Peter Capaldi has given his first proper interview about Doctor Who. There is one line from it that has gone round the world: there will be no hanky-panky aboard the Tardis on his watch. Capaldi is the same age as older fans who have often felt affronted by the pheromones that have been surging between the Doctor and his female companions since his grand return of 2005. “There’ll be no flirting, that’s for sure,” Capaldi said. “It’s not what this Doctor’s concerned with. It’s quite a fun relationship, but no, I did call and say, ‘I want no Papa-Nicole moments. I think there was a bit of tension with that at first, but I was absolutely adamant.”
I think there was a bit of tension with that at first, but I was absolutely adamant.”
The Papa-Nicole comment relates to a series of 1990s Renault Clio car adverts which hinted at a romance between an older man and a younger woman, before they were revealed to be father and daughter.
Capaldi also had good news for those Doctor Who purists who believe the show’s storylines have become over the top.
“It’s going to be a bit different from what we’ve seen over recent years. A bit more gravity,” he said. “Some situations are more sombre and I think there are more rooted dramatic scenes. Over the past two or three years, which I’ve loved, there has often been a breathless vigour; we still have that attack, but we have another level of drama, another tone. And the scenes are longer.”
Capaldi recalled how his agent called him to tell him he had got the part when he was filming in Prague, and he spent the afternoon wandering around the city humming the Doctor Who theme tune.
“I just didn’t think it was something that would happen to me,” he admitted.
But the Glaswegian actor did not say yes to the part immediately.
“I didn’t want to be Doctor Who in a Doctor Who I didn’t like,” he said. “I had to be convinced the show was going in a direction I was interested in.
“I had to think carefully about the level of visibility. My life was blessed, but as soon as this happened I had paparazzi outside my house. People spoke to me before and recognised me, but nothing like this.
“I had to decide if I was ready to live with that, because once that genie is out of the bottle, it doesn’t go back in.”
It’s heartening that this actor will stand for as little nonsense as his Doctor, but you sort of suspect that whatever “tension” he’s referring to may be a little overstated. A lot has been said, of course, about these romantic frissons, but they’re a long way from being a status quo that needs to be challenged. The relationship between Rose Tyler and her Doctors was a tender, if entirely celibate, love story, while the main problem with her successor, Martha Jones, was that she was saddled with an unrequited love arc that prevented the character from ever really having a chance to shine. Far better was Tennant’s Doctor playing opposite Donna Noble as two best friends who would bicker constantly while doing absolutely anything for each other.
Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner so far has been less emotional but more romantic than that of his predecessors, and the epic love story of Amy Pond and Rory Williams was played through the prism of the Doctor – showing that this is what having a chaotic time-travelling space detective as your best mate can do to your relationship. The scene from 2012 episode The Power of Three, in which the Doctor and Amy are sitting on Tower Bridge, contemplating their time together while suspecting it may soon be up, is one of the most beautiful moments since the show’s revival. But it certainly wasn’t flirty.
Most of the time, when this sort of thing has been explored, it’s been a device designed to allow for hugely awkward comedic moments, and the advances rarely ever come the Doctor himself.
When Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald was introduced, there was a certain dance of boy-meets-girl to it, which didn’t always work. But really, you can look at all that as a precursor to what comes next. While it hasn’t always come across on screen, Moffat has said that Clara is intended to be something of a control freak, never more fun than when she’s juggling impossible situations like being the governess pretending to be the barmaid in Victorian London. More recently she’s had a sweet deal of it, coming and going to the Tardis on her little motorbike as she pleases, with the ever-so-slightly-smitten Doctor at her beck and call.
In words to echo that 50th anniversary special – no more. Now the space detective Clara had just got round to admitting she fancied is a gnarly Scot who looks a lot like Malcolm Tucker. And while I’m not buying the rumoured “nasty Doctor” approach, the official line is that this guy is going to be “trickier, fiercer, madder”. He’s just spent hundreds of years keeping watch over the planet of Trenzalore. He’s had time to ponder how he really, really isn’t a human at all, and he’s certainly not going to have any truck with whimsical Earthbound dating conventions just to keep up appearances. Faced with somebody like him as a travelling companion, going round the universe apologising for him while trying to hold down this teaching job she’s landed herself, Clara looks like she’s going to have a lot more to play with.
And that takes us to the truly interesting part of what Capaldi said. Moffat had previously promised that this series would see Doctor Who undergoing the “biggest change” since the programme’s 2005 revival, without really explaining that actually means.
Well, here is a hint from Capaldi: “We still blow a lot of shit up. That’s very important, but it’s going to be a bit different from what we’ve seen over recent years. A bit more gravity. Some situations are more sombre and I think there are more rooted dramatic scenes. Over the past few years, which I’ve loved, there has often been a breathless vigour; we still have that attack, but we have another level of drama, another tone.”
Are you excited? Let us know below – but no hanky panky, please.