Hauling Like A Brooligan

Stephen Gallagher

Who’s Who

So we made it back from London just in time to catch the second half of the BBC’s live announcement of the new Doctor Who casting, settling down before the TV with the Bargain Bucket we’d picked up on the way home. We hadn’t been rushing back, or anything. Twitter was hardly likely to be silent on the subject in the coming hours. Not if the past few months have been anything to go by.

Given that I wasn’t particularly invested, I was surprised to feel oddly moved when Capaldi stepped out. It was a nice moment and it felt right in all kinds of ways. I have no form when it comes to anticipating Who recastings; I’d never have predicted Smith, Tennant or Eccleston. Now I see them all as manifestly right moves… with the possible exception of Eccleston, who for me will always be the odd-man-out Doctor.

I’m not saying he didn’t work. One of my favourite “Welsh Who” stories is an Eccleston episode, Rob Shearman’s Dalek. But his leather-jacketed rough-edged Everyman seemed to stand outside the parameters of a character that, until that point, I’d imagined had none. A strength of the format, I’d always assumed, was that the Doctor could be anybody. But suddenly I could see a testing of the hidden limitations behind that illusion of infinite possibility.

With Tennant and then Smith we were back within the parameters, whatever they are. Don’t ask me to define them; casting is an art, not a science. Nor is it an opportunity for social engineering; it’s high-stakes showbusiness, with a massive commercial decision resting on a producer’s shoulders. Moffat is not only tasked with making the decision, but with making the decision work.

Were I in the hot seat, I’d have cast Capaldi like a shot. He’s been on my male-lead wishlist for almost every project of the last 20 years, and the fact that he’s never appeared in anything of mine is a sign of the regard usually given to a writer’s casting thoughts. I suppose it’s ironic that he’s now on the show when I’m not. But there you go.

And people complaining that he’s too old; f*** you, he’s younger than me.