My initial reaction to the news that Peter Capaldi had been cast as the Doctor was that he wasn’t right for the role. I was in Pizza Express at the time, not the place you really want to receive any news, and after the list of interesting potential Doctors that had been circulating over the previous weeks I thought the choice was wrong. Not necessarily wrong in the sense that you could easily see Peter Capaldi playing the Doctor at some juncture but wrong for now. Anyway you never do know what a Doctor will be like till you see them in scarf swishing cloak swirling action and Peter Capaldi surprised me. He was good, he made it work in a way I didn’t think he could; he even had the warmth that should always sometimes show in a Doctor. I was wrong about him and I vowed never to predict a Doctor again! What do I know?
He even started doing promotional shots that seemed to mirror old Third Doctor ones and when we saw his first costume- well it was almost as if Jon Pertwee has come back. Not that he’s ever really played it like Pertwee even if his barnet is now doing a fairly good impression of his 70s predecessor! Peter Capaldi has not, it has to be said, inhabited many of my all time favourite stories. It’s not his fault of course, like all actors he gets the scripts and has to do his best with them but I feel the episodes too rarely caught aspects of the actor that are most Doctorish. There’s two examples I can give to illustrate this. The scenes in last year’s Xmas Special when he’s with the young Grant show him at his best. His performance is exquisite, treading that difficult path between alien and human, fun and serious. Then we have his entrance last season astride a tank playing a guitar. It’s altogether possible this might have looked cool in 1985 but now it looks like middle aged fantasies being played out. Don’t even get me started on how in the context of the story it is a ridiculous thing. I felt he was made too hard in his first series and then too Matt Smith alike in his second though there were plenty of scenes where he outshone those intentions.
I’d have loved to have seen him tackle another showrunner’s work because there were many occasions when it seemed he was being written for as if he were Matt Smith. Leaping about, talking at a million miles an hour- that was another Doctor’s thing and I always enjoyed Capaldi’s quieter moments. I hope the forthcoming season will give him the scripts he deserves and that he can make his mark as he did in `Heaven Sent` albeit with a story that makes more sense.
His era has, unfortunately for him, also been the period when Doctor Who is no longer a fresh series; this revival is now 12 years old which makes it roughly 1975 in old series time. As more of a fan than even David Tennant he will surely be aware of that. This has incited a number of slightly lazy pieces of journalism from the media claiming the show is in decline and harping on about overnight ratings. It is the case that the consolidated viewing figures for the 2015 series were down markedly from the general average since 2005 however whatever Steven Moffat says about the timeslot these episodes were clearly skewed to an older audience. Quite why anyone is surprised is went out later I don’t know. It shouldn’t really matter though and I think the actual issue was the arc plot was dense and helped give a pervading gloomy air that some may have found off-putting.
So here’s hoping for some imperial moments from Peter Capaldi this year in his final series! Who will the next Doctor be? Nope, I’ve given up that game!