Doctor Who: Why Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor might be a lot like Malcolm Tucker after all

It's idiotic to suggest the actor will simply transplant his Thick of It character to the Tardis - but Malcolm Tucker and Capaldi's new Time Lord could still have a lot in common, says Tristram Fane Saunders

“OMG Malcolm Tucker as #DoctorWho? Swearing in the Tardis?! LOL!” No. This has been said to death, but firstly Doctor Who doesn’t swear, and Peter Capaldi, as an actor, can play more than one role. But we shouldn’t dismiss the internet hubbub entirely. The Twitterers could be closer to the mark than they realise.


The Doctor may not have Tucker’s vocabulary, but he is likely to have his accent. For whatever reason, some fans seem to object to this. Christopher Eccleston kept his mellow Northern tones, but judging by the forums some people think Scotland is slightly too far to stretch. Plenty of planets have a North, admittedly, but there’s only one Glasgow.

Given this, younger Whovians might expect the 12th Doctor to ‘do a Tennant’ and ditch the Celtic lilt for RP. Capaldi’s done it once before, when he appeared as Caecilius in The Fires of Pompeii. But this is forgetting a basic rule of TV: all Romans speak with a Southern English accent. It doesn’t matter if the actor is from Glasgow, Texas or (heavens forfend!) Rome. If he doesn’t rhyme “glass” with “parse”, he can’t be a centurion. Aliens, however, are another matter. As a proud Scot, Capaldi’s far more likely to follow Sylvester McCoy in keeping his accent (though this could mean an emergency regeneration after the referendum).

And what about his personality? If we were to take Capaldi’s time on The Thick of It as a source for inspiration, once we’d stripped away the profanity, what would a Tucker-flavoured Doctor be like? Not a Downing Street ‘enforcer,’ but perhaps a bit of an authoritarian. Quick to criticise authority, too, having little patience for self-inflated bureaucrats, narrow-minded ministers or red tape in general. Probably hangs around with journalists and drives an expensive car.

But an actor doesn’t create a character by thinking ‘which of my old performances can I recycle?’ They do it by studying the role, and as a life-long Who fan Capaldi has plenty of raw material to work with. With 11 previous Doctors for inspiration, he has no reason to ape Malcolm Tucker. The real question is – which Doctor will influence him most?

When Peter Capaldi sauntered onstage for the big reveal, several eagle-eyed viewers noticed his cheeky lapel-pulling, and recognised it as a trademark mannerism of William Hartnell, the First Doctor. Hartnell’s not a bad starting point, but my bets are on Jon Pertwee. You see, Peter Capaldi was born in 1958. This means that when he sent his Doctor Who fan mail to Radio Times as a 15-year-old anarak, his Doctor was Pertwee, the Third Doctor. It was Pertwee who formed his idea of what the series should be.

Let’s see what that beacon of knowledge and wisdom, Wikipedia, has to tell us about the Third Doctor: “Authoritarian, [but] just as quick to criticise authority, too, having little patience with self-inflated bureaucrats, parochially narrow ministers or red tape in general.” He “grudgingly” dealt with different governments while working as an “enforcer” for the Time Lords, and hung around with Sarah-Jane Smith, who was, um, a journalist. Oh, and he drove an expensive car (a canary-yellow Edwardian roadster named Bessie).

So maybe the idiots are right, but they’ve got the whole thing back-to-front: Doctor Who might resemble Malcolm Tucker, but Malcolm Tucker has always been a bit like Doctor Who.