarraven says:

    The question of Gwen was covered when the Doctor & Rose talked to her on video and asked if she was a member of a long established Cardiff family

    • Yes. That’s what we said.

      only one instance I can think of (Gwen Cooper/Gwyneth) where there was any sort of on-screen reason provided.

      • JF says:

        Another instance occurred in ep. “Smith and Jones” when Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) mentions she had a cousin who died when Cybermen infiltrated Torchwood Tower, referencing Agyeman’s previous small role in ep. “Army of Ghosts”.

        • Jonathan Appleton says:

          Quite right, I forgot that one. Interesting that the ‘classic’ series got through nearly 30 years of this kind of thing without ever feeling it was an issue, but the new series can’t seem to resist explaining each instance!

  2. TonyS says:

    I know it’s unlikely to happen, but I favour option 5: don’t explain anything.

    What next? An explanation for why Maxil started wearing garish clothes? Oh hang on…

  3. sw says:

    I really don’t think it needs to be explained and would probably just end up with some crappy reason anyway.

  4. TimeChaser says:

    Considering that the Doctor has had natural doubles in the past – the Abbot of Amboise and Salamander – and they required no special explanation, I don’t understand why there would have to be one now.

  5. TonyS says:

    “So, Doctor, what was going through your mind as you were regenerating?”

    “Well, Clara, it felt like I was in the middle of an effing volcano. Took me back to my last trip to Pompeii!”

  6. True story : There is a statue of Amenhotep III that looks EXACTLY like my father! So, how does an Egyptian Pharao from 1800 BC look like a Twentieth Century WWII veteran?
    They never explain how Six looks like a palace guard either!

    Or, perhaps , the random dance of DNA , though vast, is , in fact limited and, you get ” dopplelgangers” through time and space.

  7. David F says:

    I’m sure whatever reference there is will be cool, but it really isn’t necessary any more than it was necessary to explain the fact that dozens and dozens of actors have appeared in the show twice. We don’t need to know why the Brigadier had Bret Vyon’s face, or why the Doctor made no reference to Tobias Vaughn looking like Mavic Chen. Countless actors have made multiple appearances over the fifty-one years, so it would be odd to suddenly become self-conscious about it now.

  8. lozzer says:

    It’ll probably be a bit vague and mystical – The universe is like a huge intergalactic mirror that repeats patterns, shapes and forms over and over. There you go, enough said – Go get em Capaldi,

  9. why in the world does it matter?? as long as he doesn’t look like Michael Jackson or HRM Queen Elizabeth I really do not think it matters……leave some damn mystery Moffat for a change.

  10. Chris E says:

    There was another instance in New Who where they explained the whole same-actor Conundrum. Martha’s cousin who died in the battle at Canary Warf.

  11. Ranger says:

    I’m not worried about how to explain the Doctor looking like Caecillus – he’s the Doctor, there will be a mystic explanation. What I’m more concerned with is the 6 appearances of Michael Sheard – how do we explain him?!

  12. Solonor says:

    Yeah, I think they should use the same explanation given for why the Doctor looked like Maxil in his 6th incarnation…none at all. I guess the 2nd best would be that he can choose his face, like Romana did when she took on the appearance of Princess Astra, so he picked Capaldi for any one of a bajillion unimportant reasons.

  13. DonnaM says:

    I’d sooner it was left well alone, or covered with a throwaway line: the most obvious is a comment about “Oh, a Roman profile!” Those who remember The Fires of Pompeii recognise an “in” joke; those who don’t might identify Capaldi as an Italian surname and leave it at that. Bit of a giggle, then move on.

    I find it a touch patronising the way everything has to be “explained” for the audience. We’re not simpletons. Actor plays different roles shocker! How on earth will the kiddies (of all ages)ever cope 🙂

    • Geoff says:

      I think from the quote that’s along the lines of what Steven Moffat thinks. I like your pun about the roman nose, works on two levels, one in reference to Pompeii and the other a homage to the nose jokes by Tom Baker and Matt Smith. Like you say, mildly funny if you get it but not going to make any impact on your enjoyment if you don’t. They did that a few times in the 2009 Star Trek reboot (eg when Kirks making out with the woman and when the lights come up she’s green. If you don’t know Star Trek it’s just funny cos she’s green but if you know the history of the show there’s another little layer to enjoy).

  14. TonyS says:

    Perhaps the Doctor’s favourite subject at scholl was Latin and he did the Cambridge Curriculum course?

  15. Spider-pope says:

    It requires about as much explanation as why the first Doctor looked like William Hartnell etc. In other words, none at all.

  16. Vito says:

    Doctor Capaldi should go undercover in Pompeii. This would require guest stars David Tennant, Catherine Tate and Karen Gillan telling the story from other points of view. The Doctor sees his new face and realizes that it was him back in Pompeii and has to figure out why he went back there. Maybe somehow Amy got transported their (before or after THE ANGELS TAKE MANHATTAN) and that’s why Doctor Capaldi goes to investigate.

  17. DaveBenjamin says:

    When I was younger I looked just like Andrew Lloyd Webber – so when I got older I grew a beard, and now I look just like David Gest – I wish Steven Moffatt Could Explain That

  18. Joe Siegler says:

    #5 is not happening.

    • TonyS says:

      Well, the article says that, Joe. Shame though. I am encouraged by the number of contributors that aren’t seeking to have an in-depth, in-programme explanation for why an actor has played three roles in Doctor Who and Torchwood recently.

      • Joe Siegler says:

        Well, without getting into uh.. “spoilers”.. It’ll be obvious fairly quickly on Aug 23rd they’re not going for #5.

  19. Mugen Pharoah says:

    As the TARDIS travels though time it passively scans the DNA of around it, and can send potential physical forms backwards and forwards in time. When a Time Lord regenerates it selects a form from this database.

    Alternatively the Time Lords have a pet dimension full of potential bodies. Remember Moffat speculated where do the laughter lines come from? There’s a dimension where these potential incarnations live full lives, and they are based on people who existed – maybe these potential forms lose their lives when a Time Lord regenerates? It doesn’t explain the John Frobisher link though, unless humans occasionally tap into this dimension too, or that it is connected to Earth in some way (perhaps then that’s why Time Lords look so human?)

    • Geoff says:

      I like that idea, so in this dimension (or cloud storage place!) these bodies are “living” and therefore aging so what you get is the result of where that body was in it’s life at the time if your regeneration? It’s probably too “fan” an idea for the show but I like it, I am a fan! It explains why some Doctors are a lot older than others too. There’s a down side though: it’s a bit like buying an older car. You might choose one that looks ok on the outside but is developing all sorts of problems under the bonnet!

  20. CatPiper says:

    I suppose all this angst about explaining previous appearances is a result of our now being able (oh, how I would have loved this as a child!) to watch earlier episodes whenever we want. The chances of a viewer with no access to videos, dvds, the net, etc., remembering the face of an actor who had played a part in an episode four or five years ago was probably pretty slim. There weren’t even books celebrating previous episodes until ‘The Making of Doctor Who’, which came out in the early 70s as far as I remember. And even that didn’t have many pictures.

  21. Matteo says:

    I have been thinking on this and maybe because the Tenth saved Ceacillus and his family when all on Pompeii were’ supposed to die the Timelords even though have given him a new regeneration cycle have given him Ceacillus’s face to remind him what he did wrong, still showing to some extent the Timelords still have control over him.

  22. Geoff says:

    As you say in the last of your scenarios it doesn’t really matter too much and to be fair that’s what Steven Moffat says in the quote: if it can be addressed in a quick pithy one liner then great, it adds to the fun (which is what it sounds like they are going to do).

  23. Chris says:

    No scattered through time nonsense like Clara that never really made much sense please. It doesnt need to be explained, leave it to our imagination.

  24. Has everyone forgotten what Eight told Grace? What Ten said in “Christmas Invasion” about the first fifteen hours after regeneration? That’s why the Master tried to steal the Doctor’s remaining regenerations, why Ten was able to grow a new hand. Pay attention. In the first fifteen hours, the form is still malleable, changing. That’s why Romana was able to ‘try on’ different bodies.

  25. Rick says:

    No offence to Capaldi, but his face has changed a little from when he was in TFOP so I don’t think he’s the Doctor undercover.

  26. It has just occurred to me; forget his face! Why does he have a Scottish accent?? And, don’t say “lots of planets have a Scotland!”!

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