Whovians worldwide are anxiously awaiting the debut of the first episode of the new season of ‘Doctor Who’ titled ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ on Saturday, September 1st, but a few lucky fans got the opportunity to purchase tickets for $.11 ($1.11 after fees, I believe) to attend the premiere of the episode in New York City this past Saturday at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City.
I was not one of those lucky fans.
But, after I failed at acquiring tickets the conventional way, I ended up being invited to cover the event as a member of the press. As you could imagine, I was super stoked to get to see the episode early, but that’s not where my excitement ended. BBC America had arranged some round table interviews with stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillan and executive producer Caroline Skinner. That’s right: I was going to meet The Doctor.
I was so giddy for the whole ride from Philadelphia to New York City that you would have thought that I was actually going in the TARDIS. When I finally arrived at the BBC America offices on Saturday afternoon, they kindly offered all of us tea while we waited for our guests to materialize. I chatted with my fellow members of the press and it was safe to say that we were all excited because not only were we professionals there to do a job, but we were fans above all else, and I think that made the whole experience even better.
The time had come for us to break into small groups to chat with our visitors from across the pond and the first person to into my room, right off the bat, was The Doctor himself, Matt Smith. After the initial shock that we were sitting with him, we put on our press hats and got to work. He was very friendly and genuinely excited for all of us to see the new episode later that night. Because of the nature of the interview, I was only able to ask one question, so I tried to pick a good one. Here’s what I came up with:
Q: ‘Doctor Who’ has done some great episodes featuring historical figures such as Winston Churchill, Vincent Van Gogh, and Charles Dickens. Are there any of those episodes this season, and if you could choose any historical figure for the Doctor to meet, who would it be?
A: “Actually, yeah. We encounter someone’s feet. He was a king. I’m not going to give anything else away. In episode four [‘The Power of Three’], he’s chasing us. I will give nothing else away.
Who would I like to encounter? It’s like asking what’s your favorite album. I should have a few stock options. I love Frank Sinatra, but I always say that, so I’d like to say something different… Was Tarzan real? I like the idea of the Doctor swinging from branches with Tarzan, but being really bad at it though. And the [Matt imitates Tarzan’s scream.]. It would be terrible. Tarzan. The Doctor should hang out with Tarzan for a good bit.”
Though it was a short conversation, it was a lot of fun. Other topics from our discussion including “the poor clerics who die in certain episodes’, the “Fall of the Ponds”, Matt’s desire to shoot “every single episode” of the show in New York City, and, of course, the pure evil of the Daleks as featured in this first episode. He event went so far as to describe the Asylum of the Daleks as Dalekland, “a perfect sort of theme park because everything’s made for Daleks”. Matt was just so charming and easy going and a complete delight to be around. They all were, really, which is why these interviews were so fun as a whole.
Next up was Karen Gillan, who is just as stunning in real life as she is on the screen with a personality to match. We dove right into it with Karen talking about “these two people trying to deal with a domestic life with this time traveler popping in and out and whisking them off to crazy adventures” in ‘Pond Life’ and episode four of this season. When flat out asked if she’d be open to returning somewhere down the line, she said:
“Actually, I’ve always said that when I’ve gone, I want that to be for good because I want that final scene to still have that impact 10 years on. I want people to be able to revisit it and still have the same emotion, so for that reason, I think I want to rule out any returns.”
As sad as we were to hear that, the conversation went on to talk about the epic, movie-scale episodes in the first part of this season, shooting in New York, not finding the Daleks scary until this first episode, the number of times that Rory dies, and the possibility of her actually appearing on ‘Community’.
When describing her last scene on the show, she said that it was a really insignificant one, but it became much more because it was the last time that the Ponds would step into the TARDIS.
“Matt closed the door, and we were just in complete darkness, and we all just had this massive hug in the dark. And then I cried and milked it for all it was worth. It was amazing.”
My favorite part of the interview was how excited Karen was for dinosaurs on a spaceship, as that was one of the biggest things to excite me in the trailer for the new season. We also talked about the legacy of Amy Pond, all the emotions of these final episodes, and a man who legally changed his name to River Song before our time was up and it was Caroline’s turn for questions.
She talked first about the genesis of ‘Pond Life’ and what the Doctor popping in and out of Rory and Amy’s lives meant from their point of view, then went into her passion and admiration for the show as a whole because she’s always been a fan.
Caroline reiterated Matt and Karen’s enthusiasm for New York City and the fans that showed up for the shoot. All three were very surprised by the reception that they received when they were shooting around the city, and Caroline went into why that was.
“When we shoot in the UK, we get quite a few people following us around and the fan base absolutely adores the show, but never in my career I’ve never known anything like it. I don’t think any of us could have prepared for what shooting in the streets of New York would be like. It was just phenomenal. It was a wonderful experience. I remember one day when we were filming in Central Park and over the course of the day, the crowds grew and grew and grew. We were filming by a fountain towards the end of the day and we could hardly keep people back.”
Karen shared a similar story, but noted that the fans were respectful as well, as they remained quiet while cameras were rolling. All three made it abundantly clear that they very much enjoyed shooting here in the States and adored the fans for their “sheer love and passion for the show”, as Caroline said.
After some great sessions, the afternoon wrapped up with a few pictures before we all had to head out of the more than hospitable BBC America office to the theater for the premiere. A group of us traveled to the Ziegfeld together and discussed the events that just took place and how great Matt, Karen, and Caroline were for participating in those interviews for us.
As we approached the theater, we started to see fezzes, sonic screwdrivers, and all the other signs of the ‘Doctor Who’ fandom, as well as The Doctor carrying Amy in his arms surrounded by Daleks on the marquee. The sea of fans was seemingly endless when we got into the huge theater. It was hard to believe that this place had sold out in a matter of minutes, but anything is possible with The Doctor.
These photos courtesy of BBC America.
After arriving to the theater in Deloreans, Chris Hardwick of ‘The Nerdist’, who was moderating the evening’s festivities, introduced Matt, Karen, and Caroline to the cheering crowd. After a brief introduction, it was finally time to watch the episode.
Now, before you ask about the episode itself, I was sworn to secrecy by The Doctor himself (and by BBC America) that I would not divulge any information about the events of ‘Asylum of the Daleks’. Trust me, you’ll thank me when all the feels come rushing at you when you watch the episode. All I will say about it is this: “Oh. My. GOD!” Insightful review, right? We’ll talk about it more in depth next week.
The crowd, including Hardwick, who was seeing the episode for the first time as well, had to regain their composure before anything else happened. Once the dust had settled, we were treated to a Q&A session with the stars where fans were able to express their gratitude and find the answers to the questions that they’ve been dying to ask. Some highlights included Matt and Chris dream casting Peter Sellers and Richard Ayoade as The Doctor (and Bryan Cranston as The Master) and Karen talking about how Arthur is “technically a fantastic kisser, but it feels incest”.
Following the Q&A and a final goodbye, the day concluded. My ‘Doctor Who’-filled day was over (until we returned to my photographer’s apartment to watch more ‘Doctor Who’) and I was still in awe that it happened. New York City was truly WHO York City on this day, a day that I surely will not forget any time soon.
And seriously, if you are a fan of ‘Doctor Who’, you do not, I repeat, DO NOT want to miss ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ this Saturday night at 9:00pm.
*Photos provided by Ben Silverio & Austin LoCicero