Doctor Who: What celebrities, kids and critics think of Peter Capaldi

Al Murray, Keeley Hawes, Brian Cox, Tom Baker and more react to the latest incarnation of the Doctor

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Peter Capaldi’s almost reached the end of his first series as the Doctor  but how’s he doing? We asked a cross-section of celebrities, critics and the real experts – kids.

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Famous Fans

Al Murray

I’ve always been a fan of the show and a fan of Peter Capaldi since before The Thick Of It. I knew he’d be great, but there’s always a risk when you bring someone with baggage to the show. He’s aced it, though. I’m showing my vintage but he reminds me of Tom Baker’s Doctor – alien, laughs in the wrong places and doesn’t really understand humanity. I love those scenes where he’s alone in the Tardis and restless.

Comedians feel that on tour when you’ve checked in but have hours to kill before the gig. My 11-year-old, however, begs to differ. Matt Smith is her Doctor. It’s funny – she’ll be on the edge of the sofa, gripped, then at the end say, “Nah, I don’t like him.” I worry it’s going to be me on my own in front of Doctor Who again soon. 

Professor Brian Cox

He’s complex, menacing and vulnerable. Exactly what the Doctor should be.

Ed Byrne

It’s nice to have a Doctor who’s older than me again. As a kid the Doctors were all avuncular figures – wise old men. Even Peter Davison was a grown-up for me. 

So when they brought it back and I was older; I wasn’t sure about Christopher Eccleston. The stories were weak. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor comes just as the love for the show seems to be peaking within the BBC. The scripts are great, the production values have been stepped up and it feels less like a children’s show.

Indeed, that killer robot roaming the school corridors blowing everything up [in The Caretaker episode] – is that not perhaps a bit much for a kids’ show?

Tom Baker

He’s a wonderful choice to play the Doctor. Instantly one felt: this fellow comes from far far away, he’s strange. An instant frisson. And what’s the word? Yes, got it! Alien, he’s an alien. I salute him.

Marc Almond

Peter Capaldi brings back a touch of darkness and ageless mystery to the Doctor that I feel had been missing, as well as a dash of menace and mischief. He has some of the abrasiveness of William Hartnell, the stylishness of Jon Pertwee and the eccentricity of Tom Baker – all my favourite Doctors.

Keeley Hawes

There’s probably no harder job for an actor than to fill the Doctor’s shoes. So much is invested by so many people. At the same time the show needs shaking up to keep viewers engaged. I’ve been impressed by the way this series has unfolded – although my episode was the best, of course.

It’s been a lot darker and the later time slot has reflected this – though there are still plenty of episodes for my eight-year-old to watch. Doctor Who isn’t only a kids’ show and Peter is definitely not a Doctor just for kids. I like the subtle references to Peter’s previous roles (“Shut up, shut up” for Malcolm Tucker). 

I worked with Peter years ago in a Channel 5 one-off called Hotel – him and Paul McGann, so two Doctors at once. It was very silly, and he was very sweet, so this feels a little more like the Peter I worked with than Malcolm Tucker. 

The Critics

Alison Graham – Radio Times

Peter Capaldi is the Victor Meldrew Doctor Who; he’s abrasive, acerbic and has no truck with modern life. Honestly, having to tell a schoolgirl she’s “special” or she’ll sulk. He was rightly furious. When I interviewed Capaldi just weeks before his first episode, he told me he was “a more grown-up Doctor” albeit one who is still “mirthful. He’s serious when he needs to be, but he’s still quite comic.”

Capaldi has delivered brilliantly. His irascible Doctor is as far from cuddly and puppyish Matt Smith and David Tennant as it’s possible to be. He can be deeply unkind and dismissive, a man who is always exploring the boundaries of his restless, prodigious intellect.

But Capaldi’s Who is majestically funny too, particularly in his relationship with Clara. “Sorry, I stopped listening a while ago,” he tells her as she witters on. In his curmudgeonly way, he’s lovable.

Neela Debnath – The Independent

There is none of the flirty silliness – Capaldi is as abrasive as walking through Glasgow on a midwinter’s night.

Christoper Stevens – Daily Mail

The first four Time Lords were father figures – brilliant, eccentric, the template of a perfect dad. Capaldi’s version pays homage to that. But they didn’t throw a mid-life crisis and attempt to snog their companions. His Doctor is wooing Clara with his time machine, like a grey-haired businessman in a sports car trying to impress his secretary. It’s horrible, and it has to stop. 

AA Gill – The Sunday Times

Peter Capaldi stumbled and gurned, then mimed and posed and postured and gasped and pranced and lolled and gaped and sighed and shrugged his way into the role. He looked like nothing so much as Malvolio doing his impression of Falstaff, who’d been cutting chillies and had a pee without washing his hands first.

It wasn’t an audition for a new part, rather a postmortem for a venerable career. (AA Gill’s critique was published after Capaldi’s first episode.)

Patrick Mulkern – Radio Times

Usually when Doctor Who gets a reboot, it’s from the top down. What’s remarkable this year is that, although Steven Moffat remains in charge, he’s taken the Time Lord in a refreshingly new direction. The tone is largely shadier, creepier, helping Moffat secure the autumnal, after-dark timeslot I believe he’s always wanted.

The Doctor as Time Totty is thankfully no more. In Peter Capaldi, we have a far more astringent character, a return to the lofty but benevolent alien that enchanted my family in the 1960s and 70s. I’ve described him as the Scotch-on-the-rocks Doctor – distilled, chilly, stinging on the palate but warming on the way down.

So far he’s only shown flashes of vulnerability and empathy; a touch more would be welcome. But Peter Capaldi simply is the Doctor for me now. The most persuasive since Tom Baker. 

The Kids

Tessa Johnson age 11

When I first saw him at the end of the regeneration I actually cried a little bit. I was expecting someone younger. I was worried over the summer I wouldn’t like Doctor Who any more. In the first episode I still wasn’t sure. But now I like him – he adds something stronger. Matt Smith’s Doctor was a bit wimpy. They’ve introduced really scary monsters.

Mummy on the Orient Express was my favourite episode but also the one that scared me the most. It was like a horror film with people vanishing one at a time. I also like the themes about soldiers and the weird “heaven” clips that you get in almost every episode – although I’m slightly worried that he’s not happy with Clara any more. 

Rosie Bryson age 13

His age was a bit of a problem at the beginning, although he doesn’t really play the role as an old man, more a young man with gravitas. He should be a little nicer – he doesn’t seem to care about people, so you wonder why he’s working so hard to save everyone. It’s not like he’s being paid.

Sometimes they make the endings a little too cheesy to make up for it, although I do really like the start and middle of most of them. Apart from the terrible Caretaker episode with this stupid robot that looked like a broken toy. It wasn’t a bad idea, but they did it so badly. Then again, that’s not Peter Capaldi’s fault.

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The two-part Doctor Who fianle begins on BBC1 on Saturday 1st November at 8:15pm