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article imageNew Doctor Who Peter Capaldi talks teen ‘geekthology’ shame

By Mathew Wace Peck     Sep 1, 2013 in Entertainment
Since being named as Matt Smith’s successor as the Doctor in the BBC’s long-running science-fiction TV drama series, Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Who-fan status has hardly been out of the news.
Capaldi is a well-established TV and film actor, a writer and director. The 55-year-old – who is set to make his debut as the Twelfth Doctor in this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special – is also known to be a massive fan of the 50-year-old series.
As a self-confessed teenage “geek” before the term was even invented, Capaldi admits that there was a time when he was ashamed of being so.
“I destroyed all my geek stuff because I didn’t want to be a geek, and I regret it to this day,” he says, in an interview with Big Issue. “Consumed in the geek bonfire of the vanities was a collection of autographs and letters from [1960’s film Doctor Who] Peter Cushing, [British comedians] Spike Milligan [and] Frankie Howerd, the first Doctor Whos, actual astronauts and many more,” he confides. “I wish I’d known that one day the geek would inherit the Earth.”
Explaining why he became ashamed of his “geekthology”, Capaldi tells Big Issue, “When I was 16, geeks hadn’t been invented; so being tall and skinny, into horror movies and sci-fi and unable to play football simply made me the go-to guy for the sociopaths – some of them teachers – who wanted to practise their torturing skills on someone.”
When Capaldi was a teenager, he says his life was like a motorway pile-up, that he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. “I wanted to be an actor, a painter, a rock star, a comedian, a film director,” he says now. “I didn’t know what I wanted. But I knew that I didn’t want to join the queue of depressed-looking souls standing at the bus stop in the rain every morning. And when I eventually settled on the idea of being an actor, I had no idea how to get started.”
One of the perceived barriers to becoming an actor was his Glaswegian accent. “[Actors] were Shakespeare-loving intellectuals […] spitting and shouting at each other in that ‘actor-y’ voice,” Capaldi says. “What was that voice? ‘Neutral,’ I was told. Neutral? But it sounds like you’d have to swallow mugs full of Lord Byron’s saliva and inject Churchill’s cigar butt juice into your vocal chords to come even close to ballooning your own voice into that impossible sound. Neutral? No. It was Standard English. Even most English people didn’t speak it. What chance did I have, with my Glasgow accent and ice-cream name?”
However, Capaldi learned to gain confidence and abandon the self-loathing. In his “Letter to My Younger Self”, the 55-year-old Capaldi speaks to the 16-year-old Capaldi, addressing, among other things, his accent:
Worrying that you are crap is a waste of time. Worrying that you can’t do it is a waste of time. Worrying that you failed is a waste of time. No one cares. Just get on with it […] celebrate being different. In the end, my Glasgow accent didn’t matter. The fact I was different would provide me with the employment I’ve had.
Last week, when Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat was asked about Capaldi’s natural accent, he replied that he would be very surprised if the actor didn’t retain it for the Twelfth Doctor.
Spin-Doctor Who
Capaldi is the third Scottish actor to play the Doctor Who lead, with both Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy and Tenth Doctor David Tennant preceding him. However, whereas McCoy retained his distinctive Scottish brogue for the part, Tennant opted for an English accent. Capaldi used his Glaswegian accent for the part of Malcolm Tucker, The Thick of It ’s foul-mouthed spin-doctor, for which he is best well known.
Doctor Who fans have just under four months to witness Capaldi as the Doctor for the first time, as this year’s Christmas special will feature the long-awaited regeneration sequence in which Smith’s Eleventh Doctor gives way to Capaldi’s Twelfth. After that, viewers will have to wait till season 8, which is expected to air sometime in 2014.
Before all that however, Smith and Tennant, together with another Doctor – played by John Hurt – will be seen joining forces in the 50th-anniversary Doctor Who special, to be broadcast on Saturday, 23 November; the day and date of the first-ever episode, An Unearthly Child. Also in November, David Bradley will be seen recreating the First Doctor – originally played by the late William Hartnell – in the feature-length drama An Adventure in Space and Time. Bradley’s First Doctor will be joined in the episode by Reece Shearsmith’s Second Doctor, originally played by the late Patrick Troughton.
Furthermore, again in November, the first eight Doctors will appear together in the audio adventure, The Light at the End. While Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann – the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors, respectively – will appear in person, audio segments of William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and, Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee will be used, too.
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