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Published on November 26th, 2013 | by Christian Cawley

Hidden In Plain Sight: Capaldi & McGann in Christmas Poster?

Why are Paul McGann and Peter Capaldi hiding in the new Doctor Who Christmas special poster? Released today, to images are available to promote The Time of the Doctor.

The first is a portrait of Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman, with a ghostly Peter Capaldi staring from the embers behind the Cyberman’s head. Accompanying this is a landscape version, in which Paul McGann’s face can be seen in the flames of another fire.

Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi & Paul McGann in The Time of the Doctor?

While Steven Moffat said at the weekend’s Doctor Who Celebration event that we wouldn’t be seeing Paul McGann again, this image perhaps hints that he hasn’t gone just yet…

One Doctor at a time is the real rule – ‘Who would be on the lunchbox?’ is always my question when we talk about having more than one Doctor.

Of course, as we all know, The Moff Lies.

(With thanks to Paddy)

Update: Make Your Own Mind Up!

Someone, somewhere, said “fake”.

We’ll ignore how rude that is; this isn’t a two-bit Tumblr.

Instead, you guys make your own minds up with the images from the BBC:

Feel free to download and inspect.


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About the Author


A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

109 Responses to Hidden In Plain Sight: Capaldi & McGann in Christmas Poster?

  1. Wow let this be true

  2. avatar gmx0 says:

    I see Capaldi but not McGann?

    • avatar crimsonavenger12 says:

      He’s between the hands.

      • avatar gmx0 says:

        I thought that was Capaldi. :/ Then where is Calpaldi?

        • They’re both Capaldi.

  3. avatar David F says:

    I think it’s a stretch to say the second face is McGann. I see two Capaldis. Or maybe a mid-change Smith/Capaldi composite.

  4. avatar Ranger says:

    I see a Capaldi, but I can’t say who the other is. I think it is wishful thinking it is McGann, what would the point of him coming back again be? I think his story is told.

    • avatar McCoy says:

      Well you could argue what’s the point in ANY past Doctor coming back? Because it’s awesome when they do is the easiest answer.

      • avatar David F says:

        Nope awesomeness is nothing without a point.

        • avatar McCoy says:

          Well yes, there woul obviously be a point, wouldn’t there, if Moffat included one.

  5. avatar Rick714 says:

    No, it’s clearly McGann on the right in the flame—I spotted him first. Wonder what all this means….

    • avatar Spider-pope says:

      At first look i thought McGann too. But look closer at the eyes and the barely visible eyebrows, it’s Capaldi.

      • avatar Rick714 says:

        you’re right, upon further examination looking really closely, yeah it is Capaldi. At first I wondered why have two images of him in there then I realised it’s two different images and he’s in each. That does make more sense than McGann even being in there.

  6. avatar TimeChaser says:

    I see… fires. I don’t see anything in them. Maybe I need 3-D glasses…

    • avatar joesiegler says:

      I thought I was the only one – I don’t see anything, just fire.

    • avatar roehamster says:

      As subliminals go, it rates beneath Betty Boop flashing her aminated crack for one animated frame.

      The secret persisted until freeze-frame was invented, only the animators knew it was there..

  7. Hmm, not sure about McGann either. Think it is more John Hurt if anything.

    • avatar Connor says:


    • avatar Kirsten Maki says:

      Agreed. It has Hurt’s “sleepy eyes.”

  8. avatar Barb says:

    They both look like Capaldi based on the eyebrows mostly.

  9. avatar kukumo says:

    Thats not Mcgann. Both Look Like Capaldi(Yeah)

  10. avatar Koloth says:

    Deffo Mcgann, looking sideways. Oooooh! the anticipation.
    If they regenerate Paul instead of Matt I wont be a happy bunny.

    • avatar dakotaclopez says:

      We got McGann’s regeneration two weeks ago…

      • avatar koloth says:

        I was thinking of a reboot. I wouldnt be surprised.

  11. avatar Bradondo says:

    The “McGann” face looks more like Tom Baker, but that wouldn’t make any sense. I suppose it could be McGann, but if so it’s not a great likeness. The Capaldi glare is there, though.

  12. avatar DonnaM says:

    One’s definitely Capaldi – my first thought on the other was McGann, although the Smith/Capaldi mid-regeneration is feasible. I’d be thrilled to be proved wrong (again!) but how would they work the Eighth Doctor into this? Some kind of hangover from the Sisterhood of Karn’s intereference?

    Considering that was a minisode and not a part of the main BBC1 story that’d be a bit risky, but with Moffat, who knows?

    • I think you might right about the mid-regen thing. The 8th Doctor has already regenerated so wouldn’t make any sense him being there.

  13. avatar Patty says:

    If you look closer, I think there are more Doctor’s in the flames…

    • avatar SS says:

      I see Pat Troughton directly below The Doctors right hand.

  14. avatar Steve Andrew says:

    Well spotted, but I think they both look kinda like Capaldi. It’d be great to see McGann again, but it doesn’t look much like him. A bit like mythical religious figures appearing on slices of toast. (I’m not saying it’s definitely NOT him, it’s just the evidence is slim.)

    And on the subject of “Moffat lies”… Who said that first? Or is it an urban myth like “Beam me up Scotty”? I wouldn’t be surprised if, when we look back at everything he’s said in all the interviews he’s done, he probably hasn’t lied once. Maybe omitted some facts or said stuff that can be taken two ways, but probably very few outright lies. If everything he says could potentially be a lie, then why does anyone ask him anything?

    • avatar Paddy says:

      Moffat has said it himself in a couple of interviews – although fans had been saying it prior to this.

      I think the exact quote was “I’ve been lying my arse off for months” in regards to the 50th special. He also says something similar on the Behind the Lens feature for Day of the Doctor about how he always intended to have all the Doctors in there but he’d been lying about it for ages.

      As for things he’s lied about – classic Doctors in the 50th, and a character “really, properly” dying in The Impossible Astronaut would be the first two that spring to mind.

      I’m not against him lying, though. Keeps the speculation interesting.

      I still think it’s McGann in the picture, though.

      • avatar gmx0 says:

        Well, the classic Doctors technically were in the 50th through the use of old video clips. And the Night of the Doctor. And the Five-ish Doctors (Reboot)

        • avatar Paddy says:

          Exactly my point – Moffat said they weren’t appearing, and in fact they did.

      • Moffat is a notorious liar.

        • avatar DonnaM says:

          And, as mentioned above, a self-confessed one! It’s all done to get the fans going, and you have to give him credit – it works!

          • avatar Steve Andrew says:

            Ah interesting, I never knew it originated from Moffat himself! Still, I don’t blame him. If it was me getting constantly asked, “could you explain this plot point which spoils a future episode?” I’d probably resort to outright lying as well. A bit like Michael Gambon who, on being asked endless inane questions has just taken to making stuff up in interviews.

          • avatar BOJAY says:

            We are so very much Steven Moffat’s YoYo. And I love him for it. Yes DonnaM I agree, he’s done it again. Look at all the wheels spinning!

  15. avatar Itistheend..... says:

    With such disagreements it just goes to show you that we see what we want to see. Personally I don’t think they look anything like McGann, and whilst I quite like his Doctor, do we really want his return? How about Matt Smith being the star of the show, getting a great send off, and Capaldi becoming the Doctor. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?

  16. avatar simon magellan says:

    This is like one of those Magic Picture books where you stare at an image and try to see something in it! Can just about see Capaldi, which makes sense (he’ll be in it after all) but can’t say who the other face might be – if there is another face!

  17. avatar mwruger says:

    I think there is a lot matrixing going on here with a good load of wishful thinking. I suppose they could be heads, but they just look like fires to me. But then I never see the Jebus in the screen door either.

    • avatar McCoy says:

      No, there are definitely quite clear faces in there.

  18. But what if I want 12 lunchboxes?

  19. avatar Maíra says:

    damn, I guess that means no facial hair for capaldi. it’s about time a regen sported facial hair. and capaldi looks great with a mustache/soul patch combo.

  20. Looks more like Baker to me. We may not have seen the last of The Curator if you ask me!

  21. avatar swadlinboi says:

    to me the one by the cyberman head and hand looks more like David Tennant, which would make more sense, as then will go in order 10, 11, 12 ?

  22. avatar Andrew Dorgomire says:

    Easter Eggs at Christmas…

  23. avatar Antoni Pearce says:

    Both faces are Capaldi

  24. avatar Antoni Pearce says:

    Just triple checked…Both Capaldi

  25. avatar William John says:

    Umm, the Capaldi fire isn’t actually there in the original image… I think this is a fake.

  26. Both faces look like Peter Capaldi to me.

  27. avatar Bob Brinkman says:

    I think that this is beyond a stretch. I think that, if one squints and REALLY wants it to be them, then it MIGHT look a little like them.

  28. avatar Dan Hallett says:

    Capaldi on both sides, would love to see McGann again but it just isn’t him. Can’t see how it would make any sense for him to be in the episode either.

  29. avatar Jonny says:

    It’s Tom Baker on the right and I think there’s a Peter Davison in profile near the Cyberman head handle thingy (what are they called?).

  30. avatar snostorm8 says:

    the one on the left is tennants eyes, ecclestons nose and capaldi’s mouth

    and so far i can see tom bakes eyes and mcganns mouth on the right

    looks like pre war and post war doctor mash ups

  31. I’m feeling very stupid right now…wtf do I click on to view the poster!? All I can find here is a close up of what I believe to be the Doctor’s crotch

    • You can now download the images and view for yourself.

  32. avatar McCoy says:

    The two faces certainly don’t look like the same person to me. First, definitely Capaldi, the second one, before I read any of the speculation, immediately jumped out to me as being McGann. It’s probably not, but that’s certainly what it looks like. I don’t see Capaldi in that second face at all.

  33. avatar DonnaM says:

    I can’t see the sense in putting Capaldi in twice; once would be perfectly sufficient as a teaser. We know he’s taking over at Christmas anyway, and it’s not blatantly obvious at first glance that he’s in the picture at all. Putting in a second image, even less clear than the first…. I don’t get that.

    Still, whoever the second face is, the BBC have achieved their aim – creating interest! I’m just glad the build-up to Christmas is shorter than the months I spent anticipating the anniversary episode!

  34. avatar Gruff says:

    I see Tegan and Jamie so perhaps it’s different depending on who clicks on the links or what time it is… Clever marketing?

  35. avatar calliarcale says:

    Is it McGann — or is it just pareidolia? ;-)

    • Definitely not pareidolia as the apparition between the Doctor and Clara in the landscape image doesn’t appear in the portrait version ;)

      • avatar calliarcale says:

        Yeah, sorry I should’ve been more clear that I was trying to be a wiseass with that comment. Been working a lotta hours lately; my sense of humor is probably impaired. :-P

  36. I think both of the faces are Capaldi.

  37. avatar Steve Andrew says:

    Paredolia: we see what we are primed to see or what we want to see. Which is why we see shapes in clouds or middle-eastern cult leader faces in toasted bread products.

  38. avatar vortexter says:

    I think its McGann. Perhaps its more telling that his face is in the flames. Perhaps the Sisterhood of Karn are involved again. They are worshipers of the flame after all. Maybe this is how the problem of regeneration will be sorted out?

  39. avatar Carl Jackson says:

    Right stop this its silly…….
    I have had a good look at the photo and it is clearly 2 Peter Capaldis
    Should have gone to Specsavers anyone??

  40. avatar vortexter says:

    No its definately McGann. Come to think of it, he did say that although he wasn’t in the 50th, he wouldn’t rule out a future appearance in an episode.

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  42. avatar tce09 says:

    Some of you need to spend much more time staring at McGann.

  43. avatar Ian says:

    You can see more than me.

  44. avatar Jude says:

    Both images are of Peter not Paul McGann.

  45. avatar David F says:

    Never mind that. I can see Christ’s face on this slice of toast.

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  47. avatar Jeff Blenman says:

    It is the same person, though the one is slightly larger than the other, they look exactly the same side by side:

    • avatar Jeff Blenman says:

      Also, it is Capaldi, for sure.

  48. Never mind that. Why, at the 1 hour, 2 minutes, 30 seconds mark in The Day of the Doctor, is there a Nazi Timekid? If you recorded it, pause it & check it out. The kid from Gallifrey who the woman is bowing in front of (shortly after the “Never give up. Never cruel and cowardly” lines) has a swastika on his sash.

    • avatar David F says:

      That’s bizarre. But we’d better think of a way to link it to Paul McGann or no one else in fandom will be interested.

    • The swastika has been used by many different cultures & religions, for centuries before the Nazis adopted it. Of course, since then, they have been the group most associated with it.

  49. avatar SuchLame says:

    haha, fake. Check the original poster guys. Funny.

  50. avatar TimeChaser says:

    Ah, now I see it. Don’t need those special 3-D glasses after all.

  51. Where was this poster found? I can not find this particular image of the face near the Cybermans head. I have a nice resolution of the poster, and at first I thought I was either blind or insane, but this is not the case. I suppose there are 2 posters floating around is there? :/ pffft

    • It wasn’t “found” – it was released by the BBC yesterday.

  52. avatar Elton Townend Jones says:

    I genuinely think the one being called McGann is actually Tennant – I can SEE Tennant, clearly. So Maybe it’s just Before Matt and After Matt.

  53. avatar Peter Can ]] says:

    In the original poster there is no flame beside the cybermans head, so I say fake

    • You do, do you?

      So you’re accusing a Doctor Who news site with 8 years’ heritage of faking something to, essentially, generate discussion.

      Shut the door on your way out.

      • avatar David says:

        Christian, I can’t help noticing you are having a go at any post which is even slightly negative towards this website. The above poster may feel its fake, but where does he SAY it is Kasterborous who has doctored the posters?

        I only raise this because I couldn’t help noticing you had a go at other comments from people cross with the Tom Baker spoiler posted here last week. I don’t deny you have a right to respond as much as anyone else, but to effectively tell someone to get lost because of their opinion I find arrogant, verging on bullying, given your position as editor of this website.

        Might I suggest that if you find such comments SO offensive, not to allow them to be posted in the first place, rather than use it as an opportunity to have a go at anyone who criticises you or the website?

  54. avatar dr jon says:

    could be McGann and Capaldi,i have a feeling the cybermen have a large part to play in it this time,in nightmare in silver the cybermen took infomation from the dr on regeneration so the cybermen may be the key to having some form of regenerative process they have been working on to make them repair themselfs in some way.

  55. avatar TheTrulyMadOne says:

    I can’t see it myself – but in fairness, I am blind as a bat!

  56. avatar Ranger says:

    On second look I’m now thinking Capaldi and Tennant. It’s a case of the images are so indistinct that you could make a case for them being Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin! (Now there’s a thought…)

  57. avatar Russ says:

    I see Capaldi and McGann. I think the 8th is on the poster as he is involved in the doctor breaking the 12th regeneration! The doctor crashes on khan where the sisterhood revive him then give him the elixir and with the words gallefrey science is elevated on khan. I think the night of the doctor serves more than one purpose but of course I could be entirely wrong.

  58. avatar Mark says:

    Thats what I thought – Tom Baker if anyone. Which could make sense given his apearance in DoD. I wonder if his appearance is some sort of a Watcher role (ala Logopolis) thus allowing him to appear again at Christmas to help with Matt’s regeneration.

  59. avatar Geoff says:

    Why do you have to do this to me? Months and months of excitement over Day of The Doctor, finally satisfied and within days you drop this on me. Now regardless of real, fake, McGann or/and Capaldi I’m lumbered with thinking of nothing but this for nearly a month!

    Now I’d be quite happy to see any Doctors return in the Christmas special. After all it’s the end of a great blow out year where we’ve had so many treats. But after that I’d like the excesses to end (and I’m sure they will) and just see a series of wonderful adventures featuring a brand new Doctor and not too many returning villains.

  60. avatar SMBComix says:

    I’m seeing Capaldi and Hurt, actually. O.o

  61. avatar Scarmans Eyedrops says:

    I see two versions of Capaldi glowering at me from out of a fiery future.

  62. I remember Moffat saying that the regeneration that Matt would undertake in this episode would be very hard to undergo. What he meant by that is a mystery other than obviously The Doctor technically doesn’t have any more regenerations he can go through, however, the Sisterhood of the Kharn were said to help Timelords through hard or otherwise harsh regenerations and their reintroduction made me think perhaps it was a foreshadowing of Matt’s impending one though I figured they may have showed up in the 50th Anniversary special as a foreshadowing like all the foreshadowing Russell did in season 4 through the specials. I guess we’ll find out in 33 days.

  63. avatar Elvis19026 says:

    I’ve put several pics side by side with that fiery image on the right. That is McGann. A red herring? Who knows. But that is MCGANN!! NO DOUBT!!

  64. avatar Russ says:

    Has anyone noticed the owl at the bottom of the Xmas tree? And the skull on the right of the pic? The more I look the more I see and I can also see pertwee and McCoy.
    Now what do you think that means eh? ;0)

  65. avatar Dan Hallett says:

    FFS IT IS NOT MCGANN!! Why would they dedicate any part of Matt’s final story to a past Doctor? it doesn’t make any sense. Also IT IS NOT MCGANN! See the side by side link someone posted further up this thread, clearly and I do mean clearly, it is Capaldi. Now I do love McGann but we ai’t see him in this ep.

    • avatar David F says:

      For anyone who’s missed the last several weeks of online discussion, a quick recap:

      Doctor Who is a vehicle for the actor Paul McGann, which ran from May 1996 to ninety-minutes-later-in-May 1996, following an unsuccessful twenty-six-year pilot in which various other actors were tested in the McGann role.

      Paul returned in 2013 for the seventeenth-anniversary special, which was followed a few days later by a seventy-five-minute minisode featuring some other blokes.

      Consensus holds that the worst Doctor Who story is The Caves of Androzani, which features no reference to McGann at all (further evidence of the BBC’s continued contempt for fans). The most popular is The Sontaran Experiment, which features a clump of heather that vaguely resembles his left thumb.

  66. avatar O says:

    I’m a little perplexed at all of the people saying “It’s definitely [x]“/”It’s definitely not [Y].” The only thing we can definitely say is that it’s open to interpretation.

  67. avatar Dan Hallett says:

    Nothing to be perplexed about 0 my old son cos it’s definitely not McGann :)

  68. avatar Doctor WhoDat says:

    Radio Times is claiming its two Capaldi images. If the regeneration limit has been reached and the Time Lords are lost and cannot bestow a new set, it would seem logical that Karn or River’s regeneration gift are the only “outs”. I am always open to more McGann, but it does feel unlikely for this story.

  69. avatar Russ says:

    I don’t think any past doctors are going to appear, I think the poster is addressing the the doctors past and future that’s all and it’s open to interpretation! Every time I look I see something different and new and I have to admit I’m not seeing the 8th but it’s half the fun wondering isn’t it, No point arguing about it who’s in or out we simply don’t know.

  70. avatar O says:

    You are definitely very arrogant if you think you’ve got the definitive view of this.

  71. avatar O says:

    That was to “my old son” Dan, FAOD.

  72. avatar It's "whom" says:

    I think they’re both Capaldi. Maybe a reference to the Fires of Pompeii?

  73. avatar Dan Hallett says:

    0, you are definitely taking this too seriously if you mistake a lighthearted comment for arrogance. However in just a few weeks time you will find that I am very much right anyway.

  74. avatar Whoee says:

    The Night of the Doctor and the Curator set up the idea an old Doctor can come back. The Name of the Doctor set up that Matt Smith is the 12th Doctor. The Valeyard will return between the 12th and 13th Doctor.

    Therefore Paul McGann is the 13th Doctor and Peter Capaldi is the Valeyard!!

    Or not…

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