The Hot 100 2014: 1 Peter Capaldi
The new Doctor Who heads up the Hot 100 for the second time in five years
From Malcolm Tucker to the one-and-only Doctor, Peter Capaldi’s been a regular presence in our Hot 100. Now number one for the second time in five years, Murray Robertson tells us why the Glaswegian deserves his top spot.
When Peter Capaldi topped our Hot 100 poll back in 2009, it was down to his acerbic portrayal of Malcolm Tucker in Armando Iannucci’s satirical TV comedy The Thick of It. While his visceral performance as the government spin doctor marked something of a career renaissance, this past year has seen his stock go through the roof thanks to a critically revered 12th incarnation of the lead role in Doctor Who (and, with him credited in last year’s World War Z as ‘WHO Doctor’, there’s a distinct theme running through Capaldi’s work).
After studying graphic design at Glasgow School of Art (for whom he is now a trustee of the Mackintosh Appeal), the Glaswegian forged a diverse TV career with occasional forays into film, including Bill Forsyth’s charming Local Hero and Ken Russell’s bonkers The Lair of the White Worm. But it was his frenzied, splenetic portrayal of foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker that firmly established Capaldi as a household name. Over four series, and feature film In the Loop, the actor was festooned with awards and nominations (no doubt vying for space alongside the Oscar he won in 1995 for his short film, Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life).
A lifelong Doctor Who fan (he refers to himself using the correct parlance: a Whovian), Capaldi had been hotly tipped for the role and his appointment was announced last year during a rather odd live televised chat event hosted by Zoe Ball. ‘I’m surprised now to see Doctor Who looking back,’ he said then. ‘You look in the mirror and suddenly, strangely, he’s looking back. And he’s not me yet, but he’s reaching out and hopefully we’ll get it together.’
Aged 55 when he took on the role (the same age as the first Doctor, William Hartnell), Capaldi’s unpredictable manifestation is a far cry from his recent predecessors. Blessed with piercing blue eyes and expressive eyebrows, Capaldi imbues the Doctor with a fierce intelligence frequently frustrated by the slow humans surrounding him. Often questioning his self-worth, Capaldi’s Doctor was plunged into some of the darkest stories in the show’s history, and the actor’s charismatic intensity was a perfect fit. Part of that success was down to his volte-face from Matt Smith’s avuncular clown.
The last time we saw a Doctor as complex and conflicted as this was in the guise of fellow Scot Sylvester McCoy, whose brooding solemnity was sadly curtailed when the original series was axed in 1989. But Capaldi’s Doctor certainly isn’t all gloom and doom, and all those years parsing Malcolm Tucker’s vociferous speeches were good practice for some of Doctor Who’s more playful scripts.
When the series triumphantly marked its 50th anniversary in 2013, it seemed somehow fitting to break with recent tradition and recall the Doctors of old. While executive producer Steven Moffat’s stewardship will never appeal to all tastes, there seems to be something for everyone in Capaldi’s new Doctor: elements of Hartnell’s eccentric grandfather figure, Tom Baker’s profound intelligence, Peter Davison’s vulnerability, and McCoy’s Machiavellian genius. And all of it wrapped up in the complexities added to this character since its wonderful regeneration in 2005. With the Time Lord now firmly re-established, fans are eager to see where he’ll venture next year and beyond.