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No Tardis, but longest-serving 'Doctor Who' companion pops into Montreal Comiccon

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MONTREAL - The new Doctor Who can start his time-travelling adventures with at least one advantage — the blessing of the popular series' longest-serving sidekick.

"I think Peter Capaldi will be marvellous," says Frazer Hines, who portrayed companion Jamie McCrimmon alongside the second incarnation of Doctor Who, played by Patrick Troughton.

"He's got this wonderful Doctor face that people could believe as he walks into a room. But he's also got a twinkle in his eye, a twinkle that he could be a little bit of fun as well."

Hines knows who's Who among the Whos.

Debuting as McCrimmon in 1966, he played the character in 117 episodes of the popular BBC sci-fi show. He reprised it again to mark Doctor Who's 20th anniversary in the series "The Five Doctors" in 1983 and came back in 1985 for "The Two Doctors."

Capaldi, a 55-year-old Scotsman known for his role as a spin doctor in the British comedy "The Thick of It," is the 12th actor to play Doctor Who.

He takes the role as fandom marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of "Doctor Who," which has become one of the BBC's most popular programs in Britain and beyond.

Even though it has been nearly 20 years since Hines hopped into the Tardis — the time machine used by Who and his companions — he's a fan favourite and will appear for several events this weekend at the Montreal Comiccon, which runs from Friday to Sunday.

Hines credits the fans with keeping "Doctor Who" bouncing around the pop-culture universe. The show originally ran from 1963 to 1989, returned as a TV movie in 1996 and then was relaunched as a series in 2005.

"The fans have kept it going," Hines said in a telephone interview from England. "They kept the show alive and in people's minds."

Hines, 68, makes no bones about who his favourite Doctor is. It's Troughton, who died in 1987.

"A lovely man," Hines recalled. "If I had a suggestion, he would never say, 'No, you're the companion, I'm the Doctor.' He would say, 'Oh, Frazer's got a great idea'."

Hines has even imitated Troughton's voice for a series of "Doctor Who" audio productions. He jokes that while he also portrays McCrimmon he only gets one paycheque.

"I get paid for playing Jamie and I get paid for doing Patrick's voice for the love of the man, to keep his voice, his memory, alive for the fans."

Hines has been an actor since childhood and did one of his first films with Charlie Chaplin, in "A King in New York" in 1957. He has fond memories of working on "Doctor Who," although he's quick to agree the special effects weren't what they are today.

"We probably had to overact to compensate for some of the sets," he said with a laugh, saying production crews barely had "chewing gum, string, a couple of golf balls and a balaclava" to work with.

He said there is a real feeling of camaraderie between all the former and current cast.

"Once you're in 'Doctor Who,' you're in a big family and you'll never get out of that family," he said.

And while the Doctor holds the spotlight, McCrimmon has no doubt about the importance of the companions.

The Doctor usually knew everything, he said, but McCrimmon and the others were the stand-ins for the audience.

"To me, my character Jamie, he was the one that could ask the questions for the kids at home watching the show," he said.

"If you get the Doctor and two professors in a room, they all know what they're talking about but Jamie was, 'Doctor, what's that? Why's that growing? Why's that doing that?'"

Hines, who recently published "50 Shades of Frazer," a photographic retrospective of his life, says he'd like to return to "Doctor Who" although he doubts it will happen.

That hasn't stopped him from envisioning a scenario where the Doctor would find McCrimmon in a Scottish ruin.

"Their eyes meet and they click, click, click and they realize who it is," he says. "And he says, 'Well, you better get a shave and have a shower and join us back at the Tardis.'

"Jamie was a lovely, lovely character to play and I miss playing that character."

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