“This guy's Doctor Who. We're safe now.” ~Peter CapaldiIt's usually customary to give gifts to others on their birthdays, but I'd like to reverse the polarity on that tradition and reflect back on the gifts that Peter Capaldi brings to his fans.
I have been around various fandoms for years in various capacities. I have had the opportunity to watch fandoms grow, fall, and regenerate. My favorite hobby at a convention or other fandom gathering is to watch the interactions between the shows' stars and their fans. Sadly, there have been many actors and other creative talent who have treated their fans as little more than another autograph to sign, another fistful of money.
Doctor Who fans are unique in their relationship with not only their actors, but their entire creative team, which resembles an ages-old friendship. Actors of all roles and incarnations are more than willing to chat to fans, sign autographs, and get selfies with them. Informal but respectful, Whovians who meet their idols are virtually assured of a warm reception.
Peter Capaldi is bidding fair to be unique even among Doctor Who actors. With his history with the show, which dates all the way back to 1963, Capaldi would be well within his rights to be cocky and keep fans at a distance, but he hasn't. Quite the opposite, in fact. Ever since the first video emerged of him comforting a little autistic girl dressed as a Dalek, many of us realized that he was our Doctor, and in the intervening three years, we have not been proven wrong.
There is something to Capaldi that goes beyond the superficial. While many actors brush off fans who become flustered when they meet their heroes, Capaldi stays with his fans. He is known for comforting fans when they are too overwhelmed to speak, even to the point of literally drying their tears. He genuinely cares about them and is dedicated to spending time with anyone who meets him.
Through all of this, Capaldi has a humility about the attention people give him, almost as if he sees his interactions with fans as the norm, and maintains that the love he receives from the fans is their love for The Doctor, not Capaldi himself; in interviews, he states that he “gets the smiles The Doctor gets.” It almost appears that he doesn't realise that not only is he The Doctor, but that The Doctor is him. Even if Capaldi is getting The Doctor's smiles, The Doctor gets his heart and soul from Capaldi. Humility is his default setting, and it is that humility that makes him different from other actors.
Peter Capaldi is the new doctor on the ward! ;) pic.twitter.com/aSUW6peJbp— Dannywho99 (@dannywho99) December 8, 2015
I stated in a previous article that Capaldi is “the truest mirror of the fandom,” and I stand by that. In Capaldi, the show itself has an advocate, and we have a fellow fan in the TARDIS. Most fans by now have seen the images and videos of him and his embarrassed laughter when his “anorak” history from when he was a teenager is brought up in an interview. But it is exactly that history which makes him so endearing and enduring as The Doctor; the very things that embarrass him are what make him so perfect as a fan and as an ambassador for the show. It's “in his DNA,” as he has said, and it shows in his performance and his passion for the show.
It is Capaldi's pure joy in being Doctor Who, the joy that is so contagious to anyone who meets him, that creates such a bond between actor and fan. As an actor, Capaldi brings us the entire history of Doctor Who in his mannerisms and occasional costume addition. As a fellow fan, he both understands us and reflects us back to ourselves. As a person, he gives us Whovians his time, his dedication, and an incredibly generous heart.
I think, most of all, he makes us feel safe. He reminds us that it's perfectly okay to unashamedly love Doctor Who, and is present with and for fans when they need him the most. To quote Capaldi himself: “This guy's Doctor Who. We're safe now.”