Movies & TV Sci-Fi

Five Things You Need to See Peter Capaldi in Right Now

The newest series of Doctor Who is drawing near, and with it speculations as to the nature of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor. With 30 years of film and TV behind him — including turns in The Hour, Neverwhere, and Fortysomething — picking out what to watch to get a feel for his role may seem daunting. But if you want reassurance that he’s got it nailed, here are five projects — some well-known, some obscure — to let you know he’s got us covered.

LOCAL HEROLocal Hero (1983)
Because sometimes the Doctor needs to: be a weapons-grade dork

Local Hero was Capaldi’s break-out role. The protagonist, Mac (played by Peter Riegert), travels to Scotland to convince a tiny seaside town to sell and make room for an oil refinery. While he’s there, he finds himself falling in love with the place and not wanting to buy it out. Meanwhile, the locals want to sell and become millionaires.

A gawky 25-year-old Capaldi plays Danny Oldsen, the company’s local representative, who alternates between helping Mac conduct business and wooing a local marine biologist with awkward small talk and atrocious Japanese. Half the fun of the movie is watching Danny be awkward at absolutely everything, from girls to skipping rocks to running without tripping over his own arms.

Really, no matter how severe the Doctor can be, he needs his awkward silly moments. While I doubt we’ll see anything quite as aggressively clumsy as Danny in the Doctor, this should at least reassure you that the self-described “rebel Time Lord” won’t go completely angry. At the very least, we know he still runs really weird.


THE THICK OF ITThe Thick of It (2005)
Because sometimes the Doctor needs to: make you wonder

Armando Iannucci’s political satire The Thick of It (and its spinoff film In the Loop) doesn’t explore politics as we see it so much as the ‘business’ behind it. In particular, it follows the doings of the (nonexistent) Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship as its metaphorical bacon is pulled repeatedly and aggressively out of the fire by the Prime Minister’s enforcer, Malcolm Tucker.

Despite the fact that Capaldi’s been around for thirty years, Malcolm was the role that truly made him a household name. Known for his foul mouth and righteous anger, the role has become so associated with him that it has even led people to believe that this is how he’ll play the Doctor. (Spoiler: not likely.)

But I include it here because of how Malcolm evolves over the course of the show. In the first season he’s the angry sweary man, yes; but as things continue we see him be pleasant with interns and laborers, suffer nervous breakdowns, and even break down crying rather unexpectedly once or twice. By the end of the show, we’re not really quite sure who or what Malcolm is — and the ability to make this irate character genuinely sympathetic while giving nothing away speaks volumes for what Capaldi could bring to the Doctor.


frobisher1-1913Torchwood: Children of Earth (2009)
Because sometimes the Doctor needs to: Rip your heart out and stomp all over it

Yep, it’s true, Capaldi has now appeared in the Whoniverse three times: as the Doctor, as the marble merchant Caecilius in ‘Fires of Pompeii,’ and as the antihero John Frobisher in what’s probably the best slice of Torchwood ever cut.

‘Children of Earth’ is a relatively stand-alone piece following the involvement of the Torchwood Institute in negotations with a mysterious group of aliens known as the 456. The 456 want Earth’s children. Torchwood doesn’t like this. But the British government — specifically Frobisher, Permanent Secretary to the Home Office — doesn’t care what Torchwood thinks, and fights them into submission so the government can commence negotiations.

Just as closely as the show follows Torchwood itself, it also follows Frobisher, who at the end of the day is a hard worker and a caring husband and father who just happens to have to serve as the ambassador between a terrified planet and a race of kid-eating aliens. His whole storyline is distressingly tragic and one of the most heartbreaking facets of the show, and Capaldi hits it out of the park. To quote a friend of mine during a second viewing, ‘Somebody buy that man a drink.’


SynchingIMG5766Ten-Minute Tales: ‘Syncing’ (2009)
Because sometimes the Doctor needs to: say everything without saying anything

Sky TV’s Ten Minute Tales series featured short films with one thing in common: none of them had any dialogue. Writers and actors from all walks took a turn at the short series, delivering a variety of teeny-tiny cinematic gems.

‘Syncing’ features Capaldi as a lonely man going about his days with little to no true direction — but his days are anything but average. The sounds of the world around him aren’t ever quite right. One moment they’re muffled, the next they’re just wrong, and finally (as the title suggests), they fall fully out of sync. In the end, it’s a sad but lovely mini-story about just how badly a loss can mess you up.

While any good role allows you to see an actor act without words at least once, ‘Syncing’ really drives it home. As silly as it will get at moments, it’s a powerful little piece that’s also devastatingly easy to find online.


cricklewoodThe Cricklewood Greats (2012)
Because sometimes the Doctor needs to: undersell

Find your well-connected Anglophile friends to get your hands on this, because it’s a difficult one to scrounge up. Capaldi directed and co-wrote this BBC4 mockumentary about the fictional Cricklewood Studios, a backwater one-off of the real-life Hammer Films (of which Capaldi is a confessed fanboy). Several people who’ve gotten their hands on Cricklewood have had to be told that it’s not a real documentary, simply because it’s delivered with the straight-faced quiet reverence that a true fan WOULD employ.

While the sight gags and fake film clips are incredibly over-the-top, their presentation is deliberately undersold. At times it feels like a friendly jab at Mark Gatiss’s History of Horror miniseries; at others, it toes (and sometimes flails wildly past) the line of black comedy as it describes the fates of Cricklewood’s fictional stars. As a whole, it’s a study in both quiet believability and deadpan humour.

Also, it never hurts to see what Capaldi — who, just as an aside, is also an Oscar-winning writer and director — can do behind the camera.



2 comments on “Five Things You Need to See Peter Capaldi in Right Now
  1. Stanislav Moskovian on said:

    I would disagree that Children of Earth was the best. The show was better but Children of Earth was better than the abysmal Miracle Day.

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