Entertainment Television

Doctor Who visits Canada and brings along new 'companion'

By Bill Harris, Special to Postmedia Network

Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who.

Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who.

Canada got a house-call from Doctor Who on Wednesday.

It's true that doctors don't make many house-calls any more, with healthcare being so squeezed. But not only did Peter Capaldi, the current Doctor Who, make the long trip across the Atlantic Ocean, he brought three of his colleagues from the classic British sci-fi show – new “companion” Pearl Mackie, and executive producers Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin – with him to Toronto.

“You get to play an iconic character, it's like somehow you are the Man in the Moon, or Jack Frost, or Edward Scissorhands,” said Capaldi, who is the 12th Doctor. A new season of Doctor Who – the 10th “revival” season and 36th overall – is coming to Space in Canada in the spring of 2017, to be preceded by a new Christmas special in a couple of months.

“Doctor Who is a legend that we're still telling stories about,” Capaldi continued. “So to get to be that legend is a thing that has only happened to a dozen people. So that's an extraordinary position to be in. It has a deep well of affection attached to it.”

With that in mind, I theorized to the visiting Doctor Who team that this is one of the shows that has benefited most not only from increased global availability, but also the rise of binge-viewing, given the vast catalogue.

“It is certainly one of the leaders in that area,” Moffat agreed. “Considerably less than half our audience watch it when it goes out on air, that's the truth. A whole lot of people wait until the whole show has gone out, and then binge it on the weekend, as you say.

“I think all television is going that way. I think Doctor Who has been among the first that has gone that way. I mean, possibly the first. We used to rule (BBC) iPlayer more or less unopposed. Now every show is doing great on iPlayer. So it's more that Doctor Who has traveled to the future faster than anyone else, as you would expect of the man.”

Minchin said it's always a pleasant surprise for him when he sees concrete evidence of how well-traveled Doctor Who is.

“I think we are the best thing on Crave, by far,” joked Minchin, referring to Bell Media's online streaming service. “It's a show where we're given an awful lot of creative freedom, and no one is sitting there saying, 'You need to do this because that will work in North America, or you need to do that for Asia.' But it has such a big audience and people really care.

“I mean, just turning up at the studios here (CTV headquarters in downtown Toronto), people are outside to see Peter and Pearl. It's really lovely to be part of a show that has that kind of affection. The people who invented it all that time ago are kind of geniuses, because it hasn't really got a format compared to other shows. We only have one standing set, and we leave it as soon as we possibly can.”

The newcomer to this group, of course, is Mackie, who will be playing Bill, Doctor Who's new companion. The Bill character is very unfamiliar with this fantastical world, which sets up a lot of humour between her and the Doctor.

“It has taken a lot of adjustment, it's such a massive whirlwind and the biggest opportunity I've ever had as an actress,” Mackie said. “Jenna (Coleman, the most recent companion) was lovely, she sent me a really nice bunch of flowers on my first day on set and a real nice card, telling me where to eat, which is so nice and really kind. And I got a couple of messages on Twitter form (former cast members) Noel Clarke and Freema Agyeman, people like that.

“So it doesn't feel so much like being welcomed into an elite club, as you put it, but more like being welcomed into a massive family.”

A massive family that makes house-calls. And the good news for everyone is, Doctor Who always is accepting new patients.

Twitter: @billharris_tv

bharris@postmedia.com