Farewell to Peter Capaldi… and who’s the new Who?

PETER Capaldi has been a great Doctor Who, and I say that as a man who shouldn’t care less but finds that he still does.

To those who unkindly point out that Doctor Who is essentially a children’s programme, I say: go and bury your head in a wormhole. That’s a hypothetical connection between widely separately regions of space-time, by the way, rather than a hole made by a worm. But if I take one more step towards theoretical physics, I will trip over something. A worm, possibly.

Anyway, Doctor Who. I have watched every episode since the autumn of 1963 – and I didn’t even have to Google that date, although I then did, just to make sure, Google being the safety net we can no longer do without.

Capaldi has been my favourite Doctor of the lot, supplanting Tom Baker and the all-too-fleeting Christopher Eccleston. Not forgetting David Tennant, who is many people’s favourite, and the lanky, larksome Matt Smith.

Capaldi’s Doctor is about to regenerate, although we will have to wait until Christmas Day to see the transformation. We will, however, know the identity of the new Doctor in a day. Trailers aired during the tennis yesterday announced that the 13th Time Lord will be revealed tomorrow afternoon. Shot in 13 different locations, the trailer ended with the words: “Meet the 13th Doctor after the Wimbledon men’s final, Sunday16th July.”

Before rolling the speculation die into that time-warp, let’s stop to praise Capaldi. Known mostly for playing the splendidly sweary Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It, Capaldi was a surprising choice to some, and yet he has pushed every last weary atom of his being into the role, or so it seems to my sometimes last weary atoms.

There have been nice silly touches, such as the electric guitar, and at times Capaldi has suggested a sprite of mischief, but often he has seemed to carry a great weight, as if to say: “This living for ever lark is not as much fun as you might imagine.”

As the last series moved to its end, Capaldi’s performance grew deeper and darker, as the story pushed him towards regeneration – a step he struggled against, as the transformation grew closer. This was no easy face-swap, but a painful rebirth, almost as if he was having to give birth to his next self.

Steven Moffat wrote up a storming last series for Capaldi, and he will hand over to new series writer Chris ‘Broadchurch’ Chibnall at the end of the Christmas special.

Moffat played with dark themes, while introducing fun ideas and making passing contemporary references (I seem to recall a Trump reference in there somewhere).

Various rumours have swirled around the plughole of time about who will take over from Capaldi. My favourite whisper is that there could be a gender jump, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge (of the fine and very human comedy Fleabag) taking over. My least favourite rumour is that it’s that bloke off Death in Paradise. Kris Marshall, that’s the one. Capaldi announced his departure from the Tardis at the same time Marshall said he was leaving that Caribbean island. Perhaps he was tired of stumbling over bodies and then gathering all the suspects together for the Agatha Christie-style whodunit denouement. Anyway, people added two and two together and made Who.

But if it is Kris Marshall, I will still watch, because I always do.

Let’s not leave the shores of time without addressing Bill Potts, the Doctor’s latest companion. Pearl Mackie was fantastic in the role – funny, bolshie and able to stick up for herself, and act on her own. Bill died and it was the Doctor’s fault. Then she was resurrected – or was that all a trick, a wishful illusion? I do hope Bill makes it. Or maybe she could be the new Doctor.

We will know after the last ball has been struck tomorrow on centre court. Or maybe Roger Federer will get the role, as he wins everything else – although, thinking about it, Roger is more of a James Bond man.


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