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Look Who's coming! (Radio Times)

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In an exclusive interview, Peter Capaldi talks the Tardis and Time Lords. Plus, TV editor Alison Graham picks her festive favourites on page 14

PETER CAPALDI is striding around the Tardis set in the Cardiff studio, fretting like a host whose oven isn't working. "I can't turn the lights on because we don't have any

electricians here today," he says, apologising for the lack of technical support that means we are peering at each other in semidarkness inside television's most famous time machine. "So you don't really get a sense of what fun the Tardis is. It's quite cozy. Quite wombish and warm. People are always happy to film here. It's not like being in Midsomer Murders, is it? There isn't another programme in Britain in which you get to roam around 21st-century Venus."

At the age of 58, the incumbent Doctor brought something quite new to the role, an element that the younger Who fan wouldn't even remember, growing up with David. Tennant and Matt Smith - a sober, grownup demeanour that some people might call grumpiness. When he talks about his Who, Capaldi is anything but cranky, always almost-smiling, on the brink of some joke that he sometimes tells and sometimes chooses not to.

How does it feels to be an old Who after a string of young ones? "Surely you mean older? The Doctors I grew up with were not young. To me, Doctor Who was not a young man. Ironically, I'm older than any of those, except for William Hartnell."

The Tardis itself hasn't changed very much since Matt Smith's time. There's a stack of Marshall amps, a nod to the idiosyncrasy of Capaldi's Doctor being madly into guitars, and the odd piece of 60s furniture, but "I think it cost so much that it would have been a poor use of taxpayers' money to get rid of Matt's and replace it with mine".

As a brand, the show is so successful, internationally, that surely no amount of Tardis-building could break its bank? "It's complicated: it is a brand, so it has to be sold. But the actual spirit of it is quite personal and small. So you have to look after that a bit, but also go and be a salesman for it. I go on tours with the show, and if you go to South Korea, Australia or South America... In Mexico, the fans were just so wonderful, and passionate, and... Latin!"

The intensity and spread of international fandom took a bit of getting used to. "I found it hard at first. You walk on stage and it < makes people go crazy, not because you're me, because you're Doctor Who. When you see little kids, that's fantastic. A wee bit like being a mythical character, like the Wizard of Oz or Santa Claus."

FAMOUSLY, WHEN PETER CAPALDI was announced in the role, a fan letter came to light that he'd written to RT in 1974 aged 15. It seemed like a perfect alignment of the stars, the ultimate human fulfilment, that an actor could become the hero of his youth. It annoys him a bit now. "It makes it sound as if I spent my life, my career, grieving that I wasn't the Doctor. Which is not the case," he says stoutly. "As a kid I loved the Doctor, but as a teenager I moved on, and discovered sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll like everybody else!"

As a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, Capaldi honed skills that he retains to this day, as shown in his artwork for this very feature (see right).

The role of the Doctor is such a consuming one that it's easy to forget what he was famous for before: that splenetic, hyper-intelligent energy he brought to the screen, most memorably in the BBC's painfully good satire, The Thick of It. Yet it's not as though he's moved into -family entertainment" as such.

Doctor Who has become more and more cerebral. or certainly, less and less easy to explain to a nine-year-old, unless you're really concentrating. "The thing about Doctor Who is the constitution of the audience. It covers a huge age range, so you have to entertain little kids and you have to entertain hipsters and students, and middle-aged men who should know better.

"So sometimes there is a kind of metaphysical and intellectual aspect to it, which is more to the fore than other times. But generally we just blow up monsters. There are some moments when you feel, that's a little bit silly, or that's a bit mawkish or whatever, but then you realise, that's for children. You would be a fool not to play to them, because it's their show."

The studio is empty of action but Capaldi is speeding down the obligatory Doctor Who corridor then spins round to show how he injured his knee last year. "When I first had lunch with Matt Smith, he arrived on crutches. I said, 'What happened?' and he said, 'This show, this show.' I thought, 'My God, he's 14, and he still injured himself: "

Apart from its global appeal, the other unusual thing about Doctor Who, the telly Holy Grail, is how long it has lasted. Obviously, the regeneration helps - "Any show would be thrilled with the opportunity to get rid of the leading man or woman and replace them with someone else." The creative vision regenerates, too - Steven Moffat will have left by 2018, to be replaced by Chris Chibnall, creator of Broadchurch.

WITHIN THAT, THERE'S something special about the Doctor. "If you'd said to anyone 12 years ago, 'Doctor Who is going to come back, and it's going to be this international smash,' you'd have said, 'You're kidding. How can the world embrace this thing we've already given up on? With cardboard sets and rubbery models and overacting?'"

Capaldi sees the love for Doctor Who as a proxy affection for Britishness, because he's such a British hero - he has no superpowers, no incredible strength. He isn't square jawed or six-packed. All he has is a screwdriver, like Super-DIY-Dad.

He seems to spend a lot of time thinking, which is the opposite of what heroism is supposed to be about. "I'm sure he gets the Guardian," Capaldi says. "That's how he seems to me. He's always been someone who gets the Guardian. There are some parts of the universe where it's harder to get hold of."

Capaldi has a metaphysical, also psychological explanation of the Doctor's appeal: "It's one of the nice things about the show, it's not encouraged in the publicity, but it is quite... sad. This death motif... A lot of the young people I meet who love it, they tend to feel slightly outside, not part of the gang. In a way, it's a show for not-cool people, which now has suddenly become for cool people as well. People's relationship with the show is very personal:'

Then he drops this bombshell. "He's really not human at all. That's what I believe. Who you see is what he has chosen to present, because that's the only way that humans can understand him and what he is." But... but how can he understand the human condition, if he has no human traits? I protest, my faith momentarily shattered. "The truth is," says Peter Capaldi, "he comprehends it too much. His problem is that he sort of knows everything. That makes life quite hard."

WIN! an original drawing by Peter Capaldi

Peter Capaldi has been known to doodle a Dalek but never like this! And now one reader can win this original piece of artwork created and signed by the Doctor himself exclusively for this Radio Times photoshoot. The original is drawn on a 1m2 piece of perspex and autographed by Peter Capaldi.

TO ENTER Answer the question below then look out for three more questions, one hidden in each of the next three issues of RT. Once you have all four answers, you will also need to work out the link between them all. Details of how to enter will be printed, along with the final question, in the Christmas Radio Times.

Which character, played by Alex Kingston, returned to Doctor Who in last year's Christmas special?

For full terms and conditions see


Doctor Who


Doctor Who will be a big part of the fun on Christmas Day with Peter Capaldi, and Matt Lucas returning to his role as Nardole, River Song's former assistant, writes TV editor Alison Graham. Apparently, the Christmas special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio, will have a superhero theme... who is that masked man?

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  • APA 6th ed.: Williams, Zoe (2016-11-26). Look Who's coming! (Radio Times). Radio Times p. 10.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Williams, Zoe. "Look Who's coming! (Radio Times)." Radio Times [add city] 2016-11-26, 10. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Williams, Zoe. "Look Who's coming! (Radio Times)." Radio Times, edition, sec., 2016-11-26
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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Look Who's coming! (Radio Times) | url=!_(Radio_Times) | work=Radio Times | pages=10 | date=2016-11-26 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 May 2024 }}</ref>
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