by Ricky Young
Few things are certain in life, but one thing is for sure: Zoë Ball cannot start a sentence without preceding it with that weird teeth-sucking-then-“er” sound she makes. As a nation, we had forgotten quite how annoying it could be. But on Sunday night, for reasons likely to be forever lost to all of space and time, she was chosen to introduce the bizarre one-off special Doctor Who: Live – The Next Doctor, and we all got to be really quite irritated by it again, together, as one.
Yes, Peter Capaldi’s the next ‘Doctor Who’, lead character in the BBC’s television programme Doctor Who. It’s a bold move – brave, even. It’ll shake up a show in desperate need of being thrown into a completely different direction, and it might even raise the prospect of Capaldi using his Oscar to belt Steven Moffat across the face in an ‘I’m not saying this shit’ incident, which even if it never actually happens will forever exist in my head. In fact, I’m thinking about it right now. And again now. No, hang on…BAM! There it goes again!
The reveal programme was a real and actual thing that happened, however; a strange and baffling chimera of shiny-floor extravaganza, reality-show interview and BBC executive-level decision-making, with a few half-hearted sops to nostalgia along the way. When it was announced the previous week, fans of hideous television rubbed their hands with glee, and started looking forward to the biggest clusterfuck on BBC1 since that time Nick Knowles beheaded a pensioner on the lottery quiz.
It wasn’t as much fun as we hoped. Designed from the ground up to get Twitter a-fizzing, and knowing it had it eleven-stone of pure nerdgasm at the end, it took its own sweet time in getting there. Zoë (looking for all the world like Claudia Winkleman dipped in icing sugar) had a couple of sofas-worth of incidentals to interview before the good stuff, and by christ the country squirmed. First up was the alluring triptych of Dr. Who Peter Davison, Liza Tarbuck, and a fat baby.
Liza and Peter burbled avuncular, and the fat baby was off in his own little world, but the gist was that Dr. Who really is rather wonderful and isn’t this self-created excuse for an event exciting? and oh gosh what memories do you have of that time you sat and watched the telly, like people do every day?
Then it was over to a message from the what-we-must-by-light-entertainment-law call ‘the departing’ Matt Smith, short of hair and expansive of ear, and seemingly filmed in the Fritzl basement. Matt seemed a bit down in the dumps, to be honest, which is fair enough. We here at MostlyFilm really used to dig his performance, until he was sunk so comprehensively by the recent script problems that even Lew Grade couldn’t winch him off the ocean floor. Let’s hope he finds a niche in Hollywood – he does seem like a nice boy.
After a handy guide to this Gallifrey thing you call ‘regeneration’ – presumably for the benefit of all the Antiques Roadshow viewers who had tuned in and were wondering what the living hell was going on – we were treated to a montage of convention-circuit regulars and interested sleb parties, each allowed no more than ten words to describe how Doctor Who had affected them over the years. How about you, Professor Brian Cox?
Thanks, Prof. You went a bit over your allotted word-count there, however. We’ll edit that down to you just saying “Science!” as usual.
Back to the sofa now, and while a nation was shouting “OH MY GOD GET ON WITH IT!!” at their tellies, it was time to while away a few precious minutes with Bernard Cribbins and Rufus Hound, the former a man of genuine charisma and wit, the latter a gibbering, over-excited goon. Guess which one we got more of? That’s right.
Then it was down to the actual reveal. (With a camera lurking backstage, the hints about an older Doctor seemed correct when we saw a brief glimpse of what the Daily Mail would call Old Hands – obviously the same scrawny claw that’s spent most of the 00’s being jabbed in Chris Addison’s ultra-shifty face.) Our new Doctor, squeaked Zoë, is PETER CAPALDI!!!, and the small minority of people who actually give a fuck about such things breathed a sigh of relief. Could this be a properly inspired production decision? Until there’s evidence to the contrary, it does actually seem like it might be the case.
Perhaps there’s hope after all? Maybe things might turn around? Perhaps the new Doctor’s relationship with Clara might make Jenna-Louise Coleman less mind-bendingly insufferable? Maybe the Twelfth Doctor might make people care about what he does and says for the first time in a couple of years? Isn’t the word ‘Twelfth’ so very strange to look at and say? Maybe every single person who has shoved a Who reference into a The Thick Of It quote and gleefully tweeted it over the last week will be hit by a meteorite? Maybe the Doctor can go back to having question-marks on his shirt again? You can have these ones for free, Moffat, do you hear me???
No, he’s too busy chortling at the 6.9 million peak audience this strange little programme achieved. This won’t be the last glitter-drenched Who-pla we’ll see, that’s for sure, at least under the current regime. As Malcolm Tucker would say, “I am a fictional character, from a completely different programme, and am totally irrelevant to this article.”
We’ll be back after the 50th anniversary show. See you then.
Go here for more witless shit from Ricky if so inclined. Probably not worth it.