'Doctor Who' Actor Revelation Draws U.K. Ratings, Twitter Activity

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Peter Capaldi

British newspapers put Peter Capaldi on their cover as Stephen Fry criticizes a BBC special, and some fans say the show should have cast its first female or black lead.

LONDON - The Sunday unveiling of new Doctor Who lead Peter Capaldi drew solid TV ratings for the BBC and drove much social media activity in the U.K.

The BBC One live special at 7 p.m. local time that confirmed the Scottish actor as the 12th time lord attracted an average audience of 6.1 million people in Britain, or a 30 percent share of all people watching TV at the time. The five-minute peak audience came in at 6.9 million.

Meanwhile, Twitter U.K. said that there were more than 1 million mentions of the Doctor Who casting news over the course of the day.

"The peak of Twitter conversation came at 7:27pm U.K. time, when the new Doctor was announced, with 16,198 tweets per minute," said Lewis Wiltshire, director of media partnerships at Twitter U.K., in a blog post.

"For the whole of Sunday, #DoctorWho trended in the U.K. as fans awaited," he added. "At one point, seven of the 10 [to Twitter] U.K. trends were Doctor Who-related."

Sunday's unveiling of Capaldi was only the second announcement of a Doctor Who lead since Twitter was created.

The 55-year-old Glasgow-born Capaldi is a self-confessed lifelong Doctor Who fan and will replace Matt Smith, who landed the role as the youngest Doctor ever when he was 26. He is the oldest actor to play the role since the first Doctor, William Hartnell, in 1963.

Monday morning, many British newspapers put Capaldi on their front pages.

The Sun, the tabloid that is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, made a reference to the actor's role as foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in political comedy The Thick of It. "Who the F$@#?" it titled. "Lifelong Fan Wins Role."

Wrote the Sun's TV reporter: "I can't wait to hear him reduce a Cyberman to tears with a foul-mouthed tirade."

The Times, also part of News Corp, used the headline: "Spin doctor regenerates as The Doctor." In a column on its front page, it said the new Doctor Who actor was "as British as his phone box."

The Telegraph in a column made an argument for "why Peter Capaldi is perfect for the role." It concluded:  "It's a match made in heaven." It called Capaldi "not only a skilled comedian," saying he was "an actor with real gravitas." And it highlighted his U.S. profile.

"He starred in The Thick of It feature film spin-off In the Loop," the Telegraph said. "The BBC has never managed to persuade the American market of the vital significance of the [Doctor's time travel vehicle known as the] Tardis - perhaps Capaldi’s arrival will herald the moment when this breakthrough is made."

The Guardian wrote: "His primary quality as an actor is danger." It later added: "So the main interest in his portrayal of the Doctor will be whether showrunner Steven Moffat – who has previously cast the actor in supporting roles in both Doctor Who and the spin-off Torchwood – encourages him to maintain his signature screen-bursting energy or explore a gentler part of his range."

But the Independent highlighted that some fans were disappointed that the BBC had overlooked casting the first woman or black actor in the role of Doctor Who. “And the new Dr Who is…Oh. Another white man," it cited a female fan as tweeting.

And actor and writer Stephen Fry criticized the way the BBC revealed the new lead actor, tweeting: "As if we needed more proof the BBC has lost the f****** plot. He’s supposed to bloody regenerate, not be on a naff children’s show."

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai