Peter Capaldi – who is the new Doctor?

A career retrospective, and potted bio, of the man who will replace Matt Smith in Doctor Who

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Who is the new Doctor?  

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“His name briefly flickered in my mind the last time,” Steven Moffat told the live Doctor Who reveal show on BBC1. 

But Peter Capaldi wasn’t right then. He is now.

And how would Moffat describe him, in three words? “Different. From. Matt.”

Different, certainly, in that no-one saw Matt Smith coming, but Capaldi’s appointment was said to be a near certainty in the hours leading up to the live reveal. Different, too, in that Capaldi is 55 – just two months younger than the first and oldest Doctor, WIlliam Hartnell, when the first ever episode aired – while Smith was just 26 when he took on the role. 

And Doctor Who fans have already seen Capaldi in Doctor Who, playing Roman merchant Caecillius in the 2008 episode The Fires of Pompeii, as well as in a role in spin-off Torchwood, and know he is a huge Doctor Who aficianado himself.

Born in Glasgow, to Scottish-Italian parents who ran an ice-cream business, Peter Capaldi is probably best known as potty-mouthed Government spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in BBC satire The Thick of It, and the film In the Loop, a role which has already earned him the moniker ‘Doctor Blue’ from the Daily Mail, just minutes after the announcement.

Last year, Capaldi played Randall Brown, the new Head of News, in BBC2 period drama The Hour. The BBC accurately described his character as “witty, forward-thinking maverick” with an “eccentric and perplexing management style.”

And he was seen recently as the grieving father in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, the recreation of Kate Summerscale’s account of a real life Victorian child murder.

But his career has been long and nothing if not eclectic.

In fact, Capaldi has been in the business for 30 years and has already won an Oscar – just not for acting.

He came to public attention in the film Local Hero in 1983 after being spotted by director Bill Forsyth (rumour has it in a bar, holding forth). He then moved to London to work as a jobbing actor and appeared in Stephen Frears’ Dangerous Liaisons.

Alongside acting, Capaldi has been an occasional director and film-maker, most notably with his 1995 Oscar-winning short Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, which took Best Short Film. (As a result of this, his script Moon Man was bought by Miramax but never got made).

In 2001, his next film, Strictly Sinatra, did not do as well as hoped and he returned to acting with roles in Fortysomething, Judge John Deed and Foyles War, before finding fame as Malcolm Tucker in Armando Iannucci’s political satire The Thick of It (just as he was thinking of giving up acting again).  

Capaldi also directed the dark Jo Brand Comedy Getting On and is serious about film history, a love which went into the BBC4 spoof film programme Cricklewood Greats, which he co-wrote, directed and presented. (Its analysis of the history of the “Great Cricklewood Studios” was a joy).

Other TV acting credits include Judge John Deed, Passer By, Sea of Souls, Hotel, Peep Show, Lost For Words, Foyle’s War, The Vicar of Dibley, Unconditional Love, Solid Geometry and Tom Jones. He has appeared in films including Wild Country, The Best Man, Shooting Fish, Bean, Modiglani and Niceland.

For all the latest Doctor Who news and views visit Doctor Who Times

 


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