Peter Capaldi does not take his role as the 12th Doctor lightly. That is a fact that has been established in various interviews leading up to the premiere of his Doctor Who debut Deep Breath this Saturday. His love of the show has shone through in anecdotes about the fervent letter he sent to Radio Times aged 15, his first Tardis being his bedroom wardrobe and how “nerve-wrecking” it was for him to step into the real thing.
However, nothing quite compares to Capaldi’s revelation in the new issue of Doctor Who Magazine that in the binder where he keeps his series eight scripts are various photos from classic Doctor Who – photos, he says, that connect him with his childhood and remind him of the responsibility that the role brings.
“It’s kind of like a school thing, really,” he explains. “I was looking for some stuff to decorate it. There’s a certain childlike thing… You surround yourself with images, and try to conjure a creative environment, even within the little plastic folder that I’ve bought from the stationary shop, that’s going to constantly remind you of things, put ideas in your head.”
The photos that Capaldi refers to vary in Doctor and theme. One picture, for example, is of an out-of-costume Jon Pertwee and Liz Shaw actress Caroline John rehearsing a scene from 1970 serial Inferno.
“He looks very dashing,” he says, “and I like that, because I don’t imagine any of the Doctors in their own clothes. It’s unusual to see him like that on the Tardis set, and a reminder of how elegant he was in real life.”
Other pictures include one of Pertwee and the Master, Roger Delgado, striking a pose on the set of 1971’s The Claws of Axos, two of mid-’70s Tom Baker being mobbed by young fans and larking about with nurses during a visit to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children, and one of first Doctor William Hartnell, in full costume, signing a girl’s plaster cast during a visit to a children’s ward in the ’60s. Capaldi says that the latter not only goes against the actor’s grumpy reputation, but shows how important Doctor Who is to children.
“It’s a reminder that whatever people might think about William Hartnell, this was somebody who was going out to children’s hospitals on his days off, making sick kids feel a little bit better. It reminded me of that element of the show, that connection that kids and young people make to it.”
Given that one of the fears following Capaldi’s casting was that he was perhaps too old to appeal to children, the new Doctor seems to have a remarkable grasp on how strongly the show is connected to younger years, saying that the photos were, “fun little signals of the show’s past, for me, and a connection with childhood, I guess. I realise now… it’s an underlining of where Doctor Who was born for me. It was my childhood.”
Read the full interview in the new issue of Doctor Who Magazine, on sale tomorrow (21st August).