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The Doctor will see you now (The Age)

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  • Publication: The Age
  • Date: 2014-08-21
  • Author: Gordon Farrer
  • Page: Green Guide, p. 9
  • Language: English

Peter Capaldi promises to bring gravitas and emotion to his role as the 12th incarnation of the Time Lord.

There's a new Doctor in the house. And he's not just new, he's different. Darker, more troubled ... older. Peter Capaldi (Local Hero, The Thick of It) is that Doctor. From this week he plays the 12th incarnation of Doctor Who, a character that last year celebrated five decades on the small screen. He and co-star Jenna Coleman were in Sydney last week as part of a seven-city world tour to cement his face as the latest Doctor and to whip up another Whovian frenzy in time for the world premiere of Capaldi's first episode on Sunday.

The choice of Capaldi is a departure from recent Doctors.

When Doctor Who was rebooted in 2005 Christopher Eccleston took the lead role. He was followed by David Tennant and Matt Smith. All were hip and youthful. At a more mature 56, Capaldi is the same age as William Hartnell, the original Doctor from 1963.

Capaldi watched the show from the beginning and although he says he is no expert - "it's been pointed out to me that I'm a fan, not a scholar" - he clearly thinks deeply about the role he is making his own.

"I wouldn't be able to pass a very detailed exam on it," he says. "But what I do know is that I love the show and it is part of my DNA ... I know instinctively what Doctor Who is about."

Given the character arc of the series and the successful experiment of younger actors in the role, is the time right for Capaldi's kind of Doctor?

"I think so," he says. "You couldn't have repeated what Matt [Smith] did. That would have been wrong, it was important to take another direction."

Will his wrinklier Doctor be a jolt for an audience more accustomed to youth?

"I don't think it's a jolt because it's unmistakably Doctor Who when you see it. There's no other show like it and we are fulfilling what it has always done, it's just a slightly different guy playing the Doctor.

"This is what Doctor Who has always been. He's mercurial."

A running joke in the series is the reaction of people who enter the Doctor's spaceship-cum-time machine, the TARDIS. The trick of the ship is that it looks like a 1960s English police box on the outside, but when you enter you find a cavernous space and endless rooms, bristling with futuristic technology. First-time visitors step in, then out, and invariably say "It's bigger on the inside ... ".

Is it too cute to say the role of the Doctor is also bigger on the inside? Capaldi laughs.

"No, I think it's a good line," he says. "It is true because there's more to the role and [because] the character of Doctor Who has become a fixture in culture. It exists in people's lives, beyond the show.

"It belongs to the human race now, it isn't just an individual role."

For a series that on the surface is just a piece of crazy, madcap, sci-fi frippery, Doctor Who can have a deeply emotional impact on the viewer. At its core are questions about a universe that can be good and bad and, too often, indifferent to the fate of its inhabitants.

Through this universe the Doctor travels as a kind of guardian angel, burdened by the task he has taken on.

Capaldi sees this as a fundamental key to understanding his Doctor. If there's a bigger meaning to the character, this is where it is to be found.

"This season he's confronted a lot by failure," he says. "He's also confronted by the consequences of his own actions. He doesn't pass through the universe without leaving a path, sometimes a fairly destructive path. Afterwards he gets into the TARDIS and he leaves. But what does he leave behind?

"He's haunted by his past. The regeneration cycle allows him to become a new person and there's hope for this new person but his past won't let him escape. Maybe that's starting to catch up with him a bit."

"The show is very emotional," Coleman says. "It's so magical, it captures your imagination. The nature of the adventure does something to you. It's about what it is to be human."

Coleman plays Clara Oswald, the Doctor's companion. He inherited her - if that doesn't sound too goods-and-chattels - from the 11th Doctor, played by Smith. Clara's task in the new season is to shepherd the Doctor through what appears to be his most difficult regeneration yet. It's a meaty step forward for a character that some critics and fans have seen as a little lightweight.

Judging by Capaldi's first episode, his Doctor is darker than his predecessors. There's more gravitas and less arm-flapping than Smith brought to the role. He's uncertain about himself, about who he is, about whether he's "a good man". And he's frightened.

The regeneration is no picnic for Clara, either. She struggles to accept a new Doctor with a new attitude who seems so different to the one she had fallen in love with. When Clara sees his new face, older, greyer, she can't ...

But that's enough of that. No spoilers here. We signed a non-disclosure agreement.

There's a danger that darker means less funny but Capaldi and Coleman insist that Doctor Who's trademark laughs have not been traded away.

"I think it's a different kind of humour now," Coleman says. "It's throwaway. We catapult through the adventures and the humour is there the whole way through. And that's what's wonderful about Doctor Who: you can be in these moments of great peril and suddenly you can make somebody laugh."

Anyone who fears the regeneration is not for them should be consoled by the reaction of fans at the Sydney screening who gave the episode a rousing ovation.

"I'm in the great position of having the privilege of looking after the role of the Doctor - for the moment," Capaldi says.

"That's what I feel I am doing. I have to keep it healthy and alive and fun and vigorous. But there will come a day when someone else will take over and, hopefully, it will still be in decent shape."

And it will be. You can trust him: he's the Doctor.

Doctor Who: Deep Breath, ABC, Sunday, 4.50am and 7.40pm, and on iView all day.

GRAPHIC: TWO PHOTOS: Fleeting visit: Doctor Who (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman). Back story: The Time Lord's past catches up with him in the new series of Doctor Who.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Farrer, Gordon (2014-08-21). The Doctor will see you now (The Age). The Age p. Green Guide, p. 9.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Farrer, Gordon. "The Doctor will see you now (The Age)." The Age [add city] 2014-08-21, Green Guide, p. 9. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Farrer, Gordon. "The Doctor will see you now (The Age)." The Age, edition, sec., 2014-08-21
  • Turabian: Farrer, Gordon. "The Doctor will see you now (The Age)." The Age, 2014-08-21, section, Green Guide, p. 9 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=The Doctor will see you now (The Age) | url= | work=The Age | pages=Green Guide, p. 9 | date=2014-08-21 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=The Doctor will see you now (The Age) | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 July 2024}}</ref>