Four episodes in and we, along with the actual Doom Patrol team, have no idea what kind of secrets the Chief is hiding. He saved each Doom Patroller's life, gave them all a home and then vanished right when they needed him most. He also seems to have some kind of connection to the villainous Mr. Nobody, which is more than a little troubling. But since he hasn't been seen on the show in weeks, we're no closer to finding out what's happening with him.
That is, until this week's episode, "Paw Patrol," when fans will finally get their first glimpse of Niles Caulder in weeks. No spoilers, but he hasn't exactly been sipping margaritas on the beach or having any kind of relaxing vacation. Things are definitely not great for the Chief, but fortunately, the same can't be said for Timothy Dalton, the legendary actor playing him. He's been having the time of his life playing the secretive mad scientist on a show that he admittedly doesn't always understand. But that's exactly why it's been so fun.
"It's different,” he says with a laugh. “I read this thing and I was like, ‘I have never read anything like this before.’ It's bizarre! It's mad. It's insane. It's fantastically imaginative and above all, and it sounds like an extremely weird thing to say, it's extremely moving. There are moments in it that are very moving and funny too. It really is different and that's, I hope, why it works. Or rather, I hope if good people come to our comic book show with imagination, then it will work."
Admitting with a sly grin that he "had never heard of any" Doom Patrol before he signed on to the new DC Universe series, he decided early on not to do any research into the comics before portraying Caulder.
"You can't make it the comic because that's just a drawn image with a bubble coming out of it with one sentence," Dalton says. "We have to be real people with much more dialogue than you can ever get into a comic and much more movement and action and personality. I have seen some of the comics now, but they don't really give you enough. Your information is on the page of the script—what kind of person is he, what would he do, what wouldn't he do, his plans… Those things."
In fact, Dalton reveals that it wasn't anything about the character of the Chief that made him want to join Doom Patrol. It was the actual Doom Patrol show itself that he loved so much.
"[Caulder] is an interesting… Well, this is where I start to hesitate because I don't want to give too much away," Dalton quickly adds with a laugh. "From what you've seen, did you think he was a good man or a bad man or just an ordinary man?"
Comic book readers know that Niles Caulder doesn't exactly have the most wholesome background and motivations. But since the TV adaptation could go in so many different directions with the character, there's no telling what kind of a man the Chief is yet. He could just be an ordinary man who has made some questionable choices in the past.
"Okay, not bad!" Dalton replies with a smile. "It's based on the comics, but it's only based on. You've got a team of six or seven different writers, a whole team of them responsible for the story, taking it all over the place every couple of weeks or so. So it was not the character [that drew me to the project], it was the nature of the beast that fascinated me."
Diving deeper into how Caulder could just be "an ordinary, mixed-up person," in Dalton's own words, has been a joy for the actor to tackle in all his ambiguities.
"It makes the character much richer, doesn't it? He's much more interesting with secrets," he shares. "There's not much I can tell you! I want people to watch it to find out and have a great journey of finding out. And I'm going to be honest, I'm not even sure that I know the full scope of what's going on!"
At the time we spoke, Dalton had just finished filming episode 10 and had enough trouble keeping the story straight at that point that he was nervous about revealing the wrong information in earlier episodes.
"I honestly don't remember what I can tell you because it's been so long since I filmed the first episodes," he reveals. "That's occupying my mind and I've got to try and think back. I can tell you about episode 10 because I just finished it! I liked that one a lot!"
In this week's episode, viewers will get a little more information about the Chief's mysterious connection and dynamic with Mr. Nobody.
"It's so interesting, isn't it?" Dalton says. "I did something bad to him. We were all doing bad things—let's get really enigmatic now. We're all doing bad things, but you could say that he and I were in competition to see who could do the bad thing first. And I won and he got terribly, terribly hurt and so he's out for revenge. But that's about as much as I can tell you about why we're enemies."
And getting to bring that story to life along with Alan Tudyk has been one of Dalton's favorite aspects of working on Doom Patrol.
"He's fabulous and I love him! He's just fantastic," Dalton says about working with Tudyk. "I just love the fact that we are up against time and he comes in with terrific scenes, just like three full pages of dialogue to do, and he's got to do it in five minutes. He approaches it with such bravado and such marvelous imagination and bit-by-bit he hones it down and makes it completely part of himself and real and nasty and flamboyant and bold and brilliant. He comes up with a terrific performance every time, and that is hard to do!"
As he's talking about Tudyk, a realization dawns on Dalton. "I just figured out why the Chief hates him as a character—he's got more power than me," he says suddenly. "He can always get me and I know he's going to. And there's nothing I can do about it!"
That inevitable showdown is sure to be deliciously entertaining, though Dalton sometimes worries that it could be "too complex."
"Like me, even I'm like, 'What the f-k is happening? I don't understand anything. What year is it? He shouldn't even be alive now if it's been that long. What's going on?!'" he adds with another laugh.
But Dalton knows the best way to enjoy Doom Patrol is just to suspend one's disbelief. "Just enjoy the ride. I think that's the answer," he adds.
And since this show is so meta, especially with Mr. Nobody's narration constantly breaking the fourth wall, the question had to be asked: is there going to be any Easter egg reference or nod to Dalton's legendary turn as James Bond?
"No," Dalton says as he shakes his head and smiles. "No, absolutely not. And if there is, I'll throttle someone."
Catch new episodes of Doom Patrol every Friday on DC Universe. Click here to subscribe now.