It is high time a woman played The Doctor according to Paul McGann.
Best known to geeks as the eighth man to play the Time Lord (albeit in a TV film), he’s firmly in favour of a female Tardis driver.
The 57-year-old actor is about to turn his hand to doctoring of a different kind after landing a part in BBC hospital drama Holby City.
But first the Bristol resident is touring the country playing a Nazi in a Second World War play Gabriel by Moira Buffini.
Set in 1943 when Guernsey was occupied by the Germans it is a twisting tale of widow and mother Jeanne (Belinda Lang) who will do whatever it takes to keep her family safe.
Paul plays Commander Von Pfunz, whose romantic advances repel her but may be the only way to keep her family alive.
Tensions increase when a mysterious young man, dubbed Gabriel, is washed ashore with no memory of who he is.
The play arrives at Greenwich Theatre from Monday, May 8-13. We pinned down Withnail And I star Paul to find out more.
How did you get the part?
I knew of the writer Moira and this is her first play. It was first performed 20 years ago at Soho but never since so I didn’t know it at all. They sent it to me and I thought it was really clever. I have never done a tour before and decided I’d love to do it.
What attracted you to it?
It’s a great story. It was right up my street as I love war stories and this has an old fashioned quality even though it was written in the 1990s.
A lot of people don’t realise that during the Second World War part of Britain was occupied by the Germans.
My kids didn’t know and young people are surprised by it.
People say here we never fell but there was a little bit that had this surreal madhouse weird occupation that was like no other. There was no bombing and no invasion to save it.
The war just went on, literally over their heads as you can see the French coast from Guernsey.
What is it like playing a Nazi army major?
He is taking over command of Guernsey. And as the story progresses you realise he has a nasty streak. He takes a shine to a local woman (Belinda Lang)and is smitten by her.
She thinks he’s horrible and has to try and deal to keep her family safe while knowing any mistake might be fatal. So it is sort of a thriller with him playing cat and mouse with her.
He is a weirdo but educated, cultured and speaks fluent English. He has this poetic side he tries to appeal to her with. But then he is a Jew hater.
Is he straight out baddie?
Far from it. He is like Christoph Waltz in the Tarantino films, a cultured, clever, funny, steely-eyed Nazi. He wants a nice time and an easy time. He reveals to her that he has been ill and had a breakdown and has been given this softish posting because he has been knocked and is maybe cracked. It’s part of what draws him to her. It’s very conflicted.
When you think about these sophisticated German people you cant help but wonder how they were persuaded to turn a blind eye to what happened. In another walk of life this guy might have been a teacher.
How did it feel putting on the uniform?
It’s just weird. You put it on and can’t help but scowl.
Would you fight if another world war broke out?
I’m too old – my sons would as they are in their 20s although I would hate to see them go off.
But if I had to defend my own and my people I would do it. You’ve just brought back a memory of 1982 when the Falklands was on and I’m sat on the Royal Court theatre steps.
I have just become an actor and I’m 22 and a rumour has gone around that there’s going to be a draft.
We were sat looking at each other and suddenly we were like three-year-olds wanting our mums. It was terrifying. That’s the heart rending thing – that they send these kids off.
Did being back in Doctor Who (as part of the 50th anniversary shorts) bring more work your way?
I have never not been in Doctor Who. Once you are in it you are in it for life.
Even 20 years later I am still the Doctor. It is like being the Pope.
It is a lovely thing to be involved in because it renews itself all the time and it does open doors and get you talking to people. It has always been a good thing.
Sometimes the people you would least expect are fans.
I met David Tennant before he played Doctor Who. We were both in plays at the National and one night we were in the bar. We got introduced and he just stared at me and didn’t say anything.
I remember thinking “Blimey, who’s this kid?”.
When he had gone someone told me he was a massive Doctor Who fan.
You’ve said you never watched Doctor Who or yourself as you don’t have a telly.
We do now. We put one in just before Christmas. Now I’m one of those people who sits watching every episode of The Crown.
As a kid in the 1960s there were limited channels so Doctor Who did used to be on but I never watched much.
Some fans have PhD knowledge of the last 50 years of it and I can see they are a bit disappointed when I don’t know stuff.
I was at a show once and took a question from the floor and said: “I didn’t know”. A woman shouted out: “Why are you here then?”.
If they asked you to do more Doctor Who would you?
Absolutely. It would be great.
We know Peter Capaldi is going to retire and next year we will find out what the future holds.
They have already broken the rules so they can choose to go backwards and sideways and invite me back to do it if they want.
What about your tweet saying Tilda Swinton should be the next Doctor?
I don’t think they would get her but imagine if they did? Now you’re talking.
I did that for the fellas that say it has to be a man. Tilda is one of the greatest actors bar none and has played fellas, she played David Bowie.
Should it be a woman?
Steven Moffat said it is one character with many faces. So why not a female face? There are female Timelords so lets see one. It is high time.
I hope they are brave enough to say yes as I would love to see it. I can’t believe they have never done it. They are missing a trick.
Would you be converted to watch it if they cast a woman?
Yes. I would tune in straight away.
Greenwich Theatre , Monday, May 8-13, £21-31, 020 8858 7755 .
Keep up to date with all our articles on Facebook