Peter CaPalDI says goodbye to the blue box as the twelfth Doctor bows out. “He’s made of stardust,” he tells Joseph McCabe
The attack eyebrows tell us about the 12th Doctor’s last stand.
there are bound to be a lot of tearS when you regenerate…
Ah, well, in in my house, certainly (laughs).
how did you feel maKing your final Story?
It’s sad, you know. It’s right. Because you just reach a point where it’s time to go. But it doesn’t mean that you’re not melancholic about leaving behind both the crew and the people who you work with, who you’ve become very close with, but also this wonderful, wonderful role. But as often happens, the script actually articulates those feelings better than I could. You will see how I feel, because hopefully it’ll be there in the show.
what’S the biggeSt leSSon the doCtor haS learned in thiS regeneration?
Nothing. Because he’s not human. The Doctor has a knowledge of the past and the future. He feels echoes and ripples through time and space. He knows what is going to happen. He knows what human beings are, what they do, where they go, what becomes of them. So he play-acts at being surprised. He play-acts being present in that moment without foreknowledge. He knows. So he doesn’t learn. He knows already. He has nothing to learn.
iS it tough Playing a role where the CharaCter doeSn’t learn? Yeah. what’S the Challenge of that?
The challenge is they mustn’t know. They all have to think that you are a humanoid. But he’s not. In some way he closes off that part of him that is a Time Lord. If you could travel through time and space, you know what’s going on. You know what’s happening. But if you close that part of yourself off, you may have a more interesting life. Or…
more joy and SPontaneity?
Yeah. I think people are wrong to interpret him as a human being. So for me that’s the kind of internal balance I try and struggle with. Because when I first saw Doctor Who as a kid I knew he wasn’t a guy. He wasn’t someone you would bump into. He came from somewhere up there beyond, and he knows more than we do, and he’s made of stardust. But that’s the kind of great thing about the character — he’s also very real. It’s trying to balance those two things that is quite hard.
what’S hiS relationShiP with the firSt doCtor?
People think they’re similar, but they’re not very similar. One of the things that is firmly different about them is that they come from different Earth times. So the First Doctor comes from the ’60s and my Doctor comes from the 21st century. So we have a lot of fun in the different attitudes. It’s being playful with the fact that it’s also a television character, and it’s a television character from a certain time. So we don’t shy away from the fact that we’re from different ends of the Doctor Who programme’s life.
having reaChed the end of your run, haS it Changed your view of what it meanS to be the doCtor?
I think there’ll never, ever be anything like this. Because it’s a sort of phenomenon. When you travel around the world, as I’m very blessed to be able to do… If you go to rio and you meet kids there who to me appear to be in a very, very different environment from the very comfortable environments I see in some of my other travels, and see how much they love the show, you start thinking, This is quite fun. There’s something inside the show that speaks to people and to kids at a very deep level. I don’t know what it is. I don’t understand what it is. But I see it, because I’ve seen it with my own eyes, the affection and love that people all over the world have for Doctor Who.
To be around something like that and to be at the centre of it is an extraordinary experience. Because I’ve also walked into rooms and people have gasped. Because it’s the Doctor. It’s still me inside here, but I have this immense gift of being able to see what that feels like. So yeah, it makes you realise how vital popular culture can be to people, and also that it can be a force for good. I think Doctor Who is a good thing in the world. Because it preaches lessons of kindness and courage and intelligence that are much needed.
what do you thinK will be next after you finiSh Playing the doCtor?
I don’t know. Vanishing. Vanishing for a while… Seriously, I don’t know. I think I’ll take a little while just to process all of this and figure out what I want to do really. What kind of performer or artist I want [to be]. Maybe I’ll concentrate on my music (laughs)
the bravery to turn around and be somebody else, to let go of every part of himself he’s shored up against the rest of the universe, to scatter it and discover the Doctor anew? How does he do that? As ever we are solving a fairly major staffing difficulty!
multi-doCtor StorieS are alwayS eventS. regeneration StorieS are alwayS eventS. how do you Slam the two thingS together without exPloding with Pure eventineSS?
I’m not sure exploding with pure eventiness is something we naturally resist on Doctor
Who. That’s not a bad thing to have. On Christmas Day you do want a bit of eventiness. But there’s also a problem – the new Doctor turns up at the end. That’s the big deal. There’s no question that you are waiting for the last minute. So what are you going to do before that? Quite a good solution to that is to say “Well, here’s David Bradley as the First Doctor. Maybe we can entertain you enough that you almost forget where this is heading.”
So why the firSt doCtor?
This is all on video. You can actually see me think of this idea. I was asked “Which Doctor would you like to meet Peter Capaldi’s Doctor?” And obviously the answer to that is William Hartnell, because he’s the biggest extreme. He’s the furthest back. What a gulf to see himself across. That would be amazing – his old-fashioned reaction to the swaggering maniac he’s destined to become would be very funny. But I said “We can’t do it, because William Hartnell’s dead.” Peter, who was sitting next to me, said “Just get David Bradley!” And I go, “Oh yeah! That’s Christmas sorted!” I think you accept David Bradley as the First Doctor because one, he does look very like him and two, he’s sanctified by having already done An Adventure In Space And
Time. We’ve already said that if you turned an HD colour camera on William Hartnell, oddly enough he looks like David Bradley.
how doeS the firSt doCtor SParK off the twelfth?
He has some incredibly old-fashioned attitudes that were normal and invisible at the time. Now they sort of stick out at you. You can either ignore that, the way we’re ignoring it was 4:3 and black-and-white in those days, or you can embrace it. That’s actually the story of the Doctor when he was still mostly a Time Lord. He’s imperious and commanding and operates under the assumption he outranks everybody he ever meets. That later softens under a man of the people veneer – woman of the people, shortly – but with the First Doctor it’s all out there. He’s an entitled, privileged, posh white man! And it was quite fun to have the Twelfth Doctor tell him, “Oh, don’t say that…”
did you alwayS Know you were going to bring baCK bill PottS?
No. I was 20 pages into the script. It was going quite well but I thought, “I want Bill to witness this. I want Bill to notice that they’re the same man. I want Bill to say things to him.”
you gave her a memorable exit in “the doCtor fallS”. were you wary of underCutting that by bringing her baCK So Soon?
She has a memorable exit but she’s still out there. The question is immediately raised – what if they meet again? I think people are just boring when they say, “Oh, you’ve undercut that great exit.” Don’t you want Bill to come back and say funny things to William Hartnell? How much are you going to enjoy the absence of entertainment? Oh, we could have had some funny lines here but we didn’t want to undercut that ending… Forget that undercutting! Forget that last episode! It’s over, isn’t it? Let’s get some fun going now!
when you firSt beCame Showrunner i aSKed how radiCal you Could be with doCtor who. you Said “well, we Could alwayS CaSt a woman…”
I guess I always thought it was coming. I didn’t believe it would be now. At conventions I always used to ask, “Would you like it? Irrespective of your personal politics, irrespective of feminism. Put your hand up. You will not be judged.” Maybe a third used to put their hands up and say they liked it. Then it was nearer a half. Then it started to become a majority. And I thought, “This is moving. This is changing.”
A meeting between two Doctors, past and present.
Two Doctors means a clash of opinions and ideology.