It wasn’t the warm and devoted audience they’d met at Comic-Con, but “Doctor Who” stars Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman (joined with producer Marcus Wilson) still happily fielded questions about the show at press tour. As expected, many questions were about Smith’s looming exit from the show, some were about his current buzz cut, and there was also talk about an aubergine tweed jacket and “Home Alone.”
Smith talked about what’s ahead — Doctor Who’s regeneration and his exit from the show. “It is going to be emotional and it’s been a transformative experience and you… become very attached to people. But we just kind of make a show.”
Coleman added, “Seeing clips [like the one that aired before the panel began]. It makes us more excited to get back in, really excited to go back to do that. I’m also slightly in denial that Matt is leaving.”
Wilson assured fans (however many were in the audience, which is anyone’s guess) that Smith will be leaving on a high note. “Coming after the fiftieth [anniversary], everyone wants to top that and give [him] the perfect send off.”
But why leave? “I’ve done it for four years and we shoot nine, ten months a year, and the show has come to a natural tipping point,” Smith said. “I don’t know, it’s a good time for me to go. And it was a hard choice.” Later he added, “I have pondered [the decision to leave] on several occasions and think I made a huge mistake. It is my career and it’s been wonderful for my life… what you take most from it is the friendships and I’ve made some very dear friends. I think Steven Moffat is one of the best writers on the planet. Actors, we go, we audition, I’m the same as anyone else. It doesn’t give me any divine right to walk into other jobs.”
“We tried to change your mind a few times,” Wilson admitted. “But when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”
When Smith was asked about his new buzz cut and how that would impact the show, Smith joked, “Miracle-Gro; we sprinkle it with fertilizer every morning. I think it could be very funny to have the bald hair. It could be like Macaulay Culkin in ‘Home Alone’ with the aftershave… But I’m sure they’ll come up with something very clever.”
Smith also talked about costuming. “When I started out, I wanted to retain an element of the professor, but I always wanted a purple jacket, I held on for three years and I [finally] got some purple tweed.”
Coleman said, “I think we called it an aubergine tweed.”
“Aubergine? That sounds a bit more naff, doesn’t it?” Smith scoffed.
Someone in the audience asked if the show hoped to grow its audience with the fiftieth anniversary around the corner, which the panel managed to answer seriously. “The great thing about ‘Doctor Who’ is you can jump in any episode any time. Every adventure is singular. I think it will make a bit more noise because it’s the 50th. But even though it’s not a huge audience in the States, worldwide, it’s like 77 million. It has a footprint.”
Wilson added, “We wanted to make it a jumping on point for new fans. It’s a show about hope, adventure, excitement… it’s very heroic.”
“And it’s about a 1,000 year old man who travels around the universe in a blue box and… picks up a lot of hot chicks,” Smith said.
Then it was time for the stars to talk favorite moments. “One quite special moment for me is the Tardis on a cloud sequence, which was quite ethereal and dreamlike… and riding around on a motorbike around London with Dr. Who is quite something,” Coleman said.
“I think when Clara goes and meets all the other doctors, and anything in ‘Eleventh Hour,’ my first episode… I remember exactly how I felt,” Smith said.
“For me it was dumping Matt in red goo for ‘Crimson Horror.’ That was great fun,” Wilson chuckled.
Smith recalled how he felt during his first episode. “Panic. Just consistent panic. I don’t know how to use this language, I don’t know how to control it. I rang my dad and said I’m screwed. But you just have to give it a whirl.” The rest of the panel recalled how, even though his first scene was supposed to take place on a closed set, “Ninety people were there,” Smith said. “It was bizarre.”
After talking a bit about Comic-Con (“It’s the closest you’ll ever be to being a real rock star, I think,” Smith said), the conversation turned to John Hurt and David Tennant. “[David] is a fabulous doctor and a great bloke. It was great for the show,” Smith said. “And Johnny Hurt. Me and David would be climbing the walls, and he’d flick his eyes, and the camera would go, Johnny Hurt. Never seen anything like it.”
Wilson dismissed any idea that the new Doctor has been chosen. “The search is ongoing. You just want the best actor going for the role. You just cast the net wide and hope you find somebody brilliant .”
When asked if he would ever show his episodes of “Doctor Who” to his own children, Smith said, “I need to find a woman first before I have any kids. Listen, if and when I have kids, I will be far too vain not to show them, I’m sure. And it’s a cool kids’ show. That’s the most bizarre question I’ve been asked in days.”
Coleman discussed her role post-Smith as well. “There were discussions as soon as I started, so I knew it was likely that Matt would be leaving. But as far as the story arc, I knew I was playing three different characters, so we didn’t find out until later in the season, so I was playing three different characters without having to know the reasons why.” She also talked about her status as the impossible girl. “She’s impossible. She can’t possibly exist. She was the one thing the Doctor couldn’t understand and it kind of drove him mad. How can the same girl keep popping up at different times in time and space? Now we know that she’s shattered through time and space, and there are potentially thousands of me running around.”
Wilson addressed how John Hurt came to be the last Doctor Who. “We had this role, and we asked what is our fantasy casting, and we said, John Hurt. Of course he’ll say no, but we’ll ask and he said, “Sure, I’ll do it.” He wasn’t a dyed in the wool fan, but he was aware of the show. He was a lovely presence on set, brilliant to watch.”
Coleman and Smith also addressed where they’d most like the Tardis to land. Coleman chose ancient Egypt, while Smith chose Atlantis. “That would be fun, but very expensive. Have to watch the next panel [for the new series “Atlantis”] and see how they do it.”