PETER Capaldi is off and that reminds me we could all do with a Tardis right now. In a world where the fatted silhouette of Donald Trump casts such a long shadow, a spot of time-hopping might be a relief. Then again, nothing you are likely to find out there can match the horrors on display down here.
I have had a lengthy relationship with Doctor Who, having watched the first episode as a boy in 1963. Perhaps that is why I stuck with it. I have been there for the cardboard-set lows, been there for the dizzy modern highs – peaks that send your brain fuzzy for lack of sensible plot oxygen.
Doctor Who does like a complicated tale and the modern version has sometimes been slavish to the long-form plot. If you don’t keep your wits about you, well it probably makes as much sense as if you do keep hold of your wits.
Capaldi has announced that the new series will be his last, and that he will be leaving in the Christmas special – along with the show’s lead writer and executive producer Stephen Moffatt, the man with the deep plots.
The 58-year-old Glaswegian followed the younger Matt Smith, bringing a dark but puzzled energy to the role. You could almost see the speech bubble: “I’m Doctor Who – how the **** did that happen?’ The expletive was put there by Malcolm Tucker, the foul-mouthed spin doctor Capaldi made very much his own in The Thick Of It.
I have only met one Time Lord, although I did spot Capaldi once at the crime-writing festival in Harrogate. He appeared stylish and individual and, at a passing step, much less bonkers than his incarnation of the Doctor.
Capaldi has been a good Doctor, although why a man of my age should care is an embarrassment and a mystery. The Doctor I did meet was Tom Baker, but I think this story has been told before. He was appearing at Greenwich Theatre in a play called the Musical Comedy Murders of 1940.
We met at a café in central London, close to the rehearsal halls, and Baker was pop-eyed and full of alarming enthusiasms, and his voice rattled the cutlery, or so it seems in memory.
The original Doctor Who ran aground eventually, but was then re-born in 2005 and the tenth ‘new’ series will be Capaldi’s last.
Partly what has allowed Doctor Who to survive and mostly flourish is the idea that the main character has the ability to regenerate, “a quirk that has allowed a number of actors to have played the role over the years”, as the BBC website puts it. Thanks to this in-built renaissance, the series can reinvent itself each time a new actor comes along.
All the Doctors have been men, which you might think would go without saying, but there are probably thought pieces being written right now demanding that a woman has her turn in the Tardis. Would that work? Oh, I don’t see why not. My hot tip for the role would be Sandi Toksvig.