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Peter Capaldi on his last season as Doctor Who

The Scottish actor explains why he is handing back the key to the Tardis.
Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and Pearl Mackie as his new companion, Bill, in the new season of Doctor Who, which is now showing on BBC first, exclusively available on OSN. Courtesy BBC
Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and Pearl Mackie as his new companion, Bill, in the new season of Doctor Who, which is now showing on BBC first, exclusively available on OSN. Courtesy BBC

It has been a long wait but Doctor Who is finally back for a new season, with ­Scottish actor Peter Capaldi returning as the adventurous Time Lord after taking a year off.

The new season – which introduces actress Pearl Mackie as new companion Bill – started last night on BBC First, exclusive to OSN, and time is running out for this incarnation of the ­Doctor, the twelfth in the show’s 54-year history.

Capaldi has announced he is quitting the show and will pass the baton to his yet-to-be-­announced successor in this year’s Christmas special. Showrunner Steven Moffat, who has been in charge of the series since 2010, will leave at the same time.

The show has been a huge international hit for the BBC since it was revived in 2005, 16 years after the BBC put it on hiatus in the face of falling ratings.

As Capaldi notes, although he and older fans have fond memories of the show’s original run, from 1963 to 1989, for much of that time, it was not particularly popular.

“It’s quite odd because in a way it was a show that ... was only ever surviving by the skin of its teeth,” he says. “It only ever really just survived. So although we loved it as kids, we didn’t know that it was just making it, that any moment, I think, in its history, it could have been axed.”

Times have changed, and a more dynamic, action-­orientated approach to production reinvented the show for a new generation, while still honouring its roots and long history.

“I think we have a lot of support from the BBC now, but I think in its history, a lot of the time Doctor Who hasn’t had the support, so it’s an odd show,” says Capaldi. “It’s a show that went from sort of being a cult to being a kind of mainstream show.”

With Doctor Who still hugely popular, it seems a little strange that Capaldi is calling it quits after only three seasons. Why give up such an internationally recognisable and much-loved role?

“I didn’t really make my mind up until about half way through [filming the new season],” he says. “You have something like a three-year contract and then they wanted me to carry on so I had to make up my mind.

“What tipped me was having done it for a third year, and I’ve really enjoyed this year, but I was aware of the fact that it was becoming increasingly difficult to find new ways to do it.

“As an actor I’m interested in trying to keep things vigorous and alive, and this didn’t happen this year but I was worried that if I carried on I would find myself running out of ideas about how you do it.

“There’s a thing about episodic television: the audience all want you to do the same thing. They want you to do what they’ve ­become familiar with but you only sort of arrive at that point by trying things out.

“So if I was reaching the point where I wasn’t allowed to try things out any more I thought, well, that’s not really what I want to be doing. I didn’t want to be phoning it in. When I’m in the show I want to try to make it the best I can make it.”

Capaldi is in the unusual position of having gone from playing one cult-favourite character – government spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in political satire The Thick of It – to another, the Doctor.

At first glance, it seems the two characters could not be more different – one a foul-mouthed, ill-tempered, political hatchet man, the other a heroic time-travelling adventurer.

Capaldi, however, doesn’t think the difference is quite so pronounced as it seems.

“Actually, they’re not really that different,” he says, thinking aloud. “I play them both, so they both have my face, and they both have a kind of robust relationship with the people around them.

“When I played Malcolm, it was always interesting that a lot of people would recognise me and talk to me and they were always young people and smart people and clever people. I didn’t ­realise I was about to step into ­something that would expose me to even more, and even younger, people.

“But yes, I try not to swear as Doctor Who – that wouldn’t be right. I don’t think he likes swearing. I wouldn’t like to see him swear, that would not be good.”

Whenever it is announced that the Doctor will “regenerate”, and a new actor takes over the role, there are plenty of ­questions and rumours. How will he “die”? Who will replace him? What can we expect from his final ­episodes?

Of course, Capaldi is not giving much away.

“Well I have ideas about it and I’ve presented those ideas to the authorities,” he says with a laugh. “It’s going to be slightly different, I think, from what you’ve seen before.”

• New episodes of Doctor Who are broadcast on Saturdays at 10.20pm on BBC First, exclusively on OSN, with several repeats during the following week. Visit www.osn.com for more details

cnewbould@thenational.ae

Updated: April 15, 2017 04:00 AM

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