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Fiona McCade: A grown-up in charge of the Tardis

Glasgow-born actor and Oscar winner Peter Capaldi. Picture: PA

Glasgow-born actor and Oscar winner Peter Capaldi. Picture: PA

  • by FIONA MCCADE
 

Even though I was barely out of nappies, for some strange reason I have a very clear memory of one particular moment in time.

I was sitting in front of the television, watching a programme that I’d never seen before. There was a man with black hair, running around. Then something odd started happening to him, as some very scary music played. The picture went all twirly and weird, and the face of the man with black hair slowly changed into the face of a man with curly white hair.

Granted, since the picture was black and white, there wasn’t a lot of choice about what colour the hair was going to be, but I remember being absolutely fascinated, not to mention petrified. And sure enough, next time I saw the programme, it was the white-haired man doing all the running around.

That was my introduction to Doctor Who, and it wasn’t long before I was the one doing the running around – scampering behind the sofa at the first sight of a Sea Devil or a Sontaran.

Fast-forward 40-odd years and – despite some ups and downs – Doctor Who is still one of the BBC’s greatest shows. Trouble is, although Matt Smith did a fine job in the role, I always felt like he was the one who was barely out of nappies.

Now, however, my prayers have been answered. A proper grown-up is back in the Tardis.

I can’t wait to see Peter Capaldi in action. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with the Doctor as an authority figure, but the criticism from some quarters that he’s too old for the job strikes me as teenage surliness. I mean, come on, he’s only 55.

Obviously, if you were holding out for Harry Styles as the 12th Doctor, I can see why you’d be disappointed, but I think most people over the age of consent really, really did not want the Time Lord to get any younger.

I’m assuming that the sort of person who tweeted: “I feel that by picking an elderly gentlemen a lot of the fast-paced action will cease to exist” is also the sort of person who remembers potty training more clearly than I remember Patrick Troughton’s regeneration into Jon Pertwee. Another, whose pouty, petulant contribution to the debate was: “I’m not watching Doctor Who any more. Peter Capaldi is too old” sounds like someone whose greatest experience of sci-fi/fantasy was watching the Twilight saga from behind a protective screen of Beanie Babies.

Seriously, kids, can’t you see the bigger picture, here? Capaldi fits the bill perfectly. The Doctor needs to be charismatic – check; a fantastic actor – check; and as different as possible from his previous incarnation – check, with bells on.

I know that most of Peter Capaldi’s work has been shown after you were all tucked up in bed, but if you give him a chance, I think you’ll take to him. In case you didn’t know – in case it happened before you were born – he’s probably most famous for playing the gloriously profane Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It. The BBC won’t allow the Doctor to use naughty words, but if Capaldi can bring half of Tucker’s intelligence, force, forthrightness and guts to his portrayal, it’ll be unmissable television. Not so much Doctor Who as Doctor Who The F**k Are You.

Let’s hope the fact that Capaldi has definitely passed puberty means that the writers will finally ditch the ever-encroaching romance and whimsy. There’s no doubt that he’ll surprise us with his take on the part, but I’m crossing my fingers that Capaldi will deliver a Doctor who’s so in-yer-face, we’ll be hiding behind the sofa from him, never mind the monsters.

This is the best thing to happen to the franchise in years, so let’s stop talking about the new Doctor’s age and start debating whether he’s going to do That Thing we’ve been waiting so long for.

Sylvester McCoy fudged it so much, we couldn’t be sure whether he was, or he wasn’t; David Tennant – wonderful in every other way – totally let us down.

So, is this it? Could it possibly happen this time? Will Peter Capaldi be the one who dares to play the Doctor as a Scot?

 

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