Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Who is going “back to classic Who” says director Ben Wheatley

The Kill List director also says that Capaldi reminds him of classic-era Doctors such as Tom Baker, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee

Along with the casting of an older Doctor in the form of Peter Capaldi, Doctor Who series eight will apparently also go back to its classic roots in terms of tone, according to director Ben Wheatley. 


Wheatley, who directs opener Deep Breath along with an as-yet unnamed second episode, has been sharing his thoughts on how the show will change from the era of eleventh Doctor Matt Smith. 

“For me, they’re back to classic Who,” he said, “or the mid-Tennant adventures, where you’d tell a story and move on to the next one, less tied up in the final machinations of long plot arcs.”

Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor was defined by a huge overarching story over three series – later revealed to entirely revolve around the planet of Trenzalore and the return of the Time Lords. Reactions to the plot were mixed, with some fans feeling that it was oddly paced and convoluted. Classic Doctor Who and, to some extent, Russell T Davies’ Doctor Who, however, were more concerned with stand-alone stories, with the latter tending to restrict his overarching themes to subtle references to something which would later become clear in a series finale. 

As well as talking about the tone of the new series, Wheatley also revealed that he was excited about Capaldi taking the lead, comparing him to classic-era Doctors. 

“Capaldi’s his own man but there are elements of [Tom] Baker and [Patrick] Troughton and [Jon] Pertwee,” he told Empire. “He’s inherently funny but inherently brooding and complicated, as a performer and a man.”

As well as Doctor Who, Wheatley is also the director of dark, blackly comic films Kill List, Sightseers and A Field in England. He is currently directing an adaptation of JG Ballard’s High Rise, which will star Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons and Sienna Miller. 

Speaking of getting the chance to direct Doctor Who, he said earlier this year that he was, “achieving his childhood dreams.” 

“It’s very good,” he said of shooting the new episodes in Wales. “It’s very tiring and it’s a lot of stuff to do very quickly. Peter Capaldi is excellent and I’ve been able to go into the Tardis and do all this stuff I always dreamt of doing as a 9-year-old.”

Ben Wheatley is one of the first high-profile film director to helm an episode of Doctor Who – with Tank Girl director Rachel Talalay also working on a series eight episode – but may not be the last. Earlier this month, showrunner Steven Moffat said that talks for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson to direct an episode were still ongoing and, “actually kind of serious.”

“He’s still incredibly busy on The Hobbit,” said Moffat. “I’ve spoken to him face to face, and he would like to do one. He accepts that there’s no money and that there’s no time, and it would have to be when he’s available – and I don’t think he’s even been available enough to answer our emails of late! I think it will probably happen at some point.”


Doctor Who returns with series eight opener Deep Breath on Saturday 23rd August on BBC1.