Press tour: ‘Doctor Who’ panel live-blog

Senior Television Writer
07.28.11 3 Comments


I live-blogged the “Doctor Who” panel at Comic-Con, so why not go for a two-fer with today’s press tour session? I suspect the critics will ask different questions from the fans – though most of us are arguably both – and if nothing else, we’ll have showrunner Steven Moffat on the stage (along with Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and producers Piers Wenger and Beth Willis), who may be able to say more than staff writer Toby Whithouse could in San Diego. 

Wi-fi in the ballroom is pretty horrid, but I’ll do my best.

11:35: Just as a reminder, the current season of “Doctor Who” returns on August 27. Critics getting what I think is a slightly different clip reel from what we saw at Comic-Con, focusing mostly on the last few episodes that have aired.

11:37: New footage! What looks like an early scene from the next new episode (I won’t mention anything spoiler-y, don’t worry), starting with Amy being one hell of a backseat driver for poor Rory. Also offers an explanation for why the episode’s called “Let’s Kill Hitler.” Fun stuff.

11:40: Smith and Gillan scolding Moffat for missing the Comic-Con reception; he says someone had to stay and actually make the show. Gillan raving about seeing 6,000 sonic screwdrivers being held aloft.

11:41: “They whooped a lot more,” Smith laments about difference between Comic-Con and TCA reception. Moffat wonders if all of us with laptops are doing online gambling.

11:42: Smith calls “Let’s Kill Hitler” “maybe my favorite episode to date… it doesn’t disappoint.” Wenger says second half of series explores emotional impact of the big plot twists involving Doctor, Amy, River, etc. Willis notes they have to work out that both Amy and her daughter have kissed the Doctor. Gillan: “Awkward!”

11:43: Critic asks about the more serialized nature of this season compared to previous ones. Moffat wanted to do something different. “It’s been so traditional. We always start with a big one-off romp… and instead of doing that, we kill him.” He says it shocked people and excited them. “A series as it gets older can feel like a tradition. And tradition is the enemy of suspense, it’s the enemy of comedy, it’s the enemy of everything. And you have to shake it up.”

“Mothers are kick-ass, aren’t they?” -Moffat on not letting motherhood neuter Amy Pond.

Back to serialization question. Moffat says “the story of the week” takes center stage, and that “we have a more extreme version of what we’ve always had” in terms of having an ongoing mystery. Next six episodes will offer answers to everyone’s questions, but have absolute standalones as well.

11:47: Smith says there’s an advantage to “having a young face and an old soul… it allows you to reinvent being old.” Again discusses his love of Patrick Troughton as his favorite Doctor.

How is Matt like and unlike the Doctor? “He’s such a wonderful benchmark of how to live your life,” he says. “You can take a bath as the Doctor. You can order fish and chips as the Doctor.” Willis insists they’re quite similar, and that Moffat has written the Doctor more and more towards Smith’s personality. Moffat: “I’m still boggling about the idea of Matt having a bath as the Doctor.” Smith: “The Doctor would probably have a duck in there that could talk. His bath would be a lot more interesting.”

11:51: Moffat says finding out who River really is will only make things more complicated, not less. “Every revelation has to be story. It can’t just tie off the narrative; it’s got to send it off in a new way. Every time you think you know the truth about River, you don’t know it yet.”

11:53: Moffat talks about the value of being able to periodically change your lead actor, jokes that there are many shows he’s worked on where he thinks regeneration would be really handy now and then. Likes that each actor isn’t forced to recreate the mannerisms of the previous one, but rather the role is “optimized” to suit each new performer. “Every time you bring on a new Doctor, you get the shock of difference, the shock of the new, but you can tell he still thinks that, still feels that.” He was around 4 at the time of the first regeneration; “They phoned me, and I said I was alright with that.”

11:56: Where would they recommend newcomers to the franchise start out to understand it? Moffat says it’s terribly easy to explain: “It’s a man who can go anywhere in time and space that’s bigger on the inside. That’s it. Our precinct is everything that ever happened, and everywhere you can ever go. Who doesn’t want to watch that? It’s like every other television format at once.”

11:58: Moffat loved “West Wing,” but couldn’t make hide nor hair of it because he knew nothing about American politics, “But they seemed to know what they were talking about.” His re-creation of a Sorkin walk-and-talk (done from the comfort of his seat) is very amusing.

Maybe the biggest difference between Comic-Con and TCA: great majority of questions here are for Moffat, where nearly every question in San Diego was for Smith and Gillan.

12:00: Critic notes that Doctors are always asked about their favorite Doctor, asks Gillan if she has a favorite companion. Gillan (who grew up in the period where there were no new series for a long time) names Billie Piper’s Rose as her favorite, loved her chemistry with both her Doctors. Moffat says the word “companion” has become terribly old-fashioned, and they almost never say it on screen, though one upcoming episode will have fun with the term.

12:02: Last question, also for Gillan: what makes Amy unique? “When she burst on the scene, she was almost as mad as the Doctor,” Gillan says. She hopes the audience invests in her because they met her as a little girl, then as a young woman, and now a married mother, “We’re getting quite a bit of her life, which I think is great.” Smith praises Moffat for the way he writes the Doctor/Amy relationship, can’t remember as inventive a companion introduction as the one Amy got.

That’s all. Interviewing Moffat later about his tenure so far; that’ll be published much closer to “Let’s Kill Hitler.”

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