“Things end, that’s all. Everything ends and it’s always sad. But everything begins too, and that’s always happy. Be happy. I’ll take care of everything else.” These were the last words we heard Peter Capaldi’s Doctor utter on screen barely a month ago in the Christmas special. Did he know something then that we did not?
Surely everyone suspected change was in the air from the moment word came through that new showrunner Chris Chibnall has been given carte blanche for a top-to-bottom makeover of Doctor Who when he takes over later this year.
I’ve been getting used to new Doctors since 1970 when a black-and-white Patrick Troughton made way for Jon Pertwee in colour. But I will miss Peter Capaldi as the Time Lord and would have liked to see him remain and develop under a new regime. One or two of my friends, old-time fans, haven’t taken to his portrayal; they say he lacks warmth; hasn’t been served well in the script department… I disagree. He’s been a brilliant Doctor – fierce intelligence and twinkly-eyed irreverence piercing though that dour and craggy demeanour.
A fan since his youth, he loves the programme and truly, deeply understands the part. I hope he’s enjoyed his stewardship of the Tardis. Had he not knackered his knees running up and down corridors and had resources not been diverted to other shows, we might have extracted a few more adventures from Capaldi, who is, in person, a lovely man.
With the exception of William Hartnell, who died in 1975, I’ve met or been in the presence of all the actors who have played the Doctor. In 1984, Richard Marson and I interviewed Patrick Troughton for Doctor Who Magazine. What an honour and a joy that was, even though he was mildly grumpy and dismayed by our youth. In 1986, Sylvester McCoy was terribly sweet to me and led me up to the production gallery at BBC TV Centre during the making of his debut story. Two years ago Colin Baker was delightful company at the Radio Times Covers Party…
Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker are among the few who became the Doctor. As a child, I met Tom in his curly-haired prime in 1975 at a mobbed book signing in my hometown Chesham, then again in 1978 when he was entering a seedier phase. He still dines out on that aloofness and eccentricity. I was at many Who conventions when Pertwee burst out of a rickety police box on stage and boomed, “I AM the Doctor!” – and you really believed it.
Peter Capaldi possesses that charisma and otherworldliness, if none of the swagger and bombast. Stand next to him in his Doctorly finery, with his springy silvery hair and penetrating eyes, and he radiates “benevolent alien passing through”.
At a BFI press screening I burbled to him how much I like him as the Time Lord, urging him to stay for a long while to come – even though I knew in my heart he must be planning his exit strategy.
As it stands, he’ll have made 40 episodes (four fewer than Matt Smith) by his final bow next Christmas. So we have that special and 12 new episodes of series ten still to savour – and I’m sure we’ll see new sides to his portrayal before he’s done.
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 on Saturday 15th April