Doctor Who Christmas Special 2014: Peter Capaldi interview

Peter Capaldi chats to us about 2014's Doctor Who Christmas Special, Last Christmas, "one of the scariest ones" they've done...

This year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, Last Christmas, sees a first for the series as the Doctor comes face-to-face with the one and only Santa Claus, played by Nick Frost. We joined a small group of reporters a few weeks ago to catch up with the Doctor himself, the wonderful Peter Capaldi, to find out his thoughts on the special, Nick Frost, The Masque Of Mandragora and much more…

So tell us about this year’s Christmas special…

I think it’s a great episode. It’s very clever, because it’s both incredibly festive and jolly and it’s quite terrifying. It’s one of the scariest ones we’ve done, but it’s also one of the happiest. Santa basically appears on Clara Oswald’s roof with his elves, but this – which otherwise might be an excuse for cheer and happiness – is actually a nightmarish development. And only the Doctor knows why this is a nightmarish development, so he has to arrive and save her from what Santa’s going to bring into her life.

Does the Doctor’s relationship with Clara change a bit in the special?

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I think there’s something quite profound that happens in this one. But I can’t go into that…

This year we’ve seen the Doctor meet Robin Hood, in an encounter which left the character intact and didn’t say he wasn’t real. Will the special leave Santa intact in the same way?

Very much so, yes. He’s the real Santa, which is great – he’s not a Santa robot or a Santa alien or anything like that; he’s the real genuine Santa Claus, which is brilliant.

What was it like working with Nick Frost?

Fabulous. Hilarious. I’m not a person who corpses very much, but Nick makes me laugh. And obviously he knows that, so he’ll deliberately try and provoke it. There’s lots of outtakes of me hiding behind monsters and things, giggling! But he’s a wonderful idea because he brings a great deal of jollity, fun and humour into the role; he’s very convincing as Santa Claus.

This is Doctor Who’s tenth Christmas special since the show returned in 2005. As an old-school fan, does it seems strange to you that Doctor Who is now part of our Christmas tradition?

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It does, even though it’s fitted into my family tradition – I’ve always insisted on watching it on Christmas Day! It’s a little bit terrifying, because it’s moved into the Morecambe And Wise slot, as it were. It’s just the way it is; it just shows how the show has expanded its constituency and is so popular among people that it successfully works on Christmas Day.

But it’s that very British mix of something a little bit scary and a little bit festive. It’s like that thing of always having a ghost story late on Christmas Eve, or New Year’s Eve or whatever; I think it fits into that tradition, which is wonderful. But it is scary; Eric Morecambe, I’m sure, used to get extremely worried on Boxing Day, because he had to start thinking about what they would do next year! So I’m sure Steven [Moffat] has the same problem.

Since you took on the role, has it just been all Doctor Who for you?

There isn’t any time to do anything else! To be honest, I was doing ADR on the Christmas Special last week, and we only finished filming it about five or six weeks ago. There was a little holiday when I came back, but there are a load of other things attached to the job that you don’t quite realise, that you have to get on with. It’s really a full year-round job, but it’s so fantastic, it’s wonderful, I love it.

You’ve been in the role a year and you’ve already taken on the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Master – as a fan, is there anything else on your wishlist?

I think maybe I’d quite like the Axons to show up, but done with our modern CGI and the makeup techniques that we have available to us.

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Not so much with the golden skin-tight lycra?

No, but I love that, with the BAFTA-award face that then turned into the monster, I loved that kind of thing. So they’d be good. Or the Daemons; I’d love for them to show up, I think it’d be good to do that.

Very Pertwee-oriented, then…

No… Well, those two are, obviously, but I think it’s a while since we’ve had a cult. I watched The Masque Of Mandragora the other day, in which there was a fairly classic cult of people with strange masks on and hoods who were doing pseudo-sacrifices. I love the little overlap between Doctor Who and Hammer Horror that you occasionally get! So it’s a while since we’ve had any of that; we need a cult.

So are you still able to go back and enjoy watching the show as a fan?

Oh yeah. Well, even more so, because the funny thing is you suddenly have a greater understanding of how clever and how gifted they are… I mean, I was watching Tom Baker, and he – more so than I – has to deal with things that are a little bit cardboard, but he elevates them to utterly cosmic levels. It’s very rare on our show, but it is true that we sometimes have things that fall to pieces and don’t look so great as they might look at the end of the day, so it is really the acting that has to make them believable. So you suddenly understand much more about the work they’re doing, how committed they are and how their truthfulness makes it work.

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The show carries with it a massive devoted fanbase; how’s it been encountering that as an actor?

Great! Because it’s a good thing in the world. And although people may disagree very violently about different aspects of it, their affection for the show remains very sound and very pure. So obviously that doesn’t mean everybody likes me, and not everybody likes what we’re doing – a lot of people do and a lot of people don’t – but they love the show. So whoever is playing the Doctor becomes the focus for their affection for the show, so you get the benefit of their love for Matt, and David and Chris and everybody. So it’s wonderful. And they’re so creative, and so positive; I just think it’s a good thing in the world, and it’s nice to be a part of that.

Peter Capaldi, thank you very much!

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