Mike Gold: Peter Capaldi as the Ultimate Evil
This is the second part of a two-part look at the actor who has taken over the lead in Doctor Who. The first part discussed his work in Hotel!, In The Loop, and in the Oscar®-winning Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life. This week, we focus on another upcoming performance.
There must be a law somewhere that mandates an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers every several years. Punch it up on IMDB and your computer will explode. Some of these movies and teevee series are quite good, others, well, suck… although I’m quite partial to the movie version that starred The Ritz Brothers. The latest version, The Musketeers, went up on the BBC earlier this year – it will be on BBC America in June – and it’s as rip-roaring as any. I’ve seen the first five, and I enjoyed them. Political and religious intrigue, swordfights, gunfights, fistfights, buxom femme fatales, handsome leading men… what’s there not to like?
Particularly when there’s a great villain in the mix. Only Ming the Merciless tops Dumas’ Cardinal Richelieu when it comes to great movie villains. And when it comes to great Cardinal Richelieus (Cardinals Richelieu?), Peter Capaldi is among the very best.
That’s saying a lot. Recently, Christoph Waltz played the part and Waltz could read off a bowl of Alpha-Bits and make it seem insidious. Other Richelieus include Stephen Rea, Ben Cross, Tim Curry, Charlton Heston, Vincent Price and, arguably, Michael Palin. That’s quite a club.
Capaldi’s performance is more nuanced than most. He can say more with a slight turn of his head than by eating the scenery, befitting a villain who’s in a British television series and committed to the long haul. Richelieu’s lurks over every scene, even in those episodes where he’s only around for perhaps five minutes. He is as smooth, as powerful, and as controlling as a true top-rank villain should be.
Coincidentally, The Musketeers was developed initially to fill the Doctor Who slot (in part) during the latter’s off-season. The Musketeers’ producers did not know Capaldi got the part as the Doctor until… well, until you did. Now they have to plan for a second season without Peter, and without Richelieu.
I find myself of two minds. The Musketeers is great fun and well-made, shot in the Czech Republic with an internationalish cast (mostly British, but many of the leads are from western Europe) and a costume budget that could feed a small nation. Capaldi is so good here that I’d be perplexed if I was the one who had to decide to leave the show for Doctor Who.
After going though all this material, I can understand why Steven Moffat and friends chose Capaldi for the part in Who. I believe he’s likely to bring back a bit of that crusty edge that most of the earlier Doctors possessed while interjecting his own unique quirkiness, just as the eleven – or is it twelve – performers who previously had the job.
Besides, the Millennials deserve a punk rocker Doctor.
Particularly one who will play the part with a genuine Scottish accent.