The “Doctor Who” team is in the middle of an ambitious worldwide tour. They are covering seven cities stretching across five continents in a mere 12 days, and why? Because the new Doctor is in and the new season approaches.
Today, the TARDIS is in New York City. Following a screening of the upcoming, feature-length, premiere episode, “Deep Breath” (trailer below), Peter Capaldi (the Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara, his current companion), and Steven Moffat (Executive Producer) sit down with us to talk about the new season and Capaldi's first full outing as the legendary Time Lord.
Capaldi is stepping into the role vacated last year by Matt Smith, and that makes him the 12th actor to be the Doctor. Or, it does if you don't count John Hurt's War Doctor, but that is kind of a timey-wimey sidetrack.
Moffat, Capaldi, and Coleman have only been in New York for 20 hours on this whirlwind tour, but are more than amiable and seem quite pleased to talk about the upcoming season. Naturally, many of the questions revolve around Capaldi stepping into the role, and what the future will hold for his Doctor and Clara.
There is, it must be noted at this point, a fear of spoilers with “Doctor Who.” There is a secrecy surrounding it all. When the series started up again in 2005, they labeled early footage as “Torchwood,” an anagram of “Doctor Who,” rather than under the show's real name as a security measure. This summer saw leaked episodes and scripts of the upcoming season which prompted a BBC press release stating, “We would like to make a plea to anyone who might have any of this material and spoilers associated with it not to share it with a wider audience so that everyone can enjoy the show as it should be seen when it launches.” As much as they may have been upset about things getting out in general, there is a definite sense in that release that they don't want things spoiled for the audience at large.
It is therefore no surprise that the first thing that happens after the introductions at today's press conference is a word of warning from Moffat, imploring us to not reveal anything remotely close to a spoiler. If we abide by his wishes, we are told, our “Children will be released unharmed.”
I love my children, and consequently, you'll not find spoilers here.
In all seriousness (not that the love of my children isn't serious), “Doctor Who” fandom is a fascinating journey in and of itself, and some questions and answers at the press conference deal with that fandom head-on. Moffat, himself, offered two very different sides of the fans.
“I think trying to assess 'Doctor Who''s audience from its online community would be like trying to assess world affairs from the comments section” of a newspaper, Moffat says. He offers the example of an hypothetical outraged-at-the-world-at-large comment that might be found at the bottom a story about a rescue dog. Perhaps wisely, he suggests, “You can't mistake Twitter for the voice of the audience.”
He is, however, quick to point out that while there is that potentially negative side of things, there are great positives to having such a dedicated online fan base, too. The upcoming season of “Doctor Who” is going to feature a completely different opening title sequence, and it's a sequence based on one that was initially made and proposed by a fan.
Moffat explains that he, “Happened across it, and I thought it was the only new idea for a 'Doctor Who' title sequence since 1963, and we got in touch and said, 'Okay, we're going to do that one.'” It is that sort of thing Moffat feels that ought to be discussed when looking at the online fan community, not the anger and upset.
The online aspect of “Doctor Who” fandom may be new with the revamped series, but “Doctor Who” fandom itself is as old as the start of the original series in 1963. During today's press conference, Capaldi notes having grown up watching other Doctors on screen and fondly recalls the first time he was on set as an actor for the David Tennant episode “The Fires of Pompeii.”
Capaldi says that at the time he filmed that episode, he wasn't thinking about being the next Doctor (he is now the next but one). Rather, he was just, “Delighted to be in the show, because I love the show.” He also admits that while on set for that episode he asked Tennant, “'Where's the TARDIS?'” Upon learning, Capaldi reveals, “I just went over and I remember touching it, the box, the police box… and I got a little bit teary looking at it, but that's because I love the show.”
Again, that isn't to say that he ever thought he would be the Doctor. He explained that he never thought it would come about because even if he was interested when they were changing Doctors, he thought “It was not the direction they would be going.”
Of course, it is the direction that was chosen, and he is here know and soaking it all in. By the accounts of those on stage, Capaldi is enjoying it. Moffat notes in seeing footage of Capaldi uttering “Cybermen!” that the new Doctor seems to be enjoying himself and Capaldi says that, “The moment when… I had my first conversation with a Dalek was extraordinary.”
Capaldi's Doctor will, necessarily, be different from those who have come before even if he is going to face old enemies. There may be nods and winks and nudges to other Doctors and sayings and attitudes, but he is a different actor and the character changes along with the actor. As a fan of the series, one of the joys is seeing how the dynamic between characters and of the show itself shifts when someone new (companion or Doctor) comes in.
“Change is amazing,” Coleman explains speaking of the switch from Smith's Doctor to Capaldi's. She had to work out for herself the differences and think through, “What are the rules now, and how does this dynamic work?” Coleman says that, “As an actor, that's a great, great thing, and I think that was happening” over the course of the premiere episode.
Even if Clara works out her relationship to the new Doctor, as an ancient Time Lord, there is always something about him that will remain a mystery. Capaldi sees it this way, “The great thing to me about 'Doctor Who' is… there's the character who presents himself to the people around him, but there's always the sense that there's another aspect to him which is untouchable and unreachable.”
As for that part of the Doctor you do get to see and know, he is going to be back on television screens on August 23rd on BBC America.