By Mark Potter.
Peter was unveiled as the twelfth Doctor in a specially broadcast live show on BBC1. The programme itself may have been cringe worthy in its presentation but the moment Peter walked out on stage his fan credentials were clear as he thumbed his lapel imitating the gesture made famous by William Hartnell fifty years ago. It was also revealed that he had written a letter to the Radio Times aged fifteen, congratulating the BBC for producing an issue of said publication that celebrated the series tenth anniversary. In the days that followed further instances of Capaldi’s fandom would emerge across the internet including a sketch he drew of Tom Baker for the charity event National Doodle Day in 2010, a typed fanzine page where the teenage Capaldi would wax lyrical about the series title sequence and the technical process involved in creating it alongside glowing praise for sequence designer Bernard Lodge. The last time a huge fan was cast as the Doctor we ended up with David Tennant’s fantastic portrayal and he didn’t do too badly did he?
2. He has appeared in Doctor Who before
Peter made his Doctor Who debut in the 2008 episode The Fires of Pompeii playing marble merchant Caecilius. In a wonderfully subtle performance he shows us a man wanting nothing but the best for his family while he tries to advance his reputation among Roman society. By turns touching and funny Peter grounds his character and gives us a glimpse of how important family is to the common man. The scene towards the end where the Doctor saves Caecilius and his family from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius is a wonderful moment bringing hope amongst tragedy.
One year later Peter would be back on our screens in the Doctor Who spin off series TORCHWOOD: Children of Earth playing Home Office Permanent Secretary John Frobisher. Capaldi could have understandably balked at the idea of playing another political figure as he was riding high with his acclaimed turn as Director of Government Communications Malcolm Tucker in BBC comedy The Thick of It (and its movie spin off In the Loop). However the character he plays here is a million miles away from the foul mouthed Tucker. Frobisher is by turns confident (his reputation as a ladies man) and weasely (check out the way he sucks up to the Prime Minister) and cold blooded (he hands out the order to execute the TORCHWOOD team). Capaldi imbues him with all manner of twitchy mannerisms such as sniffing at his hanky in an involuntary way. As the series progresses and events spiral out of control Frobisher discovers his children are to be sacrificed to the alien threat and in perhaps the most powerful moment in a series packed with scenes that don’t so much pull on the heart strings as wrench them from the viewers’ collective chest he takes his families and then his own life. Proof if it were needed that Capaldi could take the expectations of a character and turn them on their head.
As mentioned above Capaldi is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Malcolm Tucker in the BBC comedy The Thick of It which ran from 2005 to 2012. While he had a solid reputation before, this part would make him a bona fide star and bring kudos from the press and glowing endorsement from real politicians who would praise the series and its stars for the realistic way it presented life in modern Government. Throughout the series Tucker is mainly on the offensive and spends much of his screen time vocally tearing apart various ministers and staff. In the slightly disappointing film spin off In the Loop (in which all the other regular cast appear inexplicably playing different characters which is really jarring to fans of the series) he gets to show a different side to Malcolm after being humiliated by a U.S. official he comes close to tears before snapping back into his familiar anger mode and wreaking revenge ensuring that as always Tucker comes out on top. Capaldi’s acting here is subtle without the need for over the top displays of emotion and he proves how he can take an established character and show a whole new side to them.
4. He’s an Academy Award winner
Think about this, in all future blurb written for Doctor Who it can be billed as starring Oscar winner Peter Capaldi. This adds artistic kudos and can only enhance the popularity of the series. Capaldi won his award in 1995 for a short comic film he wrote and directed, Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, about the famous writer. The film also won a BAFTA award. They are going to run out of space on the back cover of any future DVD and Blu ray box sets with all these awards to list!
5. His age
At the time of casting Peter is 55 years old, the exact same age as William Hartnell was when he took the role back in 1963. This has more to it than a pleasing sense of symmetry though. After two younger incarnations the time is absolutely right to present the Doctor as an older and hopefully more serious man. Many fans thought (myself included) that whoever succeeded David Tennant should have been older but of course we all ate a slice of humble pie when we saw how perfect Matt Smith was. A lot of actors have been fairly vocal in the press in recent years about older actors being overlooked for leading roles so respect to Steven Moffat for not only bucking a trend but casting someone who is so obviously right for the role and refusing to pander to demographics.
So roll on Christmas day when we will bid a fond farewell to Matt Smith and catch our first tantalising glimpse of Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor.
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