Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi has said that the “sexist” TV industry needs a wake-up call.

The actor, who has always been opposed to the idea of the Time Lord having a romance with his young female companion Clara (played by Jenna Coleman), has said that some attitudes to his on-screen relationship with the character reflects a deeper malaise about society and the media’s treatment of young woman.

“It’s ridiculous that we get these old guys with young women draped round them,” he told the Evening Standard.

“When I started Doctor Who and we were doing photoshoots we’d be asked if Jenna could just lie down there while I, you know,” he says mimicking what the newspaper described as a scene of a "young woman sprawled coquettishly about while he gets to stand and look powerful over her".

Capaldi added: “I had to say, ‘Look, that’s just not what we’re about. The relationship between my Doctor and his companion is one of deep love. But it’s a strange sort of platonic bond. It becomes clearer and more moving as this particular series goes on.

“Of course it’s sexist. Most of my peers have partners their age, so if we have a dinner party with a bunch of actors, the wives or partners are largely the same age. Then you see your friends on screen and they are suddenly with some extraordinary young lady who wouldn’t be at the dinner party. It’s ridiculous.

“It is true that women reach a certain age when people decide that they’re not useful anymore as actors. There are a few significant theatrical roles that they might be viable for. That’s not fair, it’s not right, it’s not a proper reflection of what goes on in life.”

Capaldi adds that he is not opposed to the idea of a male replacement for Coleman when she bows out at the end of this year — and he doesn’t rule out a female Doctor with a male companion in the future but says that “it depends on who plays them”.