Some thoughts on Peter Capaldi

I wrote on a forum a couple of weeks ago, when the first rumours about Peter Capaldi becoming the Doctor that “I’d love it to be Capaldi, but I don’t think we live in an awesome enough universe for that to happen.” Obviously, I was wrong and the universe remains an awesome and wonderful place where things like that can happen.

Obviously, I’m excited that he’s going to be playing the Doctor and not just because it means that the actor playing the Doctor is older than me again. I only discovered recently just how much of a fan of the series he is, beating even David Tennant for fannish credentials, but the reason his name got me excited was that he’s an incredibly talented actor. While he’s become famous as Malcolm Tucker, he has a huge range as an actor, and most of his roles have been a long way away from the rage and anger of Tucker. Indeed, having seen his interview on Sunday, and had a look back at some of his other roles, it’s clear how much of a performance Tucker is. Tucker’s voice is a deeper and more guttural than Capaldi’s own, and his physicality is completely different.

In combination with his comment on Sunday about not quite seeing the Twelfth Doctor in the mirror yet, I think it would be foolish to try and assume what sort of Doctor he will portray. The Doctor is a very interesting part for an actor, as a lot of different approaches to it have worked over the years. At one extreme, there’s the Tom Baker approach, where the character becomes a larger version of the actor, while at the other, there’s the style that Patrick Troughton pioneered of creating a distinct character and playing that role. I think the new series started with Eccleston taking the Troughton approach, but Tennant and Smith had moved it closer to the Baker style, but Capaldi’s comments make me think the pendulum will be swinging back.

The other thought that occurs to me is that by the time his first proper series as the Doctor starts (around Autumn next year, I believe, after the regeneration at the end of this year), the new series will have been around for almost nine and a half years. To put that into perspective, that’s the time in the original series between An Unearthly Child and The Green Death and longer than the gap between the TV movie and Rose. With a whole new take on the Doctor and a chance for everyone to recharge and think about how to take the series forward for the next fifty years, don’t be surprised if the whole series has a different feel when the Twelfth Doctor’s in the TARDIS.

On political stereotypes and Doctor Who

YouGov have done a survey asking people their opinions about Doctor Who and what characteristics they want to see in the next Doctor. As politics and Doctor Who are two of this blog’s continuing obsessions, I couldn’t resist writing about it – and this post becomes even more ‘my entire blogging history in one post’ if I tell you I’m doing it while I wait for the highlights of the Criterium du Dauphine cycling to come on TV.

(Insert your standard disclaimer here about polling not necessarily being accurate, margins of error, just a bit of fun etc)

It’s perhaps not surprising that Lib Dem voters are more likely to be Who fans than supporters of other parties (see Alex Wilcock’s ‘How Doctor Who Made Me A Liberal‘ or my take on it here) but it’s nice to see it statistically confirmed – 41% of Lib Dem supporters are interested in the series, compared to 34% of Labour, 29% of Tories and just 26% of UKIP supporters.

I’m actually surprised to see David Tennant topping the ‘favourite Doctor’ part of the survey by quite a convincing margin – 43% to Tom Baker’s 16% and Matt Smith’s 14%. He won a similar DWM poll while he was the Doctor, but he’s now three years out of the role, which does indicate that he may well have replaced Tom Baker as the public’s image of the Doctor. (He is one of my favourites, but if I’d have been polled, I’d have doubled Patrick Troughton’s support amongst Lib Dems.) However, fun confirmation of stereotypes comes with Jon Pertwee getting his highest ratings from UKIP and Tory voters, but absolutely no support from Lib Dems. It’s possibly because he’s the most ‘establishment’ of all the Doctors – no other Doctor spent so much time hanging around the military – though one could also argue that the Pertwee era was full of images of a proudly independent Britain with its own space programme and big energy projects. As soon as he went, Tom Baker’s first story saw international sovereignty being pooled to protect nuclear codes in ‘Robot’ and the English countryside, if it was real at all, was depicted as being full of androids.

There’s also interest in the questions about what characteristics the new Doctor should have. Even without the breakdown by party, I’m surprised to see that the population of Britain are relatively open to the idea of a different Doctor. The only characteristics that get bare majority support are British (54%) and male (52%) – and male only gets about 40% support from Labour and Lib Dem voters. That gives me hope that when – and I believe it is a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’, even if it’s not this time – we get a female Doctor, the general populace will be much more inclined to accept it and see how it goes than certain Who fans believe they will be.

Other figures almost look as though they were created by the stereotype-o-matic such as 50% of UKIP voters thinking it’s important the Doctor is white, compared to 5% of Lib Dems, though I’m confused by a couple of spikes (which might just be statistical noise because of small sample size) – Tories are more likely to want the Doctor to be attractive, while Labour voters are more likely to want the actor to already be a household name.

My general position is that I want the next Doctor to be played by someone interesting – I’ve not been the biggest fan of the last three years of the series, but I think Matt Smith’s done a good job with some weak material and has been very good when he gets a good script – and most of the actors who I’ve thought could be interesting Doctors have been different from the norm. (That said, I do edge towards the ‘I’d like a woman Doctor, but not one written by Steven Moffat‘ position) If it was up to me, I’d be trying to persuade one of Adrian Lester, Maxine Peake, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Naomie Harris or Ben Whishaw to take the role – but it’s not up to me, so I just get to wait, watch and see what comes next. Hopefully, I’ll still be around for the 100th anniversary, when all this speculation will seem as quaint and irrelevant as ‘can you really get another completely different actor to play the Doctor?’ was in 1966.