With the casting of Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor, fans immediately discovered that Capaldi had played two other roles in that universe. The first being Lobus Caecilius from the episode “The Fires of Pompeii,” and the second being John Frobisher from the Doctor Who spin-off, Torchwood. While some people would have written this off as coincidence, many fans thought there could be a connection. Indeed, some people have a hard time accepting that you can have two people that look exactly the same, much less three. And so speculation of a connection begins.
First of all, let me say that I think Capaldi was cast because he was the right actor, with the exact performance that Moffat and crew wanted. I do not think they cast him because they wanted to tie his character with the previous characters he had portrayed. No, he was simply the best actor for the job. That said, I think the writers of Doctor Who could, and probably will, retcon these appearances. The writers of Doctor Who are some of the best at retconning. They have to be to keep the continuity of Doctor Who straight. In fact, they’ve already done a little retconning on this particular issue.
Connecting Lobus Caecilius to John Frobisher
Before we get into the Doctor’s connection to these characters, let’s first look at the connection between Lobus and John, the two characters that Peter Capaldi has already played. Lobus was a Roman living in Pompeii, whereas John Frobisher is a modern-day character living in England. Their two characters are quite different, and there isn’t much to go on here. Except…
Russell T Davies, former showrunner for Doctor Who and Torchwood, has already suggested that John is Lobus’ descendant. It isn’t much, but when the showrunner suggests something about a character, I think we can accept that explanation as canonical until proven otherwise. So that explains why Capaldi is playing two people in this instance. Now let’s look at his third role, the Doctor.
Where Does the Doctor’s Face Come From?
In “Deep Breath,” shortly after the Doctor’s regeneration, and Peter Capaldi’s first full episode, Capaldi says the following to a passing man named Barney.
DOCTOR: Er, have you seen this face before?
DOCTOR: Are you sure?
BARNEY: Sir, I have never seen that face.
DOCTOR: It’s funny, because I’m sure that I have. You know, I never know where the faces come from. They just pop up. Zap. Faces like this one.
This is the only acknowledgement, that I know of, that the Doctor has seen his own face before. This would refer to Lobus Caecilius, since (as far as we know) the Doctor and John Frobisher have never met. Additionally, it’s implied that there is meaning behind the choice of this face. Consider the following quote from the same scene above.
DOCTOR: Why this one? Why did I choose this face? It’s like I’m trying to tell myself something. Like I’m trying to make a point. But what is so important that I can’t just tell myself what I’m thinking?
Perhaps the 12th Doctor’s subconscious chose this face. It is implied that his subconscious is trying to tell his conscious something. What could that be? I believe the Doctor’s subconscious has selected the face of Lobus, and that this was done for a reason. Note that I don’t think John Frobisher is connected in any way, other than the fact that he is descended from Lobus. The Doctor hasn’t had any contact with John, so I don’t think his face is based on that man.
Why is Lobus Significant?
Assuming the Doctor’s subconscious selected a face he already knew, we can assume that there’s some significance to that face. Let’s take a look at the “Fires of Pompeii” episode, where Lobus originates. In this episode, we witness the destruction of Pompeii by Mt. Vesuvius. The 10th Doctor (David Tennant) describes this event as a fixed point in time, meaning he cannot change it. It gets even worse when he discovers that aliens are using the energy of the volcano so they can take over the world. He is presented with a choice: stop the aliens and allow 20,000 people to burn, or let the aliens take over the world. He chooses the former.
This moment is incredibly reminiscent of Gallifrey, I think intentionally so. In fact, the Doctor even says that saving his planet is something he would do if he could. But that is also a fixed point in time, so he can’t do anything about it.
This moment is also similar to the Doctor’s personality in series 8. Many describe Capaldi’s Doctor as cold. Consider, for instance, his actions in the episode “Mummy on the Orient Express.” In that episode, he also sacrifices a few to save many. He asks those who can see the Mummy to describe it to him, sacrificing that person’s life for information. Of course, that information is valuable to saving the rest of the train, but what makes the Doctor “cold” in this situation is his apparent lack of caring for those who are about to die.
I see this situation as similar to “The Fires of Pompeii.” The Doctor frequently has to make the tough decisions, choosing the lesser of two evils. What make Capaldi’s Doctor cold is his lack of caring. He even says that he doesn’t have to care, because he has Clara to do that for him.
So why would the Doctor’s subconscious remind him of this situation by given him Lobus’ face? Well, let’s not forget what happens at the end of the “Fires of Pompeii” episode. Donna Noble, the current companion, is shocked that the Doctor is forced to sacrifice so many people. She pleads with the Doctor to save someone, even if it’s only a few. The Doctor gives in, and rescues Lobus and his family. It’s interesting that he is able to do this, since he already said the destruction of Pompeii was fixed. Obviously, that must not have applied to everyone, since he was able to rescue Capaldi’s character.
So why is this important? Well, it is my theory that the 12th Doctor’s subconscious is trying to remind him to be compassionate. It is a reminder that people can be saved, even in these lose/lose situations. The 12th Doctor has made some cold decisions. He’s even forced Clara to make similar decisions (“Kill the Moon”). But he must remember that he can still do good, even if he has to choose the lesser of two evils. And that is why he has the face of Lobus, as a reminder. It is a beacon pointing to another lose/lose situation where he was able to save someone anyway.
The 12th Doctor’s Character Arc
Capaldi’s Doctor has gone through something that few Doctor’s have: character development. While the Doctor has changed personalities with each iteration, each version of the Doctor is rather complete. Few of them are any different at the end of their run as they are at the beginning. The companions have character development, often because of the Doctor. He is a immovable pillar, affecting those around him, but staying the same. Capaldi has been different, and that is very interesting.
I’ve already mentioned the cold nature of this Doctor, but that is changing. Over the last few episodes, we’ve seen him open up. We’ve seen how much he cares for Clara, even when it didn’t appear so at the beginning. We’ve seen him open up, revealing the childlike side of the Doctor, especially in moments like the Christmas special when he drove Santa’s sleigh.
I believe this ties into my argument that Lobus’ face is a reminder to maintain compassion in a cold situation. Although Capaldi starts out making cold decisions, much like the Pompeii situation, he is showing more compassion as the show unfolds, just like the ending to “Fires of Pompeii.”
So here are my points.
- The 12th Doctor’s subconscious picked a face from the Doctor’s past.
- The choice of that particular face is significant.
- The subconscious picking Lobus’ face is a reminder of the events of “Fires of Pompeii.”
- The events of Pompeii mirror the 12th Doctor’s personality.
- The 10th Doctor saving Lobus (Capaldi’s character) is a reminder for the 12th Doctor to show compassion in similar situations.
Again, I don’t think Capaldi was hired just so they could set this situation up. I think he was hired because he was a good Doctor. But I do think that this is an intention retcon of the character, to try and explain why the 12th Doctor has the same face as Lobus. And I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this idea either. It has been hinted that Gallifrey might have an important role in the future. The story of Gallifrey is similar to that of Pompeii. Perhaps Capaldi’s face will be a reminder that he can do more to save the people Gallifrey than he thought, just as he was able to save Lobus and his family at Pompeii.