The Doctor himself, Peter Capaldi, describes some of his favourite episodes from Doctor Who‘s 50 year history.
Do you have a list of favourite episodes?
I hate doing the favourite game, because it betrays a lot of the other ones. But there are things that I think are great; and I always forget there was some wonderful moment in something that I love, and I will have forgotten it when I make a favourite of something else.
I didn’t discover Doctor Who and go back and get a whole pile of DVDs and watch it all. It unfolded as I grew up, so that meant that it bedded itself in me in a fairly deep way. I often think that, even if I hadn’t become involved in Doctor Who, probably the actors who influenced me most when I was growing up were probably the Doctor Who actors, or Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and people like that, because I was a great fan of horror movies. The kind of actor that I was always going to be would always have been influenced by Doctor Who in some way.
I love things like the last episode of ‘Frontier In Space’. ‘Frontier In Space’ is quite a tough story, it’s like six episodes long. It’s quite political, but the very last episode in which the Doctor susses out that the Master has a master plan, and he takes him to a planet to meet some old enemies. Of course they’re the Daleks, and you see the Master and the Daleks together.
The Doctor gets hurt and falls into the Tardis – you actually think he’s almost going to regenerate. But he uses the telepathic circuits to communicate with the Time Lord, which he hasn’t done before. It’s just great fun.
I’ve said this a lot but there’s an old, old story called the ‘Web Planet’, which I watched last year. It sort of broke my heart to watch it because it existed in my imagination so powerfully – all of those creatures, the Zarbi and the Menoptera from an insect planet. Now, can you imagine, they tried to go to an insect planet with a very low budget – just a lot of cardboard and some fiberglass. The ambition and imagination was great but they just didn’t have the resources to deliver. As a child watching it in the manner in which it was designed to be absorbed, it was fabulous.
I watched that recently myself, and I was like, holy shit, this is quite Lynchian. It’s just disturbing because TV just isn’t made that way anymore for a start. It’s black and white, there’s the moth people making these strange sounds. I was slightly disturbed.
It’s also kind of an historical document as well. What I loved watching it was the Menoptera, who in my imagination are these strange moth-like creatures, and are clearly just dancers in nylon catsuits with bits of fur stuck to them. They speak in a sort of lispish, very I would call ‘Festival of Britain’ way. In the ’50s and ’60s there was that kind of post-colonial redrawing of Britain and its place in the world it was rather antiquated and elegant, and there would be avant-garde dance and those kind of things going on. ‘Web Planet‘s full of all that, as well as William Hartnell struggling with a lot of lines. He’s a man who’s had a tough life, playing this kind of children’s wizard; and it’s just a wonderful and strange combination.
You’ve got to remember that in those days it was a world full of smog. As I grew up we had Doctor Who and the Beatles, and bronchial diseases and darkness. There was very little stuff; whereas now there’s merchandise all over the place. You saw the show on a Saturday evening – you didn’t even call it a show, it was a television programme – and there was a comic called TV Comic, imaginatively, which featured television favourites and Doctor Who. Unusually, they had the Zarbi and the Menoptera in it as well and I can remember looking at those and thinking “wow, what great looking beasts.”
It’s fascinating the things that stick in your mind from when you’re a kid.
I think that’s what I would like if my time in Doctor Who, when it’s over, is that some things stuck in kids’ heads; some little bit of magic from somewhere.
Just a little bit of trauma as well maybe.
Trauma, we’re always very pleased when we do. It happens often – we just created a children’s nightmare right there today with that shot. That always makes us very proud.
You’re doing God’s work, Sir.
Click below to watch Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who on Lightbox
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