The new Doctor is actually anything but...
As much as I sometimes moan about my job, it does occasionally put me in a very privileged position. My reputation, if not outright infamy for the interests highlighted in this blog mean that I sometimes get to interview stars and writers of genre TV. These interviews are often drastically cut for space reasons, so fascinating, if more ‘arcane’ information is left undisclosed. I hope to remedy this and reproduce some of these fuller transcripts in future postings, but what I’m posting here is the result one of the rare occurrences when editors actually cared about my opinion.
Peter Capaldi was revealed to the world as Doctor Number 12 on August 4, and it was decided that a short piece from a life-long Doctor Who fan might be interesting. Whether it was or not, I was only too happy to oblige, because I was more excited about this new Doctor casting than… well, probably ever.
Every new Doctor announcement through the decades was usually met by anxiety, resignation or utter confusion from me, but this time I wanted to punch the air – or at least the overhead luggage rack as I was commuting when I found out.
I’d been a fan of Capaldi’s since the exquisite 1983 film Local Hero. Although the world now seems to know him as the majestically profane Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of it (despite a CV as long as a Who fan’s scarf) to me he will always be the awkward, besotted but determined young Danny Olsen, clambering over the rocks of a Scottish beach in his business suit and vainly pursuing Jenny Seagrove.
The fact that Capaldi acquitted himself so well facing the perhaps misguided BBC live announcement special in August, emerging from reality TV-tinged spectacle with dignity intact and some wonderful quotes to sustain us until his debut, speaks volumes. This is an experienced and highly-regarded actor who’s going straight to the top of the favourite Doctors list, just you wait and see.
Here is the unedited piece which I submitted:
I was hiding behind the sofa from Doctor Who before I had even learned to walk and it quickly became love at first fright.
Over the years I’ve managed to develop some awareness of when beginning a conversation with “So, who’s your favourite Doctor Who?” might not be appropriate, (answer: probably never), but yesterday it seemed that everyone wanted to talk about it. Certainly there were more important issues in the news, but the item which had me searching online during my morning commute into Wellington was the announcement of the twelfth Doctor Who: 55-year-old Scot Peter Capaldi.
My reaction and it seems that I’m not alone, is that it feels as if the universe has finally come back into kilter. Similarly-aged fan friends are happily posting that they are now younger than the actor playing the Doctor for the first time in eight years. And perhaps for the first time since Peter Davison took the title role in 1981, (hot property at the time for All Creatures Great and Small), everyone seems to know who the ‘new guy’ is. Many have seen his work (Local Hero, The Thick of It) and are excited about what he can bring to Doctor Who.
On the other hand, in the direct opposition to Davison’s casting (who at the time was the youngest Doctor ever); nay-sayers are now responding with: “But Capaldi’s too old!”
The programme is fifty this year, and has certainly been around longer than I have, but recently it has been making me feel like the old-timer. Young floppy-haired poster-boy Doctors, adored by their female companions and famous women throughout history, have taken the programme to new heights of popularity and broken into that elusive female viewership market at last. I’m delighted that there are now legions of teenage girls with Doctor Who posters on their walls; it was utterly unthinkable ‘in my day’. But to be honest, I find it a little difficult to relate to the modern series sometimes. My yearning for the days of a more patrician Doctor probably only makes me look outdated to contemporary fans. And that’s OK, I was happy to turn the programme over to them, it didn’t really feel like mine anymore. Screenings of Doctor Who episodes at the Embassy Theatre attended by young fans of both sexes dressed to the hilt as their favourite characters have taken place this year. I didn’t go - somehow I think I’d feel like the embarrassing dad at a teenage party who doesn’t have the sense to stay off the dance floor.
But the programme has always been about change, and suddenly its makers have made an incredibly brave, but to me eminently sensible decision – the Doctor will be outwardly a man of experience once again. I believe a versatile, seasoned actor can once again steer the programme in a new direction, but still take the younger audience it has worked so hard to capture along for the ride. A tall order perhaps, but with Capaldi, I’m confident the TARDIS will be in good hands.