Peter Capaldi on The Responsibility of Playing The Doctor, Christmas and Veep

On the eve of The Return of Doctor Mysterio, Peter Capaldi has sat down with the Observer in a wide-ranging interview on the Christmas special, his trepidation taking on the role of the Doctor, those Veep rumours and his favourite episode of Doctor Who that he’s not in.

After what feels like a thousand years, the Doctor is back this festive season in a superhero showdown with a mysterious character known as The Ghost – a Superman-like hero who, unlike the Doctor, sets himself up as a righter of wrongs.

He said:

“I don’t really think the Doctor does that. It’s more by accident he finds himself in situations where he’s the only one with the wherewithal to deal with it.

But in this special, we have a traditional superhero whom the Doctor becomes embroiled with. And what I really like about it is that I think Steven Moffat has caught perfectly the sort of style and wit of those Christopher Reeve superhero movies. Nowadays, there’s a lot of superhero movies and they’re all great and blah blah blah, but sometimes they’re gag-free zones. But the old Christopher Reeve ones used to be very witty. So it’s quite like that.”


When Matt Smith untied his bow tie and departed the show in an explosion of regenerative energy, Peter Capaldi burst onto the screen with glare of those incredible eyebrows; so what was it like to step into the stylish boots and take on the responsibility of being the Doctor?

He said:

“It is very frightening and remains so, because it’s this iconic character. And it’s not about whether other people love it, or love him. I love him as a character, so it is a challenge trying to be true to your thoughts about it, and continuing to move it forward, so he is a character, not just a cipher that we keep coming back to. While, at the same time, you have to give the audience what they want as well.”

Before Capaldi jumped aboard the TARDIS, he was best known to TV audiences as foul-mouthed Press Officer Malcolm Tucker in the peerless The Thick of It – the brainchild of comedy writer Armando Iannucci. After the show ended, Iannucci went across the pond and began work on Veep, the equally brilliant look behind the scenes at the struggles of the powerful yet powerless US Vice President, Selina Meyer, as played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

During the run up to the current hiatus, one of the rumours swirling around was that the delay was down to Capaldi’s desire to direct a few episode of the HBO series. However, nothing really came of it and Iannucci has since left the show for comedy pastures new. So exactly what happened?

Capaldi said:

“Armando [Iannucci] asked me to direct a couple episodes, but I couldn’t do it because that takes like six months of the year. I didn’t do that because I was doing Doctor Who. I think they kind of floated the idea of me showing up at some point, but Doctor Who takes nine months. The timing never quite worked out. I don’t know! The personnel’s all changed there, at Veep. I don’t think the British guys do it anymore. I think it’s a new American showrunner. But Julia Louis-Dreyfus is so brilliant. Everything she does is funny.”

Speaking of the wonderful work of other performers, Capaldi also let slip which episodes of nuWho he liked the best which don’t feature himself.

“I like a lot of them, I like the “Girl in the Fireplace,” that’s a good one. I like “Rose.” I think “Rose” is really good. “Dalek,” obviously, is great. “The Vampires of Venice”—I think Matt’s particularly good in that, because he has this wonderful quality of an old head on young shoulders. He’s very youthful, but he has this strange wisdom about him, and I think he manages, particularly in that episode, he walked that tightrope of being the young and the old doctor at the same time. And David of course, in “The Girl In the Fireplace,” you get the first sort of glimpse of a Doctor who could have a romantic life which was wonderful, which only David could do that.”

For more of Capaldi’s thoughts on his Oscar win for Best Short Film, his thoughts on Malcolm Tucker, and his thoughts on what you think of the show, head over to the Observer site.