David Tennant in scathing assessment of ‘alarming’ and ‘peculiar’ parts of British history

David Tennant on possible return to Doctor Who

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David Tennant, who portrayed the 10th Doctor Who, has claimed that his character, literature’s notorious explorer Phileas Fogg, constitutes everything that was “alarming” and “peculiar” about the British Empire, as he prepares for the screening of his new show, Around The World In 80 Days.

The drama has been adapted from Jules Verne’s classic novel by the same name.

Phileas Fogg represents everything that’s alarming and peculiar about that old sense of British Empire

David Tennant

In a hint at the atmosphere of the plot, the 50-year-old Scot teasingly added that the story should potentially not elicit any sympathy.

“In many ways Phileas Fogg represents everything that’s alarming and peculiar about that old sense of British Empire,” the former Broadchurch star elaborated in an interview with the Radio Times for their new Christmas edition.

“Potentially, it’s a story about an England that should elicit very little sympathy.”

The story takes viewers back to 1871, during an era when Paris had just experienced a failed revolution by the working class and was still reeling from the military defeat by Prussia.

French author Jules Verne looked across the channel to Britain for inspiration, using his observations of an “untouchable” upper-class white society to embellish the novel.

“Verne chose to make Phileas Fogg a particularly stuffy Englishman,” dad of five David revealed to the Radio Times.

“We’re showing a different type of stuffy Englishman.

“He’s very damaged, everything is a trauma for him.”

Besides David as Phileas himself, the cast of the show will also include the likes of Leonie Benesch, who previously appeared in the Crown.

The series included scenes filmed in Romania and South Africa, so the show hit a wall when the coronavirus pandemic began.

However, it has since recovered from the blip in its production schedule and the eight part series will air as expected this winter.

In spite of his harsh words about British history, David has nevertheless described Jules Verne’s story as one that is “beloved” and “iconic” and Phileas as a character that he has enjoyed portraying.

Meanwhile, addressing other controversy about Britain, he has struck out at the suggestion made by media minister John Whittingdale that public service broadcasters should be sticking to “distinctly British” TV programmes.

Following Brexit, the minister had been keen to overhaul the public broadcasting system and make it more British, causing David to question whether his comments were “criticism” of the current programming.

Whttingdale had pointed to Only Fools and Horses, Dad’s Army and Coronation Street as examples of shows that meet his criteria.

Although Whittingdale had also included Doctor Who in his list of classically British programming, that decision appears not to have softened David’s political opinion, after he urged that the television industry should not be “blamed”.

The father of five had previously taken a swipe at the government in a Guardian interview last year, after commenting that he might not be inclined to trust ministers to properly deal with the blow that coronavirus had dealt the theatre industry.

“Remember when there used to be clever people?” the star questioned.

“When you look back on David Cameron and George W Bush with some kind of sentimentality, you think: ‘Jesus – how low have we plummeted, when they look like better options than what we’ve got currently?’”

Phileas Fogg airs on Boxing Day Sunday at 5:50pm on BBC One, while the forthcoming Christmas issue of the Radio Times contains further chat with David Tennant.

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