Yes, it’s Peter Capaldi!

TV Yes, it’s Peter Capaldi!

As we reached this day of reckoning, his name and one Daniel Rigby were the front runners, and after spent most of the afternoon twitter stalking people who were attending the younger actor’s Edinburgh Fringe show asking them to confirm if he’d turned up for work, one of them did, which arguably put Rigby out of the running. So logically it was always going to be Peter Capaldi by default. But because he is, let’s face it, Peter Capaldi, the whole thing seemed entirely unlikely. He just seemed, well, too famous for the role. I mean look at his IMDb.

Except in the run up, I did find myself being convinced nonetheless. Having realised that it wouldn’t be Romola Garai or anyone else with a double x chromosome this time, I’d pretty much decided that Capaldi is about the only choice I would have been happy with. Because he’s Peter Capaldi, because he has an acting history, whose already had what you could describe as a career defining part in Malcolm Tucker, because he is the polar opposite of Matt Smith in terms of being a near household name on the reveal.

The actual process of the reveal was excruciating and not just because of having to wait twenty-five minutes from the beginning of the programme. The BBC live programme was godawful with its dayglow version of the Room 101 set from the Merton era and bizarre choices in celebrity presenter and guests. None of which, it should be said, is on Zoe Ball, who did her best with what must be the weirdest presenting job of her career other than the Big Brother night she was on stand-by in case Davina went into labour.

The BBC brought in the big guns. This was executive produced by Amanda Kean of Noel’s HQ, directed by Simon Staffurth whose career also includes Over The Rainbow, Popstar to Opera Star and most recently Les Dawson: An Audience with That Never Was and produced by Guy Freeman, who oversaw the tv presentation of the Diamond Jubilee concert and before that Johnny & Denise: Passport to Paradise, half a dozen Brit Awards, Noel’s House Party and Fist of Fun. Yet there was something curiously flat about the thing.  Please, BBC, next time, a Tennant-style midnight press release?

Inviting celebrity fans on isn’t that poor an idea, but they didn’t really add anything bless them, all slightly surprised to be there, especially Rufus Hound, who without his beard now looks ironically more like Daniel Rigby. They all seemed terribly nervous, as though they knew that they were being shouted at across the country through the vibrations of the air and on social media by a collective audience screaming “JUST TELL US!” But then, the decision to invite an audience of fans meant they were getting daggers in real time too which can’t have helped.

A better idea, perhaps, would have been for more people who’d actually been in the programme. Both Peter Davison and Bernard Cribbins were good value, especially the former when he was asked if Doctor Who was the best part on television, a question he studiously failed to answer, and Bernard who managed to sneak Barry Letts’s name into the proceedings during his anecdote about auditioning for the role himself during the Tom Baker casting. Cribbins does, of course, remain one of the best Doctors we never had.

Arguably the best bits were the pre-recorded segments which, despite the rapid editing brought to mind Confidential and at its best (the last reveal programme) when interviewing Matt Smith about his time on the show and Moffat about the casting process, the sort of thing which has been much missed since the behind the scenes element of the show has largely had a curtain drawn in front of it. A few surprises in there, notably Bonnie Langford who I don’t remember talking about the role on screen like this before and Shappi Korsandi sitting in front of the McGann photo. What a combination…

But it was also these pre-recorded elements which eventually tipped me off that it must be Capaldi, especially when Steven said that they hadn’t done much of an audition process, no three weeks in a Travel Lodge somewhere watching people who weren’t going to get the job because they’d already chosen Matt. All had the same idea, invited him round, sounded him out? So he had to be relatively famous, he had to be a Peter Capaldi. That coupled with Radio Times (who’d named him on the 30th July anyway) saying that it was a recognisable actor ten minutes before broadcast…

Nevertheless, when Zoe said the name and Peter sheepishly walked on set waving with both hands (very Wilf), I screaming, I roared, I applauded and shouted, “It’s Peter Capaldi! It’s fucking Peter Capaldi!” It was still a surprise in the same way that we all knew full well, thanks to the spoilers that Professor Yana was going to be the Master but still couldn’t quite believe it when it happened. Earlier in the day, I said that they wouldn’t have done their job properly if they didn’t provoke reaction like this video. Well, yes, indeed, yes they did.

All of which posturing, cunningly mimicking the process of the actual programme in putting off the inevitable, what do I really think? I couldn’t be happier. Honestly, it’s an amazing choice. Thrilling. He is different to Matt, and not just because of his age, though he is fifty-five the same age as William Hartnell when he took on the role. He’s, well, more distinguished in a way, though not the point that he’s not capable of being a funny lunatic when required, he’s probably capable of playing the role in a similar way to all of the previous Doctors and I'm younger than the Doctor again.

Plus the relationship with Clara will be different, won’t it? Whereas, for all his age, the relationship between 11th and Clara has been nothing if not flirty, now all of that will probably be dialled down and for all dear Terry Dicks says about it just being the actor who changes the character, not the script, you just can’t imagine Capaldi doing the infamous “skirt too tight” script. Well, no I mean you can, but it would be even creepier. I do think they’ll still be all hugs, but he’s a father figure, we’re looking at a 3rd Doctor and Jo dynamic rather than 4th and Romana II, I suppose.

Will he still do as much running? He did a fair bit of corridor acting in the Thick of It, so he clearly keeps himself fit, so he’s not going to be a “grandfather” figure. But it;s possible that it will mean an even more “active” role for Clara and depending on when Matt decided to leave that could account for the “moments of charm” (notably at the back of the TARDIS in The Rings of Arcofinfinity) and other Doctorish behaviour in the last eight episodes in which she could just as well have been reading Matt’s script (in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS).

How will he actually play it though? God knows. Matt’s personality in his initial interview suggested some things which did indeed come to fruition. It’s bound to be a soberer portrayal, though with flashes of madness, so I do think it’s going to be more Tom than John, more Dave than Matt, more Pat than Bill. Looking physically older gains the character a certain authority in given situations especially with his height, he’s physically much more imposing. Depends how he’s dressed too. Choosing the right costume’s going to be interesting.

Assuming Moffat doesn’t do a completely clean break, how will he interact with River or Vastra, Jenny and Strax? Will it still fit, or be closer to Tom and the Brigadier and the rest of UNIT, bound together because of past glories but somehow still like oil and water. Having finally seen Terror of the Zygons recently, there’s something quite off about the whole thing, like the Doctor has “outgrown” them and he’s utilising their services for old time’s sake and to keep Sarah Jane happy not the other way around.

But you know what’s best about Peter Capaldi? He gets it.  At this point, the Radio Times letter not withstanding, we don’t know how much of a fan he is, whether he can reference the Monoids with quite the same glee as David Tennant, but, oh sod it, here’s a transcript of the statement he was coaxed into giving at the end:
"Well I think Doctor Who is an extraordinary show, and the thing that strikes me about it is that it's still here after all this time and the reason that I think it's still here is because of the work of the all the writers, and the directors and the producers who've worked on the show, the work of all the actors and I don't just mean the fabulous actors who've played the Doctor, but also those actors who've sweated inside rubber monster costumes and had to wear futuristic lurex cat suits, but the real reason, the big reason that Doctor Who is still with us is because of every single viewer, whoever turned on to watch this show, at any age, at any time in its history, and in their history and who took it into their heart because Doctor Who belongs to all of us. Everyone made Doctor Who."
Put that on an infographic and post it to Tumblr. Doesn’t that sound like someone who listens to Big Finish audios in the car and has a signed copy of Lungbarrow on the shelf? We’ll probably find out in the inevitable Doctor Who Magazine interview, but I’ll be amazed if he’s not listing Androzani as a favourite story and quoting from City of Death [Updated 5/8/2013: we have now, see below].

Before I take up much more of your time, I do have one other question. Who was involved in the casting? Moffat, yes. Andy Pryor, yes. But what about Mark Gatiss? For ages, I’ve been suggesting that he’ll be the one to take over when Moffat inevitably leaves in a year or two, and if that is the case, it seems unlikely, I think though I'm probably wrong, that he wouldn’t have some say in who’s going to take over the role that he might be writing and crafting for. I refer you to the infamous round table from Doctor Who Magazine issue 279, when Mark said:
“There is a genuine Doctorishness – perhaps it’s a gene – which some actors have and some don’t. I would like to think that a new production team could successfully argue the case for casting David Collings, Geoffrey Bayldon, John Castle and the like, rather than a Light Entertainment “name” which makes the fans wet themselves. Funnily enough, I think the recent Comic Relief saga proved the point well with the unlikely Hugh Grant – playing it dead straight – producing a genuine and actually rather moving Who moment, whereas Rowan and Richard E Grant just weren’t very good.”
Notice how he references firstly older men and next Hugh Grant, who was in his own way a rather British take on a Capaldi figure, albeit the younger version from Local Hero. Of course then Gatiss went on to say: “So … cast a woman, by all means. Why not? Bit make sure you err on the side of Stephanie Cole rather than Joanna Lumley.”  Which does give us hope that, assuming he does take over, the thirteenth Doctor may be woman. Romola.

Anyway, it’s getting late and I have to post this, but yes, wow, Peter Capaldi is the Doctor. Let’s hope they spell his name right on the cover of Doctor Who Magazine. It’s one P.

Oh god, I've been pronouncing his name wrong all the these years...

Updated 5/8/2013 Mark tweeted:

Is that someone who knew beforehand? Hmm...

Updated 5/8/2013 Paul Cornell, author of fanzine collection License Denied, the collection of fanzine articles, just tweeted this:

Now, that is archaeology. Capaldi knows who Bernard Lodge is. He really is one of us.

Updated 6/8/2013  Rufus Hound has a blog and on this blog, he's clearly mortified by his performance on the Capaldi reveal show and tangentially explains where his beards gone.  He's in a play.  "My problem is that I care about the show, and because I care, I went a bit weird. "  You're forgiven, not that you had much to forgive.  Faced with sitting next to Cribbins, in that studio, with that many cosplayers sitting opposite, anyone would most likely forget everything they've ever known about everything.

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