The “Aneurin Barnard is the Twelfth Doctor” holding page on the BBC website? A nonsense, a ruse, I was told last night when I arrived at Elstree for Doctor Who Live. “But could you not tweet that for now? We want to keep it going for a little longer”.
As a piece of misdirection from the publicity team, it had been masterful. But not quite as masterful as the moment the whole evening was pointing at – the reveal of Peter Capadli as the Twelfth Doctor. Instantly, this just felt right. And as sad as I am that Matt Smith is going, I’m now mostly excited. That’s how this should work, right?
I was lucky enough to be in the press room before and after the recording. From here, the dailies and various news sites were going to be frantically filing copy.
For the main event, though, I watched the show sat beside Tom Spilsbury, editor of Doctor Who Magazine. Naturally, then, I took the opportunity to get his very first thoughts on Capaldi as soon as the recording finished – hence the background music and chatter – which you can listen to here.
Afterwards, we returned to the press room for a drink – and the news Steven Moffat was going to pop by. Here’s how that encounter between him and we journalists played out, in full…
That’s brilliant casting.
It feels right.
I hope so.
When did he come on the radar?
Well a fair amount of time ago. I’m sorry, Morgan [from Digital Spy], I lied to you. Quite a while back. I happened to know he’s a very, very big fan. There’s something rather seductive about an utterly brilliant, arresting looking leading man actor – one of the most talented actors in Britain – who you happen to know is a big fan of the show. And you do start to think, “Maybe we should do something about that”. So quite a long time ago.
Did you have a short list?
Yes, the list went: Peter Capaldi.
A very short list.
A very, very short list. Honestly, there was only one audition this time. And it wasn’t an audition really so much as saying… he came around my house and we put him on video to see what he looked like as the Doctor and, gosh, he was terribly good. He’s been doing that most nights I think.
Are you disappointed it leaked online? And are you surprised how many people put bets on it?
Well, I’ve made a tidy profit out of it! Compared to some of our recent leaks it’s comparatively minor!
Do you think people are betting on it and making money – is there a leak problem? Is it a bit of a scandal that this is coming out? 1
I think there are bigger scandals in the world to worry about than this. Seriously. Let’s not get too worried about it.
You haven’t seen any of your staff getting a new Ferrari or anything?
I don’t think you’d get a Ferrari out of it. I got a pogo stick actually. Which is brilliant.
Did you ever shy away from it because in some ways he does feel so right?
No. That is the feeling when you get the casting right. I didn’t make it up when I said he did flick through my mind when we were replacing David, and it didn’t feel right at all. Actually, I think if you think about that, it wouldn’t have been right at all. Not then. But there’s something about Matt’s Doctor that paves the way for Peter’s Doctor.
So you think in the context of the previous guy?
It’s one character going… and that’s the important thing to remember in Doctor Who. One character going through his life played by a succession of different actors and you have to get to that place each time. I can somehow absolutely believe that the strange old-young Matt Smith will turn into the strange young-old Peter Capaldi. I have no problem with that.
What did you want Peter to bring to this?
A brilliance, but to be absolutely honest, let’s let Peter do that job. I’m not going to tell him how to play the Doctor. I’m going to write the Doctor. And you’d be surprised how similar the Doctors are on paper. They really are. If you look at discarded scenes from previous eras – so if you haven’t ever heard the Doctor say it – you’ll see he’s kind of always the same. When I put the three audition scenes online – or rather in Doctor Who Magazine, they went online – and everyone said, “Oh, they sound like Matt,” no they don’t. That’s the most dominant voice you’ve got in your head. One of them was an adapted Matt scene, one of them was an adapted David scene and one of them was an adapted Chris scene. It was the three that we’ve had in the modern era. It’s just that when you put him on paper, he’s just the Doctor. He’s just that very, very clever man. He walks around with a different voice and face. It becomes very different. I remember when I wrote ‘The Eleventh Hour’ and everyone said when I handed it in, “It’s exactly David”. And then a few weeks later we cast Matt, and everyone was complimenting me hugely – and I accepted the compliments – how well I’d rewritten it for Matt. I hadn’t touched a word. They were just looking at it and imagining Matt. The Doctor is the Doctor. That’s really, really important, but he’s going to have a new face and a new voice.
What did Peter do in the audition? Was there anything in particular he did that made you think, “Wow”?
I don’t think it is in particular. It’s just you know when the Doctor is in the room – you just do. I mean I’ve seen the Doctor not be in the room when people say those lines out loud. Me, for instance. I’m crap at it when I do that. Every night I try. And I’m never any good at it. You just know. Just to check we weren’t mad we showed it to, like, Ben [Stephenson, the BBC’s head of drama] and so on. And we just went, “Yes, obviously, that’s it – the Doctor is in the room.” When you watched him walk out tonight didn’t you just think, “Well there he is”? That’s the Doctor, isn’t it? Suddenly he’s the Doctor. Malcolm Tucker is knocked out of the way. He’s just suddenly this magnificent leading man. How did that happen? I don’t know.
Was there a conscious decision to go older this time?
Do you mean on my part? Yeah, I’ve been consciously aging for a while now. I could age the other way if I wanted. Not particularly. The apparent age of the Doctor makes no narrative sense at all. He’s been anything from his 20s to his 70s. Obviously he doesn’t care. He just sort of picks a face off the rack and goes with it. So, not especially. I think it’s good that we’ve got a different age, just because I cannot imagine what somebody in their 20s would do with the Doctor after Matt showed us all how to be a 20s Doctor. I don’t know what you would do after that because he was so perfect. You’d have to be an alternative or deliberate contradiction – it wouldn’t work, I don’t think. So it makes life easier I suppose that Peter is different. But that wasn’t the reason. The reason was the Doctor was in the room, and that’s it. You don’t argue with that.
How good are you at keeping a secret?
I’m not telling you. [Pause] That was a brilliant answer. Can I get a little more respect for that? That was a phenomenal answer. [Brief ripple of applause]
Well you kept Sherlock’s death and revival a secret.
He’s not dead, he’s behind a tree.
So how hard was it? Everybody quizzing you.
Well, it’s really not hard at all, you just say, “I’m not telling you”. Or you lie. I’m sorry again, Morgan.
Do you think you’ll be able to keep him in the role for a while? You want to keep him for as long as you can, don’t you?
Yes. To that end we have his family in the cellar. That’s the only way to go with that.
What kind of Doctor is he going to be?
Magnificent. I don’t know. The truth is we don’t know. We’ve seen… I’ve seen him do Doctor-ish stuff and it’s worked. I’ve seen him deal with the technobabble, I’ve seen him deal with the nonsense. I wrote scenes that were deliberately impossible, with deliberately impossible dialogue. Just to see: can you do the impossible even without gunk being poured on you? And now we’re going to pour gunk on you and throw a lizard at you and ask you to say all this stuff and explain the plot. So we don’t know yet. We’re going to work on that. And, as with Matt – you know how Matt developed hugely as he approached the part over the first few episodes – we will do the same with Peter.
What’s he going to wear?
Clothes. Anything else would just be really shocking. I don’t know. Nobody takes the slightest interest in any of my views on costume let me tell you. I’ve never had the slightest influence. I can’t imagine what.
How fraught was tonight to make happen?
I was absolutely thrilled that no one had mentioned the possibility of Peter at all(!) I mean, God, it must have been a shock when he walked out. I worry about the person who didn’t know and might not have been watching. I thought we should have phoned them and said, “Are you home? Well we’ll start the show when you are.” It was fraught – not for the reasons of the secrecy. Does it matter? No, not very much. It matters that people love the choice, that’s it. And what we were looking at when we saw there was some minor-degree hints out there that it was going to be Peter, everyone was rapturous about the idea. I said to Peter before he went on tonight – he was a little bit nervous, obviously – I was saying, “Imagine you weren’t Peter Capaldi and you had to walk out tonight. He’d be mown down. It has to be you. If it had been somebody else we would have kidnapped you and brought you to the studio.” We’d have no choice. So it wasn’t fraught from the point of view of the secrecy because, honestly, if the secret breaks, nothing happens. Nothing happens at all. Somebody makes a tremendous profit in the betting shop. Ben Stephenson.
Did you ever seriously consider a woman?
It’s absolutely narratively possible and when it’s the right decision, maybe we’ll do it. It didn’t feel to me, right now, right. I didn’t feel enough people wanted it. Oddly enough most people who said they were dead against it – and I know I’ll get into trouble for saying this – were women. Saying, “No, no, don’t make him a woman!” Not that I was influenced by that. I’m influenced by nothing. Obviously.
What will you say to Helen Mirren?
It’s time that a man played the Queen. Step aside for a man.
What’s the time-frame? When’s he start work?
Erm, he’ll do a very, very short scene at Christmas.
Here’s Peter Capaldi’s 1970s sketch of a Sea Devil as published in Volume 1 of The Doctor Who Fanclub.
- I’m guessing this was a tabloid journalist looking for their ‘line’, but really, was there such a leak? Capaldi’s name certainly was out there, but alongside a good half-a-dozen contenders ↩