Comic-Con 2013: ‘Doctor Who’ 50th anniversary live-blog

Senior Television Writer
07.21.13 11 Comments


Sunday tends to be the lightest day of Comic-Con. The movie studios go home, and so do many fans who bought 3-day passes and fly out in the morning. But a “Doctor Who” 50th anniversary panel featuring Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman, Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss and David Bradley (star of “An Adventure in Space and Time,” an upcoming film about the origins of the franchise) made today’s line for Hall H one of the longest and craziest of the Con. It should be a packed, delirious house for the Doctor, Clara and company. It’s Matt Smith’s farewell Con as the Doctor, as he’ll be leaving after the Christmas special. The question is whether Moffat will announce his replacement in front of these 6000 American fans, or if he’ll wait til he can announce it via a UK outlet.

As long as the wifi holds up, I’ll be live-blogging the whole thing, so check back frequently for updates.

12:28 p.m.: Still a few minutes from starting, but the fans have already done one round of clapping to the rhythms of “The Sound of Drums.” Hoping Jenna-Louise Coleman hasn’t followed Karen Gillan’s lead and shaved her head. A fan next to me has a very noisy sonic screwdriver.

12:32 p.m.: Fans just raised their sonic screwdrivers aloft in unison, like fans at a concert holding up their lighters (in the old days) or phones (now). Very cool.

12:35 p.m.: And we’re underway with a montage of the 50 years of the series, from William Hartnell all the way to Matt Smith. Various lines about the TARDIS and time travel by the many Doctors have been mixed together into a hip-hop track by Eclectic Method. I’ll just say that the Daleks are especially well-suited to this treatment.

12:36 p.m.: And here’s our host, the awesomely Scottish Craig Ferguson. This should be fun. “Hello, sweeties!” he begins, quoting River Song. He admits some of the fans in the hall know the show more than him, but he’s been a fan of the franchise for his whole life. Now he’s quoting Amy’s introductory monologue from the Gillan seasons. Promises, “If the right question is asked, the Silence will fall!” (Then jokes, “The people who are waiting for the ‘Sons of Anarchy’ panel right now are very confused.”)

12:38 p.m.: The panelists come out, including Bradley, who is so evil on “Game of Thrones” and will be playing Hartnell in the TV-movie. Ferguson introduces Moffat as “the bastard who killed Amy and Rory!” Coleman, thankfully, has not shaved her head. Smith, however, is sporting a very un-Doctor-like buzz cut.

12:42 p.m.: Time for yet another history montage. David Tennant gets the loudest responses, and then we get a longer overview of Smith’s time as the Eleventh Doctor. Fans are screaming, “Noooo!” as we see the Weeping Angels coming for Amy.

12:44 p.m: Now we’ve gotten a chunk of the Eleven/Clara partnership, with many loud squeals for the Doctor kissing River goodbye, followed by our brief glimpse of John Hurt as “the Doctor.” New episodes return on November 23.

12:46 p.m.: The crowd yells out, “Thank you, Matt!” Smith thanks them in turn. (Ferguson: “Thanks you, ‘Sons of Anarchy’ fans!”) Ferguson says he wasn’t prepared for the sense of grief the Doctor went through over Amy and Rory. Moffat: “They died in their 80s. How much more merciful could I be?”

12:47 p.m.: Moffat says there’s some sense of historical responsibility when you take over the show, but mainly you feel excited: “I get to do ‘Doctor Who.’ Even if I do it badly, that’s pretty cool!” Says he’s still a fan of it, “even though it wrecks every day of my year.”

12:48 p.m.: Gatiss discussing the TV-movie, says the series’ origin was a bunch of happy accidents, and a story he’s wanted to tell for a long time. Bradley notes that he’s old enough to remember the Hartnell years well, as he was already 20 at the time. Re: “Game of Thrones,” Bradley jokes, “For some reason, the wedding invitations have dried up.”

12:51 p.m.: The trailer for “An Adventure in Space and Time” looked impressive, including Brian Cox as a BBC executive. Similar period to “The Hour,” and maybe even some of the same sets and costumes.

12:53 p.m.: Ferguson promises we’ll get a 50th anniversary trailer soon. We’re getting perilously close to trailer overload, especially since this is Smith’s last time here as the Doctor.

12:54 p.m.: Smith calls this “the most fabulous journey” and hopes the Christmas special will be one of the best. “I’m determined to make it a real belter.” Moffat says he’s only on page 22.

12:55 p.m.: Ferguson brings up the frequent unresolved sexual tension between the Doctor and his female companions. He mentions the Rose/Ten chemistry, generating more squeals. Smith says each actor who plays the role comes to it with a different emotional background. Tennant was more swashbuckling with the ladies, while he tends to be more flummoxed. He says Clara challenges him in a different way from Amy, and, “I think he’d have a better chance of snogging Clara.” Coleman thinks the Doctor is completely asexual, to protests from the audience.

12:56 p.m.: Moffat is pleading with the crowd not to post footage of the 50th anniversary trailer online, especially since fans ignored the similar warning in the “Sherlock” panel. Says if audio of this appears online, “There will be no more Comic-Con exclusives” for either show.

12:59 p.m.: Okay, that trailer was excellent, though it was hard to hear virtually any dialogue, given all the screaming anytime Tennant or Billie Piper appeared. Nice Tennant/Smith chemistry.

1:00 p.m.: A female fan says she was in the hospital with bone cancer recently and watched “Doctor Who” every day to get through it. She asks for the panelists favorite moments from the recent season. Smith and Coleman loved the scenes of Clara inserted into footage of the old Doctors, and Coleman also enjoyed the TARDIS on a cloud with the spiral staircase.

1:01 p.m.: Are they thinking of another shoot in America, and what was the last one like for Smith? Smith says he really wants to shoot the Christmas special in the U.S.; Coleman agrees. Moffat refuses to even give Smith “a definite maybe,” but says they might return to America if they can think of a good reason to go there. Producer Marcus Wilson recalls the fun of filming in New York City, with a crew who had no idea what “Doctor Who” was, or how popular they would be. Gatiss pitches a story about an alien invasion of Comic-Con.

1:03 p.m.: A fan loves “The Satan Pit” episode, wonders if the series might do something similar. Moffat says he loves that one, too. Ferguson asks if Moffat prefers to do episodes set in Earth history; “I usually get other writers to do those, because it involves research.” He says Russell T. Davies got him to do several historical episodes, “And that’s the only time I’ve had to do research in my entire life. It’s ‘Doctor Who,’ he’s made up! And I had to read a book about frocks.”

1:04 p.m.: Will they bring The Doctor Who Experience to America? Smith is happy to ask his bosses at the BBC, but suggests the fan should just fly to Cardiff if he fails.

1:05 p.m.: Hall H regular Button Lady asks Moffat what are the adjectives he uses to apply to all of the Doctors as he casts each one. “There’s only one Doctor,” Moffat insists. “He lives in the moment, all the time. He never really looks back, because if he did, he’d be staring all day. He’s a creature of the moment right now.” He also thinks, “He’s every age at once. He’s a child. He’s a stroppy teenager. He’s a middle-aged boor. He’s a grumpy old man. All at once.” He thinks what Smith has done the best of any Doctor is “to combine the old man and the child, so you see them both at every time… he doesn’t know he’s the hero. He’d be very surprised to find there’s a show about him.”

1:07 p.m.: Ferguson asks about the search for Smith’s replacement. Moffat says they haven’t found one yet.

1:08 p.m.: Why isn’t Captain Jack in the anniversary episode, and will he be reappearing? Moffat says you can’t put everybody in the 50th, “And how do you know what is or is not in the 50th?” He says he has “lied my ass off for months” about what’s in it. If he has a good story idea for Jack, he’ll come back.

1:09 p.m.: What did “Doctor Who” change about each of their lives? Smith says it’s changed his entire life, and pauses to thank the fans “for all your support and encouragement.” Coleman is new, but her life is “changing every day at quite a fast rate.” Being in a big hall like this has thrown her, but she’s loved the experience of seeing all the Doctors and Claras milling about the Con. Smith says they’ve been playing a game driving around: if they see a Doctor or a Clara while they’re driving around, they’ll roll down the window and call out to them. One Doctor didn’t recognize them at first until his Clara pointed out. Smith likes that the show has “a really strong footprint” here. Ferguson asks about difference between UK and US fans. Smith: “You’re louder, which is great.” On cue, the hall fills with delighted screams.

1:12 p.m.: Favorite memories of making season 7? Moffat loved being in the room in “Asylum of the Daleks” with all the different kinds of Daleks. Coleman enjoyed fighting the snowmen in the last Christmas episode; since the snowmen were computer-generated, the director had to call out “krump!” each time one appeared. Smith just loves how the show changes so wildly from one episode to the next. Gatiss was excited to get Diana Rigg in his second episode, loved the moment where Rigg pulled back her robe to reveal the alien leach.

1:13 p.m.: Fan says she’ll cry when Smith leaves. (“Oh, you will,” promises Moffat.) Moffat is asked about the Cartmel Masterplan, and says he was never given all the details of it.

1:15 p.m.: If the panelists could play any character from the run of the series, who would it be? Smith picks the Master. Coleman would want to be Strax. (Moffat: “You’re not tall enough.”) Moffat says he’d want to be the Doctor, but is “rubbish at acting.” Bradley loved doing the dinosaurs on a spaceship episode and figured that would be his entire “Doctor Who” experience; he’d also love to be the Doctor. Gatiss would like to be Jo Grant.

1:17 p.m.: Ferguson suggests the American audience may be younger than the UK audience. Is that something Moffat contemplates? Moffat notes that they’ve always had a big audience of children, but America gets more of a twentysomething audience than in the UK. “In the UK, we tend to lose them in their 20s and they come back later when they have kids.”

1:18 p.m.: Ferguson asks how many fans watch it as it airs and how many watches it illegally. The later group is slightly louder.

1:20 p.m.: A fan has made an Eleventh Doctor tribute jacket by stitching together 11 different Comic-Con swag bags. He commits a Con no-no by asking for an autograph, but Smith agrees to do it. Ferguson hums some “Doctor Who”-themed Muzak to pass the time.

1:22 p.m.: A fan asks for favorite River Song moments. Moffat loves the farewell between them, because “It’s the first time we’ve ever seen the Doctor kiss somebody, rather than get kissed… It’s the first time he kissed with lustful intent.”

1:23 p.m.: A fan asks if Smith and Coleman could create their own alien monster to battle, what would it be like? Smith’s would be “really big.” Coleman is “picturing lots of arms right now.” Now Smith can’t decide if he likes big physical ones or psychological ones. Coleman’s favorite villains from last year were the Whisper Men.

1:25 p.m.: Moffat recalls how terrified he was of the show as a kid, and says kids today still rate episodes by how scared they were. He says he can’t watch any horror movies that are scarier than the show, whereas Gatiss loves watching horror.

1:26 p.m.: Following on that, Moffat explains they won’t do gore on the show, and try not to use blood. “It wouldn’t feel like ‘Doctor Who’ if it was all horrible and gory,” he says.

1:28 p.m.: Time is up, and the fans give everybody a standing ovation, raising their sonics up yet again.

Back in a bit with “Community,” folks.

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