New Doctor Who: It's Peter Capaldi
DOCTOR Who has a new star.
The 12th Time Lord will be the star of The Thick of It Peter Capaldi.
He takes over from Matt Smith in the role and was the bookies favourite for the famed role.
Bookmakers suspended betting on Peter Capaldi taking the role, after his odds tumbled to 5/6 favourite with William Hill when they stopped taking bets on Friday.
The Scottish actor, famous for his role as foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker in the political comedy, is a lifelong fan of the show and wrote a letter to the Radio Times about the Daleks when he was a teenager.
He told a live BBC show at 7pm that he received the phone call while on location abroad, and the caller said 'Hello Doctor'.
He added that he thought the new doctor wouldn't put up with Malcolm Tucker's foul language.
Matt Smith said: "I just want to wish mny successor the very best. I know he is both a huge fan of the show and really nice guy and it's made me really excited.
"As a fan I think it's a canny choice. Good luck man."
As the new man in the TARDIS is revealed, Paul Kirkley, author of a new comic history of the classic sci-fi series, explains what it takes to be a first-class Time Lord – and why he thinks Peter Capaldi has got it in spades.
Tom Baker often insists that Doctor Who is “not really acting part”. But then Tom Baker – contender for Greatest Living Englishman though he is – is renowned for talking nonsense. Entertaining, whimsical nonsense, for sure – but usually worth taking with enough salt to grit a motorway.
Because not only IS Doctor Who an acting part, it’s a pretty tough acting part. Not Hamlet or Lear tough, obviously - but definitely not for the faint-hearted.
To play the Doctor, you have to be many things: commanding, playful, clever, silly, naïve, heroic, selfish, calculating, old, young, romantic, sexy, geeky, reckless… You must have the gravitas and authority to walk into the middle of a war zone and command instant respect... probably before tripping over and breaking something on the way out; you need the sort of easy grace that can charm the birds from the trees, while also being bumbling and awkward and a little bit daft. (“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Sarah Jane once asked the Third Doctor. “About what I do? Yes,” he replied. “Not necessarily the way I do it.” This, along with his successor’s assertion that “There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes,” pretty much sums up the character's M.O.)
Matt Smith, the outgoing Time Lord, embodies all these qualities perhaps more effortlessly than any of his predecessors, turning on a sixpence from the powerful demi-God the Daleks call The Oncoming Storm to a flailing fool barely in control of his own limbs.
He's the smartest guy in the room, and an endearingly clueless naïf – especially where matters of the heart are concerned. (Witness the Doctor’s hilarious attempt to play matchmaker between Amy and Rory: “She said she would like to go out with you for… texting and… scones.”)
Smith’s Doctor is both action hero and bookish nerd – Indiana Jones meets Mr Bean. Which is exactly what the Doctor should be. It’s no surprise at all that he became the first Time Lord to be nominated for a Bafta in the role.
What Tom Baker meant, of course, is that the Doctor doesn’t really change or evolve or, in the modern idiom, go on a “journey”. But even that is an out-of-date observation: showrunners Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat have made a point of giving the revived show more emotional intelligence, and the Doctor hasn’t been immune from that heartache and pain. This is a man who’s loved and lost so many times, his only response is to keep moving, keep exploring, keep pushing relentlessly on so he doesn't have to think about where the bodies are buried. Try playing that while being menaced by a jelly monster, and then tell me it’s not really an acting part. Or just take a look at this:
Are you really going to tell me that’s not acting?
But while Doctor Who will stretch you as an actor, acting is only the half of it. As a rule of thumb, the best Doctors have tended to be those with naturally eccentric bones. Tom Baker is the most obvious example: he once said he couldn’t walk through a door convincingly, but he could walk through a door entertainingly. And that’s what made him a hero to an entire generation. My generation. Even now, I can’t hear that velvet-dipped-in-chocolate voice without being transported back to those 1970s winter nights when the Doctor and Sarah saved the universe every Saturday teatime. (I’m not sure how well he’d have coped with the more touch-feely aspects of today’s show, though: Baker seems much more comfortable disarming his adversaries with a cheeky grin and a bag of jelly babies than turning on the waterworks.)
Matt Smith excels at being dynamic yet clumsy, sexy yet strange, young yet old because there’s an extent to which Matt Smith is all those things himself. Similarly, David Tennant’s Doctor was a fast-talking, restless lightning rod of barely controlled energy because that’s what David Tennant is like. Though Sylvester McCoy, whose pre-Who CV included putting six-inch nails down his trousers and banging ferrets up his nose – or it may have been the other way round – was probably taking the eccentric casting thing a bit too far.
By contrast, Jon Pertwee was a comedian famous for his pratfalls and silly voices, who used Doctor Who as an opportunity to play against type. The result was a rather stiff, patrician authority figure which, while wildly popular during his five-year reign, just doesn’t feel like the Doctor to me. Christopher Eccleston, meanwhile, did a great job in re-establishing the Doctor as a Proper Part for Proper Actors, but seemed visibly uncomfortable during some of the lighter, more whimsical moments – as if he couldn’t quite shake off the worry of what they might make of all this poncing about back in Salford.
Because that’s the thing about playing eccentric – you’ve got to lose your inhibitions and really commit to it (while at the same time ensuring you don’t pitch your performance so high it’s got snow on it) otherwise the audience won't buy it any more than you do.
And the new guy? I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Peter Capaldi will make a first-class Time Lord. He has a terrifically memorable face, for one thing – not unlike Tom Baker in many ways, with those slightly wild, bulging eyes – and the thought of him turning those Malcolm Tucker-style foam-flecked tirades against the Daleks and the Cybermen is an appealing prospect (though he’ll have to go a lot easier on the effin’ and jeffin’, obviously).
And Capaldi’s acting chops are not in doubt – heck, he even managed to make Torchwood watchable when he took a leading role in 2009 mini-series Children of Earth, and that’s really saying something. He’s been in Doctor Who as well, of course, playing a hen-pecked Roman in 2008’s The Fires of Pompeii.
But there's precedent for that: Colin Baker shot Peter Davison in the chest a year before taking over from him. (Surely it would have been a lot less dramatic just to drop off his CV at the office?)
Like David Tennant, he's also a lifelong fan – the Radio Times has even produced evidence of a letter the 15-year-old Capaldi wrote to the magazine in 1974, commending them on their Doctor Who Tenth Anniversary Special.
That’s no qualification in itself, of course, but an understanding of what makes the Doctor tick has got to give any actor a head start and, again, loving the character will surely help him commit to it without hesitation or embarrassment.
My only concern is what The Kids will think. They're used to their Doctors being young and sexy and dynamic (heck, even girls watch it these days). What will they make of this craggy, pop-eyed 55-year-old? It might seem as baffling to them as casting Nicholas Lyndhurst as Harry Potter. (That’s a hypothetical example, by the way. You haven’t missed another important announcement.)
How will Capaldi’s interesting, somewhat lived-in face look on cakes and badges and birthday cakes? Then again, you could have asked the same question about Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, and they didn't look too weird – even on a pair of underpants, like this.
(Yes, I did have a pair of these as a kid. No, I don’t still wear them.)
Here then, is a glimpse of the future for Peter Capaldi. After years of being the darling of politicos and BBC Four viewers, he’s about to find himself in a whole new dimension, staring out from duvets and pencil cases and t-shirts and bubble bath and lunchboxes (in both senses of the word). And as long as The Kids are happy to keep pestering their parents for all these things, then I am convinced the future of my hero is in safe hands.
:: Paul Kirkley's book, Space Helmet for a Cow: An Unlikely History of 50 Years of Doctor Who, is published later this year by Mad Norwegian Press.
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