The press, or at least the right-leaning part of it, loves to kick the hated BBC. But there is also hit-bait to be generated by talking about the Corporation’s output, and especially shows that appeal across age ranges. So when Matt Smith decided to bow out as the eleventh incarnation of Dr Who, they were in there like a shot. And when Peter Capaldi got the gig, they were off and running.
Or at least the Mail was. The Telegraph was content to mention that Capaldi had previously featured as Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It, and the film spin-off In The Loop, but the Mail had to transform the news into some kind of full-blown crisis for the Beeb. This meant a level of investigative journalism not seen since, oh I dunno, the last time they trawled someone’s Twitter feed.
So, while Serena Davies says in the Tel that “Capaldi is not only a skilled comedian, he is an actor with real gravitas ... He also, crucially, has a US profile” (all true, and all big plus points), Christopher Stephens says “After all the hype, Mr Potty Mouth had better be good ... That shouty, sweary, scary Scotsman from the political sitcom The Thick Of It would be taking over as the Time Lord”.
What a generous soul. “We’ve seen similar before, when JK Rowling’s publishers whipped up a frenzy around the launch of each Harry Potter book, with midnight queues in bookshops and crowds of fans in wigs and costumes. It always leaves a sense of hangover and deflation in the morning. What publishers and TV execs never remember is that hysteria doesn’t last. Nothing stays at fever pitch for long”.
See? It’s rubbish already. And if the show wasn’t the problem, Capaldi’s age certainly was: he is around the age William Hartnell was when he started the series off in November 1963 (and yes, I was watching, in black and white, and with just the 405 lines of screen definition). What the Mail cannot get its head round is that Hartnell was a very good Doctor, and not an easy act to follow.
That may have been because, like Capaldi, he was an established actor before taking the role. And any idea that those in their mid-50s might not be up to the schedule should also remember that, in those early days, Hartnell, whose health was not good, managed 48 episodes of Dr Who a year for his three year tenure. Capaldi will not have a problem with the physical side.
Nor will anyone involved in Dr Who have a problem with the ability of industry watchers to bet on Capaldi as the deadline for his unveiling neared. This, of course, is yet another angle for the Mail to talk up, and pretend that it means trouble for the Corporation. But don’t think that they want the franchise to come to any harm: more of the Doctor means more cheap hits for Mail Online.
The UK’s best-resourced paper – and it has to stoop so low to generate content.