Interview extra

Peter Capaldi, Doctor WhoSeptember 10, 2015

Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who

As the Doctor returns for an epic new 12-part run, star Peter Capaldi reveals he's a little more chilled out than the grumpy, hug-resistant Time Lord TVChoice encountered last year. Plus, he talks about the pressures of living up to fan expectations, and supressing his own fannish urges on set!

The Daleks are back in this Saturday's opener. Are you happy to see them?
Oh yeah! And so many of them, which is lovely – not having them all CGI-created but to actually have a whole pile of them in the room, it’s very exciting.

Bring us up to speed on how things are between the Doctor and Clara as this series begins.
They are sort of celebrating this freedom they have to roll through time and space wherever they want to go. They’re having a brilliant time. They’re really excited about the idea of adventure, and they keep pointing themselves in that direction, but of course, being as it’s Doctor Who, that’s a dangerous thing to do! You can’t have a good time for too long. You’ll have to pay for it somewhere down the line!

We'd seen quite a conflicted Doctor last year, but he seemed to have come to some sort of resolution by the Christmas special. Where's he at now?
What I find interesting about this year's run is that the Doctor’s still sort of looking for himself. He’s changed to some degree. I mean, he still has the same concerns and worries and darkness, if you like, but he’s embracing the present. That’s really because he has a profound knowledge of the past and the future and that in this incarnation he is, I think, sometimes prone to… he’s wiser than he often says. He knows things can end in great distress, but rather than focusing on that he’s decided to have a good time. But it doesn’t mean that he’s not aware darkness will fall… or whatever phrase I can think of that you can print which sounds good!

Is there anything after your first series where you thought, 'I’d like to do less of that or more of that?'
Not really. I’m not involved with writing the scripts, so whatever comes is whatever comes, and it’s very, very good. They’re particularly strong this year. I think all Doctors, when they come along in their first year, probably react against the Doctor who was before them. So, obviously, because Matt [Smith] was very friendly and open, I felt it was important to not be like that. I think we made good choices. But I also think it’s right he grows as a character. It must be a very weird thing if you’re suddenly regenerated. Although you’re essentially the same person, you’re a new spirit, a new being, like a baby who has to discover who you are. So he’s still on that journey, even though it may appear he’s settled into a groove.

As a Doctor Who fan yourself, how do you find experiencing the stories the way you do rather than watching them as a completed package?
I guess those two bits of me are welded together – the fan and the grown-up professional actor… the not very grown-up professional actor! I just look at the material from the point of view of how I can make this work, and how best I can do my job with it. But at the same time, I’m always excited, because there’s always something fun in it that I really, really like. I’m excited to see a new monster or an old monster. I don’t get giddy or breathless, but there is a very warm, honey-ish feeling you get when you walk into a room full of Daleks. So I enjoy it, but I always think the fan relationship with Doctor Who is actually kind of private and intimate, really. I carry that with me. I have my own relationship with it. I couldn’t be gushing. Everyone would hate me if I turned up everyday and went, ‘Ooh, look, here’s another rubber monster, how fantastic! And here’s another corridor to run down!’ Although I do feel like that…

Carole Ann Ford – who played the first ever companion, the Doctor's granddaughter Susan, back in 1963 – has visited you on set. Do you think there’s any parity between her experiences and yours? When you talk, can you talk shop about the same show?
I think it’s a different show but everybody’s sort of linked. It’s important for someone like Carole Ann that she knows how respected she is. There’s a kind of dual thing, because I can see it from the point of view both as a fan and as an actor. So, what was it like to be an actor in the Sixties, and to go to Vidal Sassoon and get your hair cut and be trendy and work with Verity [Lambert, the show's first producer] and all that stuff? I have a respect for her as an actor, but also her place in the show is very important and key. Of course, she's my granddaughter, so I’m always fascinated by that. I just wish we could somehow echo that, or bring her back, or do something with her…

You've become known for taking extra time to write back to fans and sign autographs…
To be honest, I don’t think I do any more than Matt or David or Chris or anybody does. It’s just that we live in a new age where this is all communicated and reported. I think they did as much, if not more. You just walk around with this sense of a constant mountain of letters and stuff that you can’t deal with. You can’t get around to everybody. I do little drawings sometimes just because I doodle, and it seems slightly more personal to do something like that. I don’t think I particularly do anything special. It’s the great privilege of the job in the sense that you know that you can make people quite happy just by showing up. And they’re very forgiving – they don’t ask very much of you.

And is it in the back of your mind what it meant to you as a fan?
I think I know what it’s like, and I think I know how important it is, which is why I have this sackful of guilt because I simply can’t do everything. I can’t. So I try to do what I can, but to be honest there’s probably going to be a time where I’m going to have to pull back, because you haven’t got enough time to do the show… but I stress again I don’t think I do any more than anybody else.

BBC1, Saturday

Graham Kibble-White

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