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In Praise of Peter Capaldi: The latest Doctor leaves big shoes to fill

ByChris Henson

May 11, 2017

Peter Capaldi is leaving Doctor Who. I think I speak for everyone when I say that this is by far the worst thing that has happened in the last 18 months. I could only liken it to the time that Christopher Ecclestone announced that he was leaving Doctor Who. Or when David Tennant announced that he was leaving Doctor Who. Or when Matt Smith announced that he was leaving Doctor Who.

Only this time it was worse. As far as I’m concerned, Peter Capaldi is both the greatest actor ever to play The Doctor, and his Doctor is the show’s greatest ever Doctor. A big claim. If this was to be published in certain corners of the internet, I dread to think how the basement-dwelling goblins who refuse to accept that the show has changed and developed would react.

Peter Capaldi is intergalactically good. You run out of superlatives to describe him: the danger, the gravitas. His voice carries such authority. He’s given the finest monologues, Shakespearean in content and delivery. His comic timing is superb; no other actor could have nailed the line ‘There’s a horror movie called Alien? That’s really offensive, no wonder everyone keeps invading you’ like Capaldi did. His performance must be seen to be appreciated: see it, appreciate it.

Inevitably in a show like Doctor Who, each Doctor is compared to the others. Focusing only on post-2005 revival Who, I think it’s unfair to compare Christopher Ecclestone to the others, as with only one series his Doctor had little time to develop (despite how good Ecclestone was in the role). But Capaldi’s 12th stands up very well to Tennant’s 10th and Smith’s 11th. What Tennant and Smith said in an entire monologue, Capaldi says with a look. His speeches in Series 8’s ‘Flatline’, Series 9’s ‘The Zygon Inversion’ and the entirety of ‘Heaven Sent’ are all sublime, rousing pieces of television but, more importantly, they are all quintessentially ‘Capaldi’. I don’t think any of the previous actors would have pulled them off, and I know for a fact ‘Heaven Sent’ being a one-hander, with The Doctor the only character in the whole episode, would have crumbled under any of the previous Doctors. With Capaldi, however, the episode is a masterpiece.

If any evidence is needed to attest to his fibre as a man, I recently came across a video which saw Peter Capaldi personally thanking dozens of fans who had sent him ‘Happy Birthday’ messages. Not only did Capaldi address everyone by name with a personalised message, he said thank you in each language his well-wishers spoke, from Finnish to Portugese, to sign-language. He didn’t even have to respond, let alone so heartfully.

Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor is my favourite by far; but Peter Capaldi is my hero. People may say Peter Capaldi aspires to be like The Doctor; I think The Doctor aspires to be like Peter Capaldi. As should we all.

A brief word on his possible successors. Bookies recently stopped taking bets on Kris Marshall; I’d support any actor in the role, but Marshall would feel far too much like a ‘safe’ choice for a show built around taking risks. Hence, my picks would be either Paterson Joseph (best known as Alan Johnson in Peep Show) or Sharon Horgan (currently starring in the excellent Catastrophe). It’s a shame that in some corners of deepest darkest internet these would be considered ‘controversial’ choices. Thus, I’d love it if either got the role. Come at me, goblins.

Image: Doctor Who Spoilers @ Flickr

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