THE BIG ISSUE: Does it feel like there is an extra responsibility on the Doctor Who Christmas episode to be a place we can all unite after a fraught year?
Capaldi: Oh yes. Where has Doctor Who been this year? When we needed him most, he wasn’t there. Perhaps he has been planning something that can help us out. Maybe he was getting himself ready to come and save us. Doctor Who: coming back to save 2016! I should be in advertising, shouldn’t I? The past needs me. That’s what it will be. He has not been in 2016, he has been elsewhere in time. Maybe he has only just heard…
This episode features a tycoon baddie in a New York skyscraper and the Doctor teaming up with a superhero. Is this a hot take on world events?
Ha, it is more a gentle tribute to those wonderful superhero movies of one’s youth, before they became all digitised and full of death and destruction. We used to watch the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie, which was very charming and very innocent and ironic, on Christmas Day. So we have a superhero in New York, who has a slightly strange relationship with the Doctor, which will become clear on the show. Steven Moffat’s scripts are always a fabulous combination of being intelligent and challenging but with great gags and a deep cosmic melancholy, which is vital in Doctor Who. I don’t think the Doctor has dealt with a superhero before, so it is a nice meeting of genres.
Are you as much a fan of superheroes as sci-fi?
I was never really a fan. But when I was growing up we had the Adam West Batman TV series, which everybody my age loved. That was great, very witty, and when you see it now you can see how clever the playing and the writing are. But there seem to be hundreds of superheroes now – they can’t be that super, can they? They are quite common now! I can’t keep track of any of them.
Losing David Bowie is still unbelievable to me. He basically created the world
This is going to be looked back on as a crazy year…
Losing David Bowie is still unbelievable to me. He basically created the world. I just can’t imagine that he is not around. We were filming in New York and I was saddened that whatever fantasy I had of walking into a diner and finding David Bowie there and striking up a conversation with him was no more. That could never, ever happen and I feel so sad about that. He is amazing. A fabulous artist. So great. I was going to say – and he was just an ordinary guy from Brixton. But, of course, he was an extraordinary guy from Brixton. He did incredible things, showed everybody what you could achieve. The year has been very bad but I can only think it is time for people to really think about how we respond to the difficulties that I think are pretty certain to come our way. People have to stand up for themselves and for others. We are in a dangerous place so we all have to now begin to fight.
What would the Doctor make of Donald Trump?
He would find him hilarious. Up to a point. I think we have reached that point where he is no longer funny. But the Doctor would be able to deal with him. I think the Doctor would certainly be able to recommend a better hairdresser. Imagine having all that money and that is the hairstyle you choose! Surely that says something. He has got his priorities wrong. He should have spent 2016 looking for a better hairdresser. Obviously there is a humorous underbelly to it all but, yes, I think it is more important we remain alert to the threats to our society and values. But also having a laugh when we can.
Imagine having all that money and that is the hairstyle you choose!
Do you still get the same buzz stepping into the TARDIS?
The TARDIS is a great set and everybody always has a fun time working on it. It is very welcoming, and it is the only set we constantly use so we know every corner of it. The nice thing for me is that I can usually escape on to the TARDIS set to learn my lines when it is not in use. It becomes my own private little place.
Quite right too! And how is filming going for the next series?
We are right in the middle of it but I’m just doing a week on Paddington 2 in between filming Doctor Who It’s all a bit kick, bollock, scramble.
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Do you see parallels between the first Paddington film and Doctor Who? Both are inclusive stories about treating outsiders with decency…
Absolutely. These characters are hugely popular because they show the best side of human nature. The side that is sometimes difficult to express. But that is why people love them. They pursue a rightful cause.
At this time of year storytelling can bring people together – helping combat loneliness.
It is also one of those things that TV and film does very well. People have favourites they want to watch again, and Christmas does add a nostalgic element, which is welcome. Because there is nourishment there. That was a very dreary answer to your far better phrased question.
Are there films your family return to every year?
The great favourite is Meet Me in Saint Louis, which is not technically a Christmas film but does have Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – perhaps the saddest Christmas song ever – in it. And White Christmas, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, which remains iconic and beautiful and very much the world we all want to live in. That is one we watch. I love It’s a Wonderful Life but it is such a good film you should leave five years between viewings. It’s a far denser film than the others so it’s good to forget it then come back to it.
These characters are hugely popular because they show the best side of human nature
Do you have a Christmas message for The Big Issue’s vendors and readers?
I would say be hopeful, cheerful and look after each other. I think it is time for everybody to look after each other. And don’t be quiet!
We’re fighting to improve literacy and save libraries, and Peter Capaldi is right behind us…
“It is about people making the best of themselves and each other. And living in a society that encourages that across the board. The idea libraries are closing down and we can’t have access to all this fabulous inspiration and education is awful. It is not just about literacy. It is about learning. It’s about looking at art books and seeing fabulous reproductions of paintings. It’s about being able to find books that tell you how to do stuff. It is about history and literature.
“It is really important we should be pointing ourselves towards an enlightenment, and our young people – all people – towards learning more about the world and what they are capable of, both as citizens and as artists. It is their right. It is your right to be shown the intellectual and artistic richness of the world. It is not something you should have to battle for. The Doctor would agree with that – he is about helping people to learn and become the best version of themselves.”