Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

The right stuff?

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coverage of series 8, 2014

  1. The man in the blue box (23 August)
  2. They're back! (2014) (30 August)
  3. My Doctor Who diary | Letters (6 September)
  4. Should I stay or should I go? | Letters (13 September)
  5. (no article) (20 September)
  6. Samuel Anderson | Letters (27 September)
  7. Dark side of the moon (4 October)
  8. (no article) (11 October)
  9. (no article) (18 October)
  10. 2012 revisited (25 October)
  11. The right stuff? (1 November)
  12. Michelle Gomez | Letters (8 November)

coverage of other series
S1 | S2 | S3 | S4 | Specials | S5 | S6 | S7 | S8 | S9 | S10


How is the 12th Doctor shaping up? We asked the critics and fans, starting with Peter Capaldi's Thick of It collaborator Armando Iannucci

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT Peter Capaldi. When he came to audition for the role of Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It, I remember him as quiet, humble, reserved and quietly funny. I asked him to fire me, as a minister. I would refuse and he would get cross. So he was charm itself when he started and then suddenly he unleashed this torrent of abuse in a focused, intense way that made me never want to be the subject of his anger.

When we shot that scene for real for the pilot, the minister said to Peter: "Why don't you fire Tony instead of me?" To which Peter replied, "Tony's in transport. He's got to deal with cars and buses."

The minister snapped, "I know what transport is." And Peter looked so many daggers - head down and eyes glazed over. That pause wasn't in the script, those looks came purely from him but it set Malcolm up so dangerously that you thought, "Oh dear...'

But is he a good Doctor? The Peter I know is the smart, funny, thoughtful guy - and I think he's exactly what the Doctor should be. In fact, when David Tennant said he was leaving, I wondered if they'd ask Peter - just a flicker. He seems to have the air of the classic Doctor.

Sometimes as the Doctor, the most memorable moments are not the strongest lines - it's what he does with his pauses and his changes of tone. He'll just say "Oh good" or "You'd better go outside" in this particular way and it sticks with you far more than the finest scripting.

His Doctor is a completely different character - from any previous Doctor but also from Malcolm. I've watched every episode with my three kids - they're 20, 15 and 12. They've been amazed by the transformation. The eldest has seen Malcolm Tucker but the others just know Peter from when he's been over to the house.

He took us all on set while filming - which was great for the two younger children especially but frankly it was pretty good for me. He gave us the full tour and seemed to know how it all works. He's funny in a bamboozled way. And that allows Clara more space so they've become a proper, classic double act. He's also the first Doctor to give off that air of the tremendous responsibility - which you never quite saw before.

He has great gravitas, but he can flick in a second to moments of beautiful slapstick. The recent episode featuring 2D creatures [Flatline], where he was trapped

in a tiny Tardis, was a perfect moment of silly comedy that it would have been easy to mess up. Then the episode ended with him addressing those creatures - "This planet is under my protection." It was a tremendously cathartic moment for the Doctor, I think, but it's a hard combination for an actor to play, and he nailed it.

I was worried that the 12-year-old in particular wouldn't take to the idea of an older guy but they're drawn to him. Is he a good Doctor? He's how the Doctor should be. I'll give you a tip, though - watch him run. It's always hilarious. Stop it, pause it and go back. It'll be worth it every time.



What they say...


I've always been a fan of the show and a fan of Peter Capaldi since before The Thick Of It. I knew he'd be great, but there's always a risk when you bring someone with baggage to the show. He's aced it, though. I'm showing my vintage but he reminds me of Tom Baker's Doctor - alien, laughs in the wrong places and doesn't really understand humanity. I love those scenes where he's alone in the Tardis and restless. Comedians feel that on tour when you've checked in but have hours to kill before the gig. My 11-year-old, however, begs to differ. Matt Smith is her Doctor. It's funny - she'll be on the edge of the sofa, gripped, then at the end say, "Nah, I don't like him:' I worry it's going to be me on my own in front of Doctor Who again soon.


'He's complex, menacing and vulnerable. Exactly what the Doctor should be'


It's nice to have a Doctor who's older than me again. As a kid the Doctors were all avuncular figures - wise old men. Even Peter Davison was a grown-up for me. So when they brought it back and I was older; I wasn't sure about Christopher Eccleston. The stories were weak. Peter Capaldi's Doctor comes just as the love for the show seems to be peaking within the BBC. The scripts are great, the production values have been stepped up and it feels less like a children's show. Indeed, that killer robot roaming the school corridors blowing everything up [in The Caretaker episode] is that not perhaps a bit much for a kids' show?


He's a wonderful choice to play the Doctor. Instantly one felt: this fellow comes from far far away, he's strange. An instant frisson. And what's the word? Yes, got it! Alien, he's an alien. I salute him


'I like him very much'


Peter Capaldi brings back a touch of darkness and ageless mystery to the Doctor that I feel had been missing, as well as a dash of menace and mischief. He has some of the abrasiveness of William Hartnell, the stylishness of Jon Pertwee and the eccentricity of Tom Baker - all my favourite Doctors.


There's probably no harder job for an actor than to fill the Doctor's shoes. So much is invested by so many people. At the same time the show needs shaking up to keep viewers engaged. I've been impressed by the way this series has unfolded although my episode was the best, of course. It's been a lot darker and the later time slot has reflected this - though there are still plenty of episodes for my eight-year-old to watch. Doctor Who isn't only a kids' show and Peter is definitely not a Doctor just for kids. I like the subtle references to Peter's previous roles ("Shut up, shut up" for Malcolm Tucker). I worked with Peter years ago in a Channel 5 one-off called Hotel - him and Paul McGann, so two Doctors at once. It was very silly, and he was very sweet, so this feels a little more like the Peter I worked with than Malcolm Tucker.

Caption: MALIGN OF DUTY Keeley Hawes as Ms Delphox in this year's episode Time Heist

The kids


When I first saw him at the end of the regeneration I actually cried a little bit. I was expecting someone younger. I was worried over the summer I wouldn't like Doctor Who any more. In the first episode I still wasn't sure. But now I like him - he adds something stronger. Matt Smith's Doctor was a bit wimpy. They've introduced really scary monsters. Mummy on the Orient Express was my favourite episode but also the one that scared me the most. It was like a horror film with people vanishing one at a time. I also like the themes about soldiers and the weird "heaven" clips that you get in almost every episode - although I'm slightly worried that he's not happy with Clara any more.


His age was a bit of a problem at the beginning, although he doesn't really play the role as an old man, more a young man with gravitas. He should be a little nicer - he doesn't seem to care about people, so you wonder why he's working so hard to save everyone. It's not like he's being paid. Sometimes they make the endings a little too cheesy to make up for it, although I do really like the start and middle of most of them. Apart from the terrible Caretaker episode with this stupid robot that looked like a broken toy. It wasn't a bad idea, but they did it so badly. Then again, that's not Peter Capaldi's fault.

The critics


Peter Capaldi is the Victor Meldrew Doctor Who; he's abrasive, acerbic and has no truck with modern life. Honestly, having to tell a schoolgirl she's "special" or she'll sulk. He was rightly furious. When I interviewed Capaldi just weeks before his first episode, he told me he was "a more grown-up Doctor" albeit one who is still "mirthful. He's serious when he needs to be, but he's still quite comic."

Capaldi has delivered brilliantly. His irascible Doctor is as far from cuddly and puppyish Matt Smith and David Tennant as it's possible to be. He can be deeply unkind and dismissive, a man who is always exploring the boundaries of his restless, prodigious intellect. But Capaldi's Who is majestically funny too, particularly in his relationship with Clara. "Sorry, I stopped listening a while ago," he tells her as she witters on. In his curmudgeonly way, he's lovable.


'There is none of the flirty silliness - Capaldi is as abrasive as walking through Glasgow on a midwinter's night


The first four Time Lords were father figures - brilliant, eccentric, the template of a perfect dad. Capaldi's version pays homage to that. But they didn't throw a mid-life crisis and attempt to snog their companions. His Doctor is wooing Clara with his time machine, like a grey-haired businessman in a sports car trying to impress his secretary. It's horrible, and it has to stop.


Peter Capaldi stumbled and gurned, then mimed and posed and postured and gasped and pranced and lolled and gaped and sighed and shrugged his way into the role. He looked like nothing so much as Malvolio doing his impression of Falstaff, who'd been cutting chillies and had a pee without washing his hands first. It wasn't an audition for a new part, rather a postmortem for a venerable career. (AA Gill's critique was published after Capaldi's first episode.)


Usually when Doctor Who gets a reboot, it's from the top down. What's remarkable this year is that, although Steven Moffat remains in charge, he's taken the Time Lord in a refreshingly new direction. The tone is largely shadier, creepier, helping Moffat secure the autumnal, after-dark timeslot I believe he's always wanted.

The Doctor as Time Totty is thankfully no more. In Peter Capaldi, we have a far more astringent character, a return to the lofty but benevolent alien that enchanted my family in the 1960s and 70s. I've described him as the Scotch-on-the-rocks Doctor - distilled, chilly, stinging on the palate but warming on the way down. So far he's only shown flashes of vulnerability and empathy; a touch more would be welcome. But Peter Capaldi simply is the Doctor for me now. The most persuasive since Tom Baker.

WHAT'S YOUR VERDICT ON PETER CAPALDI? Write and let us know: PLUS Don't miss our offer for new subscribers — two unmissable Doctor Who books worth £29.99. See p54.

Caption: UP IN ARMS? The 12th Doctor appealed to Maebh (Abigail Eames) in last week's episode


How big a fan are you? Time to take our Who test


1 Name the Shoreditch secondary school that appeared in the very first Doctor Who story in 1963, and where Clara Oswald teaches today.

2 What was the name of Earth's twin planet and home of the Cybermen?

3 Which town did the Doctor defend on the planet Trenzalore in The Time of the Doctor (2013)?

4 Who was the first Doctor to appear on our television screens in colour?

5 Who, according to the fourth Doctor, knitted his famous long scarf?


6 Which ethereal Patrick Troughton era villain returned for a rematch alongside Matt Smith's Doctor in 2012?

7 In their early appearances, what were the Daleks powered by?

8 In the 1980s, the fifth and sixth Doctors had a companion called Peri. What was her name short for?

9 In this year's episode Listen, what was Danny Pink's name as a child?

10 Name the Slitheen home planet.


11 What was the name of the quaint English village that Amy Pond (right) came from?

12 In The Web of Fear (1968), in which London Underground station did the second Doctor's Tardis materialise?

13 What was the name of the desolate world visited by the third Doctor and Jo Grant in Colony in Space (1971)?

14 What links Magnus Greel, Captain Jack Harkness and the Half-Face Man (left)?

15 In the first Doctor serial The Aztecs (1964), Autloc was the high priest of knowledge, but who was the high priest of sacrifice?

Answers on p17 See how former showrunner Russell T Davies fares in our quiz, also on p17


Russell T Davies not only revived

Doctor Who in 2005, he's a mega fan, the kind of guy you dread walking into your pub quiz. "Thanks for having such a sexy idea of me," he laughs, before tearing through the first few teasers in our quiz (see p15). He chirps "ding!" after nailing question 4. "Move on, move on," he cajoles after some insultingly easy trivia. Only Tom Baker's scarf presents a minor hitch ("I remember he called her a 'witty little knitter' but not her name; that says a lot about fandom") before getting the answer.

Then question 9: what was Danny Pink's name as a child? The relevant episode Listen was shown in September. "Oh b******s. I don't know." Dear, oh dear, does the ex-showrunner no longer watch? "Of course I still watch it. I'm just now realising the implications of this."

Playtime is over. As the questions get tougher, there's a long whistle of relief as he names Amy Pond's hometown (he clearly wasn't fibbing about watching the modern Steven Moffat-led era) but he blanks on the Tube station featured in The Web of Fear ("Aghh! I did know that!"). By the time we reach the final question, a slice of arcane knowledge from RT expert Patrick Mulkern, he's forced to admit defeat. "That was a properly tough question," he says, the respect evident in his voice. Jonathan Holmes

Russell took a longer version of our quiz and scored an impressive 26 out of 30. Test yourself against his score with 30 brainteasers at



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