Doctor Who’ star Peter Capaldi has spoken in harsh terms about the state of gender equality in the entertainment industry, describing the relative depiction of male and female characters as “ridiculous”.

Capaldi, 57, recently won praise from female fans of the BBC sci-fi series when he insisted that it would be “creepy” if any sexual element were to be added to the on-screen relationship between the Doctor and his current, much younger assistant, Clara, played by Jenna Coleman.

Peter CapaldiPeter Capaldi addressed sexism and ageism in the TV industry

He spoke more about this to the Evening Standard, describing a promotional photoshoot last year. “It’s ridiculous that we get these old guys with young women draped round them. When I started ‘Doctor Who’ and we were doing photoshoots we’d be asked if Jenna could just lie down there while I, you know,” before sprawling himself out subserviently like a young woman while he gets to stand authoritatively.

Capaldi felt he had to put a stop to that sort of thing straight away. “I had to say, ‘Look, that’s just not what we’re about. The relationship between my Doctor and his companion is one of deep love. But it’s a strange sort of platonic bond. It becomes clearer and more moving as this particular series goes on.”

More: Could ‘Doctor Who’ soon have a female Doctor with a male assistant?

About the wider entertainment industry, he admitted that things were heavily skewed in favour of male actors over females. Where this issue becomes bound up with that of ageism, he says that the results on screen become highly unreflective of reality.

“Of course it’s sexist," he said plainly. "Most of my peers have partners their age, so if we have a dinner party with a bunch of actors, the wives or partners are largely the same age. Then you see your friends on screen and they are suddenly with some extraordinary young lady who wouldn’t be at the dinner party. It’s ridiculous.”

“It is true that women reach a certain age when people decide that they’re not useful anymore as actors. There are a few significant theatrical roles that they might be viable for. That’s not fair, it’s not right, it’s not a proper reflection of what goes on in life.”

He also addressed recent speculation that the BBC could alter the on-screen relationship between the Doctor and his assistant, saying that he wouldn’t object to a male sidekick, or even a future iteration where the Doctor is female and the assistant male – although he says it “depends on who plays them”.

More: Is the BBC planning to scrap ‘Doctor Who’ series in favour of feature-length special episodes?