Peter Capaldi Was Not Who The Doctor Ordered

23/11/2015 3:14 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Mark Kolbe via Getty Images
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 20: Dr Who's Peter Capaldi poses durnig a media call at Mrs Macquarie's Chair on November 20, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Doctor Who is arguably the most sacred science fiction character of all time. Regardless of who portrays the 900-year-old Time Lord, the character himself belongs to all Whovians, and has done since he hit television screens back in 1963.

Any actor seeking to regenerate into the Doctor must understand that their portrayal transcends an ordinary acting gig. They become the rebel from Gallifrey on and off the screen; a hero for the ages.

For me, Tom Baker will always be The Doctor with David Tennant the Time Lord son he never had. All the Doctors have added their own quirks to the legend with varying degrees of success, although the delightfully looney Sylvester McCoy deserves special mention for rescuing the television series from irreversible oblivion in the late 80s.

Last weekend saw the first-ever Australian Doctor Who Convention held in Sydney, with fans traveling from as far away as Perth to attend. The spectacle went off without a hitch, though 'lining up' seemed to be the most popular activity throughout the day.

Amid the eye-popping special effects, props and writers of the show, were two of the actual Doctors, including Doctor number seven, the aforementioned Sylvester McCoy. As well as playing The Doctor, McCoy recently returned to the world stage in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit as Radagast the Brown.

Headlining the convention was the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, along with the show's number one fan and Executive Producer, Steven Moffat.

Disappointingly, Capaldi seemed to struggle. He sat awkwardly on the comfy couch and often gave one or two-word answers to questions from the effervescent fan-boy host Adam Spencer. Slightly odd or difficult questions from young fans were met with confused stares and quiet, reserved responses.

Capaldi almost seemed allergic to being venerated by fans as the current incarnation of the Time Lord, admitting during the discussion that one of his concerns in taking on the role had been the acute rise in fame he would experience.

Joining Capaldi on stage, Steven Moffat sat like the President of the Time Lord Council, as if draped in the very Sash of Rassilon. He looked out upon the fans like they were loyal subjects and his answers to questions from the floor were like decrees from on high. There was an ever so slight hint that Moffat was patiently tolerating the fans, who had no real idea of what it took to keep the legend of the last child of Gallifrey alive.

In stark contrast was Sylvester McCoy. The veteran Scottish actor transformed into The Doctor before our very eyes. He entered stage right carrying a walking stick, which he immediately used to attack the prop Dalek at the front of stage.

After a brief interview with Spencer, where witticisms flowed like well-aged wine, McCoy left the stage and walked the entire auditorium taking questions directly from the audience. He was the Time Lord of old, engaging with his favourite species, expounding the mysteries of the universe.

His last question was from a young girl, no more than six years old, who asked: "Why did you want to become Dr Who?". McCoy's answer: "Because I knew that one day I'd meet you." The audience melted.

Some Whovians may argue McCoy has nothing to lose in playing up to fans, his time portraying The Doctor on the small screen long past and beyond criticism. This doesn't wash. When the freshly minted Doctor number 10, David Tennant, greeted fans at his first live event -- Dr Who: A Celebration -- in 2006, he flashed his cheeky smile and 'played' with the audience for the entire evening, winning his place in the hearts of adoring fans forever.

That's what it means to be the Doctor. To bring the Time Lord to life, on and off the screen, for fans who have continued to breathe their own lives into the legend since 1963.

And so, perhaps, Peter Capaldi's greatest acting challenge lies not in beaming his quirky new take on the Doctor into living rooms around the world, but in truly becoming the Doctor for fans. After more than 50 years of loyalty, we deserve it.

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