To promote the upcoming season of ‘Doctor Who,’ the new Doctor and his companion have been traveling the world to meet and greet with international Whovians and show off the first episode titled ‘Deep Breath’. When Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman stopped in New York City, they were joined by showrunner Steven Moffat and all received an epic ovation on the Blue Carpet from the fans lined up in front of the Ziegfeld Theater anxiously waiting to be among the first to see the 12th Doctor in action. But before the trio from the long-running BBC sci-fi series met with their adoring public, they took some time to talk to some press about the episode and we here at ScienceFiction.com were there for all the action.
After an exclusive screening of the episode and breakfast with a Cyberman (see above), we attended a press conference with the Doctor, his companion Clara Oswald, and the show’s executive producer to get a few answers to some burning questions. For instance, when asked about Capaldi’s previous appearance on the show alongside David Tennant’s 10th Doctor in ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ and whether or not it will be addressed at all, Moffat said that it’s not something that they’re hiding, but not something they’re flaunting either:
“Whatever we do with that, you know, which I’m not gonna tell you, is it’s subtle. We’re not doing a great big number on it because frankly the reason the Doctor looks like another character in ‘Doctor Who’ is because he’s played by the same actor and everybody knows that. If you go down that path I’ll be explaining why John Watson looks like Bilbo. It’s just – you can’t do that.“
On the topic of the actor landing the role, Capaldi mentioned that he never thought that he would be up for the part of the Doctor and he just enjoyed his brief appearance on the show that he grew up loving:
“I wasn’t thinking about being the next Doctor. I mean, I was just delighted to be in the show because I love the show. I just remembered the other day when I turned up and I met David [Tennant]. I knew him before, but when I went to the set I said, ‘Where’s the TARDIS?’ I was really excited. ‘Where is the TARDIS?’ I just went over and I remember touching it. You know, the box, the police box. I got a little bit teary looking at it! But that’s because I love the show.
I mean, first of all, I was surprised even to be in that episode. Because although I had enjoyed ‘Doctor Who’ when it came back, I hadn’t really worked with the people who were involved with the show, and I didn’t really feel that it was something that I would ever be in, in any way, shape, or form. So I was thrilled to be in that episode. I was always interested when they were changing Doctors, but I never really thought they would come to me. It seemed to be something that was not a direction they would be going in.”
From there the panel went on to discuss the changes on set as a new regeneration of the Doctor is introduced. Coleman talks a little about the adjustments that she had to make going from her first Doctor, Matt Smith, while Capaldi discusses this new yet familiar bond between the characters:
Jenna Coleman: I don’t know if jarring is the right word… I mean, literally my face in the regeneration scene is literally me watching Peter throw about 1000 options at the wall and try to explore everything. [For about 30 minutes, I’m] watching Peter do this entire routine and thinking that this is great because change is amazing. And actually having to start again and reevaluate and figure out how – I mean, it’s kind of what the story is as well. It’s the two things happening together, of working out how this dynamic is now gonna work and expecting a reply from maybe what the 11th Doctor would say and suddenly this new doctor does not respond in the same way, and I suppose that’s what’s jarring is then realizing, “Okay, what are the rules now? And how does this dynamic work?” As an actor, that was a great, great thing.
Within the first episode, I loved the restaurant scene because you know it’s gonna work. You see the history there and then suddenly he’ll do something incredibly unpredictable. Something that 11 might not have done. And so it really takes us off in a new direction together.
Peter Capaldi: The Doctor really, although he’s the same character, he’s also brand new. He’s also unfamiliar with his own personality, I think, so he’s discovering things about his own personality that are not necessarily welcome. But he has a very, very deep bond with Clara. And he finds it difficult to express that. But it’s there. And also she’s one of the few people who I think can actually push him around.
JC: Try to.
PC: Well, I think she succeeds in dominating him, telling him what to do. But then she can get so far with that. Then he’ll turn, he often turns. I think what we’ve all tried to do is not get into a groove where we know exactly who this character is, and what he’s going to do. I mean, the great thing to me about the Doctor has always been that there is an unknown Doctor. That’s the character who presents himself to the people around him. But there’s always this sense that there’s another aspect to him, which is untouchable and unreachable. And I never really quite know how you play that. But the only way you could – that I thought you could try and evoke it was by being ungrabbable. That you can’t actually predict what it’s gonna do.
Finally, before wrapping up the morning’s festivities, Moffat provided some great commentary on how well the material has been received so far. While he doesn’t go into specifics, the showrunner shares his take on the online reception to their show, but then chooses to focus on the positive side of the ‘Doctor Who’ fandom, which actually spawned this season’s brand new opening titles:
“You know, when you read newspapers online? I’m sure you do. There’s a comments section beneath it, and you read some perfectly reasonable news story and then a whole lot of insane people comment on it saying, ‘I’ve hated everybody since the dawn of time and my mom!’ You think – it’s a story about a rescue dog, why are you so angry? [laughter] I think trying to assess the ‘Doctor Who’ audience from its online community would be like trying to assess world affairs from the comment sections below newspapers. I had this conversation with [‘The Walking Dead’ executive producer] Gale Anne Hurd about how you can’t mistake Twitter for the voice of the audience. So I’m aware of it and it can be a difficult thing.
But let’s look at the positive side of it. Let’s look at the amazing response like our new title sequence, which I think is stunning. Billy Hanshaw just decided to make a ‘Doctor Who’ title sequence. He put it up on YouTube and I happened across it and I thought it was the only new idea for a ‘Doctor Who’ title scene since 1963. And we got in touch and we said, ‘Okay, we’re gonna do that one.’ So I suppose when we talk about ‘Doctor Who’ fandom online, that’s what we should be talking about. Not all the random madness and hate-filled nonsense that goes on, but we should be talking about the extraordinary creative response that there is to ‘Doctor Who’ that we give them a show and they give us our show back, sometimes better.
There’s something magical about ‘Doctor Who’ that makes the people who watch it actually want to do it, actually want to make it, actually want to go and make ‘Doctor Who’ or make another show. Or even more bizarrely, this is the one I can’t get my head around– it makes some people want to be scientists, presumably so they can look back at ‘Doctor Who’ and think, ‘Wow. They made that shit up didn’t they?’ [laughter] The most important thing is that an extraordinary creative response to ‘Doctor Who’ that is almost unique to ‘Doctor Who’ and that’s all we should look at. It has turned people into actors, it has turned people into writers, and it has turned people into scientists. That’s an extraordinary thing. And that title sequence which I’m so proud of is a result. That’s online ‘Doctor Who’. That’s the real part of it, that’s the real story.”
There’s actually a little more that went on during this session, but if there’s one thing that the Doctor (and the BBC) hates, it’s spoilers. Because of this, you’ll have to wait until after the episode airs to check out the rest of the comments from Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, and Steven Moffat. Until then, are you even more excited for the ‘Doctor Who’ season eight premiere this weekend? Tell us all about it in the comments below.
The new season of ‘Doctor Who’ featuring Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor debuts on Saturday, August 23rd at 8pm ET on BBC America.