We all know pretty well by now that Peter Capaldi is a massive Doctor Who fan, with the current Time Lord known for his membership of fan clubs, love of obscure classic series trivia and habit of writing letters to Radio Times about the sci-fi series decades before he was ever cast in it.
So when one of his favourite foes from the 1960s, the original design for the cyborg Cybermen known as the Mondasian Cybermen, was brought back for the two-part finale of the latest series, you’d expect Capaldi to be thrilled.
Instead, however, the actor apparently had a very nerdy complaint related to design differences in the new Mondasian Cybermen when compared to their 1960s counterparts, obsessively nitpicking in a manner that only further confirms his Whovian credentials.
“Steven and Peter both feel strongly about how they remember these things,” Rachel Talalay, who directed the two-part finale featuring the Cybermen, explained to the This Week in Time Travel podcast. “So they were both involved and had thoughts.
“Peter called me after the first Mondasian incident and said, ‘Why is it they have gloves on their hands, when one of the great things about them was that they had bare hands?’”
And if you look closely at photos of the two types of Cybermen, you can just about see he’s right – the original Mondasian Cybermen do indeed have some very human hands when compared to the surgical gloves of the new versions.
But as Talalay went on to explain, there was actually a very good reason for the change – and apparently, it all comes down to the fact that they had to turn companion Bill (aka Pearl Mackie) into a Cyberman for a large portion of the two-part episode.
“I explained that the Pearl Mondasian, we would have an issue with skin colour,” Talalay recalled.
“And therefore that given in the [original series] black-and-white version you couldn’t really tell if they had skintone gloves, it seemed like we could get a scarier feel and something more artificial by putting the gloves on them.
“But it was partially an issue because of skintone,” she concluded.
Talalay, who also revealed in the interview that they had to change the look of the partially converted “patient” Cybermen at the last minute due to their chest units looking like breasts, went on to discuss her interest in reviving parts of the classic series, which required some re-watching due to her lack of familiarity with the classic series.
“I didn’t live in the UK!” she said. “I was aware of it and we were there in the UK a couple of times. When I was 14, 15 and 16 we lived in the UK and I had a Tom Baker period. But I wasn’t weaned on it.
“So a lot of the passion of it has been to go back and actually learn the things [Capaldi and series showrunner Steven Moffat] grew up with. Because I had Star Trek growing up in America.”
Clearly, based on the triumph of World Enough and Time and the Doctor Falls, Talalay’s homework was time well spent.
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 this Christmas