As you may have noticed, Peter Capaldi was announced as the Twelfth Doctor live on TV last night. Deep in the bowels of BBC Elstree, our hair still sparkly from the giant glitter cannons in the studio next door, I caught up with the man in charge, Steven Moffat. This is what he had to say.
3. The Moff has been lying for some time.
Last month at Comic Con, the showrunner claimed that the search for Twelve had barely begun. This was not the case. “[Capaldi] came on the radar a fair amount of time ago. I happened to know that he’s a very very big fan, and there’s something rather seductive about an arresting looking leading man actor, one of the most talented actors in Britain, who you happen to know is a fan of the show and you do start to think, ‘maybe we should do something about that’. So it was quite a long time ago.”
4. There was a shortlist of one.
“The list went ‘Peter, Capaldi’. It was a very short list. Honestly, there was only one audition list, and it wasn’t an audition really, so much as he came round my house and we put him on video to see what he looked like as the Doctor, and gosh, he was terribly good. He’s been doing that most nights, I think.”
6. Capaldi really was considered and discarded last time round.
“He did flick through my mind when we were replacing David and he didn’t feel right at all. But there’s something about Matt’s Doctor that paves the way for Peter’s Doctor, I think. The important thing to remember about the Doctor is that it’s one character going through his life played by a succession of different actors, and you have to get to that place each time. I can absolutely believe that the strange old/young Matt Smith will change into the strange young/old Peter Capaldi.”
8. The Doctor never really changes.
“I’m not going to tell him how to play the Doctor,” said Moffat. “I’m going to write the Doctor.”
“You’d be surprised how similar the Doctors are on paper. If you look at discarded scenes from previous eras, he’s kind of always the same, he’s just this very clever man. When he walks around with a different face and voice, it becomes different. When I wrote [Matt’s opening episode] The Eleventh Hour and I handed it in, everyone said it was exactly David. Then a few weeks later we cast Matt and everyone was complimenting me hugely – and I accepted the compliments – about how well I’d rewritten it for Matt. I hadn’t touched a word, they were just imagining Matt. The Doctor is the Doctor.”
10. Age ain’t nothing but a number.
At 55, Capaldi it the oldest actor to be cast in the role since William Hartnell, who was also 55. Matt Smith had been the youngest ever. But Moffat said that these were not concerns.
“The apparent age of the Doctor makes no narrative sense at all. He’s been everything from his 20s to his 70s – obviously he doesn’t care, he just sort of picks a face off the rack and goes with it.
“I think it’s good that we’ve got a different age just because I can’t imagine what somebody in their 20s would do with the Doctor after Matt showed us all how to be a 20s Doctor. I don’t know what you would do after that. You’d have to be an alternative or a contradiction. It wouldn’t work. So it makes life easier that Peter is different, but that wasn’t the reason. It was because the Doctor was in the room.”
12. The future is unwritten.
What kind of Doctor will Twelve turn out to be? “Magnificent,” offered Moffat, before conceding, “the truth is, I don’t know. We’ve seen him do Doctorish stuff and it’s worked. I’ve seen him deal with the technobabble, I’ve seen him deal with the nonsense. I wrote scenes that were deliberately impossible, just to see how you can deal with the impossible even without gunk being poured on you.”
“And now we’re gonna pour gunk on you and throw a lizard and ask you to do all this stuff and explain the plot. We’re going to work on that, and as with Matt, you know how Matt developed hugely as he approached the part for the first few episodes, we’re going to do the same with Peter.”
13. Secrecy doesn’t really matter after all.
For a man who makes such a song and dance about secrets, Moffat was surprisingly relaxed about most of the world apparently knowing about Capaldi in advance. “I was absolutely thrilled that nobody had even mentioned the possibility of Peter at all. It must have been a shock when he walked out! I worry though that the one person who didn’t know might not have been watching.”
“I thought we should have phoned them and said ‘are you home, we’ll start the show when you are’. It was fraught, but not because of the secrecy. Does that matter? Not really. It matters that people love the choice. And when we saw that there were some minor degree hints that it was going to be Peter, everyone was rapturous about the idea. If a secret breaks, nothing happens. Somebody just makes a tremendous profit in a betting shop.”
15. They never seriously considered casting a woman.
Every time it comes to cast a new Doctor, talk inevitably turns to it being a woman. This time, that chorus was louder than ever, stoked further by Helen Mirren suggesting that the new Doctor should be female, black and gay. “It’s absolutely narratively possible,” said Moffat. “And when it’s the right decision, maybe we’ll do it. But it didn’t feel right to me right now.”
“I didn’t feel enough people wanted it. Oddly enough most people who said they were dead against it – and I know I’ll get in trouble for saying this – were women. They said ‘don’t make him a woman!’ Not that I was influenced by that. I’m influenced by nothing, obviously. What would I say to Helen Mirren? It’s time that a man played the Queen. Step aside for a man!”