Our last panel at Comic-Con 2013 was BBC America’s Doctor Who 50th Anniversary panel, which took place on Sunday, July 21 in Hall H, from 12:30pm-1:30pm. With such a title, and with this being Matt Smith’s farewell panel, you would expect big things from this panel, right? Read on to find out exactly what went down!
Craig Ferguson was the moderator for this panel (sorry, not Chris Hardwick this year), and he started out by greeting the audience the way River Song would, “Hello Sweeties.” He explained that he was moderating this panel because he had been a Doctor Who fan his entire life. He first welcomed producer Marcus Wilson to the stage, followed by proudcer/writer Mark Gatiss, then David Bradley (who will be playing William Hartnell, the first Doctor, in An Adventure in Space and Time), lead writer/executive producer Steven Moffat, Jenna Coleman (Clara), and finally, the Doctor himself, Matt Smith (whose hair was surprisingly all shaved off)! Craig welcomed Jenna as the newest member “to a life of creepy people like me following you around.” We then watched a recap video of Doctor Who from its beginning through now (although the bulk of the recap featured Amy Pond, and then Clara).
Craig started off the panel by talking to Moffat about the fact that this season he had taken the Doctor to places he had never been before, particularly in terms of loss and grief. Moffat responded, “What, Amy and Rory? They died in their eighties, how much more merciful can I be?” Craig went on to ask him if he had a great sense of responsibility when he took over the job, and Moffat answered, “You feel responsibility, of course you do,” then quickly added, “No you don’t, you just feel unbelievably excited,” and that he’s still a fan of it, “even though it wrecks every day” of his year.
He then asked Mark about how An Adventure in Space and Time, which is about the origins of the show, came about. Mark talked about how it’s a story that any fans that grew up watching Doctor Who was familiar with, which is a story of how “a very unlikely group of people came together through a series of happy accidents to create the show.” He had been wanting to tell the story “for ages” and it all came together for the 50th Anniversary. David said he was a fan of the show, and that he actually remembered watching the first Doctor, saying, “Every Saturday evening, that’s what you do.” Craig commented that it must be difficult for David at Comic-Con because a lot of people hate him due to his character (Walder Frey) on Game of Thrones. David joked, “For some reason, the wedding invitations have dried up,” leading to cheers from the audience.
We then watched the trailer from An Adventure in Space and Time. In it, we see people skeptical of the idea of the show, “It’s crazy! Cavemen, and doctors, and disappearing bloody police boxes,” as well as Jessica Raine as Verity Lambert telling Hartnell he’s perfect for it, saying, “C.S. Lewis meets H.G. Wells meets Father Christmas. That’s the Doctor,” to which Hartnell replies, “Doctor Who?” We then see a series of clips of the filming of the show after Hartnell has agreed to join, including Daleks and the Tardis control panel. Looks like this will be an interesting docudrama for any Doctor Who fan to watch!
Craig asked Mark if he was able to use any of the old footage or sets. Mark said that the Tardis was a new build, but in the original Tardis there were brass pillars which had been rented from a place called Trading Post, from where they rent most of their props, and they were able to rent the same brass pillars from 50 years ago.
Regarding getting to the 50th Anniversary special, Moffat spoke about how a lot of it is improvisation, but there are certain things they’ve been setting up “for a very long while” that they will resolve in the 50th Anniversary special and in Matt’s final episode. He said that they do have a plan, but that the newest idea is always the most exciting, adding, “I may just kill a lot of people now and then.”
Craig then pointed out how Matt is leaving and Jenna is just arriving, and asked if either one of them was afraid of what’s to come. Matt answered that he’s “excited” and “can’t wait to go back and shoot.” Jenna commented that watching the trailer makes her excited to get back on set. Matt talked about how they were going to try to make the Christmas Special one of the best, and Moffat commented, “No pressure, I’m only on page 22!” Craig then asked about the chemistry between the Doctor and his companion, asking if they take from the actors that came before, to which Matt answered that each actor that plays it “comes with a different emotional background and make up,” pointing out that David Tennant is more “swashbuckley with the ladies,” while Matt’s Doctor is “quite flummoxed” and that River is the “ultimate alien to him.” He then spoke about how now that Clara has come along, she challenges the Doctor in a different way than Amy did, commenting, “I think he’d have more chance of snogging Clara than he would with Amy.” Jenna said that she thinks he’s “a bit asexual.”
Before showing the trailer for the 50th Anniversary special, Moffat warned the audience not to post it online, or else there would be no more Comic-Con exclusives. The trailer was pretty exciting, what with the return of David Tennant and Billie Piper as the Tenth Doctor and Rose. It looks like this will have a lot to do with John Hurt’s Doctor as well, as the trailer starts off with Matt Smith’s voice saying, “I’ve had many faces, many lives. I don’t admit to all of them. There’s one life I’ve tried very hard to forget.” It appears that the special will involve Daleks as well. There were also many funny parts in the trailer, one of which was when Tennant and Smith compared sonic screwdrivers, and another was when Tennant walked into Smith’s Tardis and commented, “Oh, you’ve redecorated! I don’t like it.” The trailer ended with someone saying, “I’m looking for the Doctor” and Tennant replies, “Well, you’ve certainly come to the right place.”
The crowd loved the trailer, and I for one am very excited about the 50th Anniversary Special. Moffat commented, “And you have seen nothing, trust me.” The panel was then opened up to audience questions, the first of which was what the panelists’ favorite scenes were from this past season. Matt talked about the part in “The Name of the Doctor” where Clara visits all eleven Doctors, and Jenna reminisced about recreating the scene with Hartnell, the First Doctor, and also shared that she loved the image of the Tardis on a cloud.
The next person asked if they would do another season in America, and Matt commented, “I just want to go on record, I want to shoot the Christmas Special in America,” and Jenna agreed. Matt tried to get a “definite maybe” out of Moffat, but he said no. Moffat commented that they might go back to America, if they could think of a great reason to go there. Marcus then spoke about shooting in America, sharing the story that the American crew didn’t really know the show, who told him it would be “easy getting around New York, don’t worry.” However, thousands of people turned up to see them. Mark Gatiss then said he had a great idea for a story: an alien invasion at Comic-Con, because “who would know?”
Craig asked Moffat if he likes to do episodes which are in historical settings, but he said he prefers other people to do those because “it involves research.”
Another audience member asked if they would bring The Doctor Who Experience to America, but it didn’t seem like they had any plans to, as Matt told us to fly to Cardiff.
The infamous “Button Lady” had the next question, which was for Moffat: When casting for the Doctor, what are the adjectives used to describe all of the Doctors? Moffat answered that he’s a “creature of the moment” who is “every age at once,” as he is a “big kid and an old man all at the same time,” and that he would be “quite surprised to find out that he’s a hero.” Craig then tried to get casting news for the Twelfth Doctor out of him, but he wouldn’t say anything.
Then an audience member asked why Captain Jack wasn’t in the 50th Anniversary Special, and if we would be seeing him in future episodes. Moffat commented that “you can’t put everybody in the 50th” and questioned how she would know what is or is not in the 50th just from seeing the trailer, adding “I’ve lied my arse off for months! You know nothing, so don’t make presumptions!” But then he said that if they have an idea for Captain Jack, he’ll come back, and if not, then he won’t.
An audience member dressed as Idris asked how the show has changed the panelists’ lives. Matt answered that it “changed everything” about his life and his family’s life, and he talked about how he’s made some of his closest friends on the show, then made sure to thank the fans for their support. As for Jenna, she said that “it’s changing every day at quite a fast rate.” She also spoke about this being her first Comic-Con experience, and how interesting it’s been seeing people dressed as the Doctor and Clara. Matt then talked about a game that he and Jenna had been playing when driving around, that they would roll down their window and greet anyone they saw dressed up as their characters, saying something along the lines of “Hey Doctor, great costume!” One of those times, the guy dressed up as the Doctor was like “Yeah, whatever,” so they rolled the window back up and started to drive away, as the Clara cosplayer behind him frantically tapped him on the shoulder and alerted him as to what had just happened, and the guy was devastated! Craig asked if there was a big difference between U.K. fans and American fans. Matt and Jenna both said yes, as Matt explained, “You’re louder!”
Another audience member said she will cry when Matt Smith leaves the show, and Moffat commented, “Oh, you will!” implying a very sad and dramatic Christmas Special, which I’m sure we all expected anyway. Her question was whether Moffat drew any inspiration from the Cartmell Masterplan, but he admitted he never really knew what it was, and he never got to find out what the answer to all that was. However, he agrees with keeping the “mysterious” quality to the Doctor.
The next question was for the entire panel: If they could play anyone on the Doctor Who series, who would it be, and why? Matt answered the Master, Jenna answered Strax, Moffat said he would want to be the Doctor, because that’s what he’s dreamed of all his life, David also answered the Doctor, Mark answered Jo Grant, and Marcus said he would like to work for Miss Kizlet.
Then an audience member asked the panelists if they could take the Tardis back in time to a moment in their lives, when would it be, and why? But it seemed like a very personal question that nobody wanted to answer, so instead Craig pointed out that he’d noticed that Doctor Who fans in America seem much younger in the U.K. Moffat commented that they seem to get more of the twentysomethings here than in the U.K., saying that in the U.K he thinks they lose fans in their 20s, who then come back later.
Another question was what about the panelists’ favorite River Song moments. Matt talked about the scene in prison when she kisses him, while Moffat talked about the farewell scene, remarking that it’s the first time ever that the Doctor has grabbed someone and kissed them, rather than get kissed himself, and that “he does it clearly with lustful intent!” He also mentioned a scene in “Day of the Moon” when River is flirting with the Doctor, because the Doctor is so bad at flirting, but so thrilled by it.
As for the audience question to Matt and Jenna of if they could create their own alien monster to battle, what would it be like, Matt said he would create something huge with claws, but then changed his mind and said he likes the psychological ones, and Jenna said that the Whisper Men were her favorite last year. Craig asked about there being Weeping Angels action figures, which the panel confirmed exist, and Moffat commented that he had written three Weeping Angels episodes, which are “Hell to write, because you’re writing chase scenes with a thing that doesn’t move!” Moffat then talked about The Crash of the Elysium, an immersive theater experience where people are taken to a crash scene and get attacked by Weeping Angels, and Matt snuck along the back and noticed one particularly scared child, so he went over to comfort her, saying “It’s not real!” – but then she looked up to see the Doctor!
Craig asked Moffat if he had ever written any episodes where he thought, “I’ve gone too far,” and Moffat answered, “Yes, and they won’t let me put them on television.” Craig further commented about the Weeping Angels episodes being frightening, and Moffat responded by saying that Doctor Who is supposed to be scary, and that children rate the show on how frightening it is. After someone dressed up as a Tardis danced around the front of the room for a bit, Craig got back on track asking about gore in the show, Moffat answered, “Oh, we wouldn’t do gore in Doctor Who,” as it’s “fairly hard-wired” into their heads that they never do blood, because “it wouldn’t feel like Doctor Who if it were all horrible and gory. We just kill people discretely and nicely.” Craig brought up when Harriet Jones blew up the spaceship, that alien bits were falling on London, but Moffat countered, “Yes, but it looked like snow.” Craig replied, “So as long as it looks pretty, you can do anything you want to them?” to which Moffat answered, “More or less.”
At that point, the panel was out of time, and we watched a video of a Doctor Who song that Craig Ferguson had done on his show, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
We were a bit disappointed, as we were hoping for David Tennant to make a surprise appearance to the panel, especially considering that the cover of the Comic-Con events guide showed a Tardis with someone wearing a red Converse shoe entering it! But, no such luck.
The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special will air on BBC November 23, 2013.