There are arguably few fandoms quite as large or with quite the rabid following as the Whovians who follow BBC’s Doctor Who. And 6500 of them turned out in force for the show’s panel on Sunday at the San Diego Comic-Con.
Moderator Chris Hardwick (The Nerdist podcast) introduced the panel members, which included current showrunner Steven Moffat, executive producer Caroline Skinner, Matt Smith (the titular current Doctor #11), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), and Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams).
Smith greeted the Comic-Con audience with a hearty “Hello!,” Hardwick congratulated the panel for an amazing last season, and Moffat mentioned that he hasn’t seen any of the convention because he’s spent the whole Con in his hotel room writing this season’s episodes. Hardwick asked Moffat how the Doctor Who team has managed to keep the show fresh after nearly 50 years. Moffat replied that the key is not to have any kind of a life and pointed out that as a longtime fan himself, he’s been thinking of ideas for Doctor Who since he was a little kid.
When asked how he’s enjoyed playing the Doctor, Smith responded that it’s changed his life and he praised executive producer Skinner. He said if the world was as supporting and loving as Comic-Con has been toward the show, it would be a better place.
Hardwick showed an awkward photo from the previous night’s party where he ran into Smith while dressed as David Tennant‘s Doctor #10, whereupon Smith said, “I see where your heart really lies!” Smith recalled being starstruck to meet Peter Jackson during the convention and “nerding out” over meeting Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston.
Gillan said she’s had the most fun at the Con meeting everyone and recalled running into a fan dressed as a Dalek in the elevator when they both turned and shouted in each other’s recognition. She’s loving seeing all the ginger-haired Amy Pond cosplayers in the audience. Darvill said his voice was shot from shouting the whole weekend at the amazing Comic-Con sights.
Hardwick loved the triad dynamic that Darvill forms with Smith and Gillan on the show. Hardwick was sad that the Ponds would be leaving this year, but noted that this is how the show works, in that nobody’s permanent — not even The Doctor — and Gillan said that she couldn’t stop crying the week they filmed their last scenes on the show.
Hardwick recalled that Smith ran into Gillan and Darvill at a Comic-Con party and jokingly said to them, “Hey, didn’t you guys use to be in Doctor Who?”
Then they showed an emotionally wrenching clip from “The Girl Who Waited” (episode S06, E10), where old Amy implores present-day Rory not to let her into the TARDIS. This had the convention weeping.
Hardwick asked Skinner how producing the new season has been so far. Epic, she said, but still, the hardest thing was saying good-bye to the Ponds. Moffat was relieved to write that scene despite how sad it was.
Hardwick guessed that there’s no way to really write the Ponds out completely, since it IS science fiction, and anything can happen. Moffat said knowingly, “Do you reckon? Then enjoy the episode, Chris,” and then asked the audience to put their trust in him, cause it’ll be an awesome farewell.
Skinner said she loves the episodes they’ve just done this year because they’re unlike previous years’ episodes. Smith appreciated that each week the show can do something completely different and not have to be bound by genre.
Gillan said what she’d miss most about working on the show was running down corridors away from imaginary monsters and tennis balls on a stick standing in for CG effects. Darvill said the cast has spent so much time together sometimes they don’t even talk on-set, just make funny noises, to which Moffat said, “We like to call them ‘episodes.’” Smith said the cast has such a flow, they’re symbiotic, and can easily jump into their characters. He praised the quality of the writing and credited it for making his job easier.
“The Ponds” were asked what their next roles would be and Gillan and Darvill chose to answer for each other. Darvill answered (in Gillan’s accent) that she’s going to be in a film called Not Another Happy Ending in Scotland and a film in the U.S. called Oculus, about a mirror. Gillan imitated Darvill saying he’s going to do a play in London, then a series called Broadchurch, co-starring with David Tennant. The crowd cheered upon hearing this.
Moffat then introduced a clip from an upcoming episode, set in the old west U.S., but (noted Moffat) actually shot in Spain.
During panel Q&A, a young Whovian asked Matt Smith what his favorite gadget, button, or monitor screen in the TARDIS was. He said, when he arrived on set at first, he got a handbook on how the TARDIS works (as does every new Doctor). He loves the gear and lever, because it has a rhythm to it.
Hardwick loves that they can take a 50-year-old idiosyncrasy like the noise of the TARDIS and explain it away, in a throwaway line by saying The Doctor rides the brakes. Moffat said he got in a bit of trouble on that one from the fans.
A fan asked if there would be a multiple doctor episode, to which Moffat said he wouldn’t tell.
Moffat discussed the upcoming episode where they address the question, ‘Doctor who?,’ to which he said he actually has an answer and he’s not telling anyone. Smith said “Welcome to our life, with Moffat having all the answers and not telling anyone.”
The crew was asked what their favorite creature or guest was. Gillan loves Vincent Van Gogh and the actor who played him, and Smith loves the weeping angels. They mentioned that Dame Diana Rigg would be joining the show for an episode.
Gillan was asked if she’d appear in the show Community for their Inspector Spacetime spoofs. She said she appreciates the spoofs of the Whovian universe and said she’d love to do it.
A fan asked what the panel’s favorite costumes were. Darvill answered his favorite was his Roman Centurion costume; Gillian said the kiss-a-gram police costume; Smith said his tweed, bow tie, and fez. He mentioned that no sooner did Moffat give him the fez to wear then he had River Song shoot it off.
Smith said the craziest fan encounter he’s experienced was at a recent Tumblr party. Also he met a lady who told him his face is an exact replica of her pet hedgehog.
Moffat was asked if he often encounters Who scripts that he feels have amazing scenes, but they have no time to produce, to which he said they usually find a way to get the really incredible scenes on-screen.
The cast was asked what plots they’d like to see on future Doctor Who episodes, to which Smith replied he’d like to visit Atlantis. Moffat reminded Smith that the Doctor’s been there three times in earlier incarnations of The Doctor, but there’s no reason they couldn’t go back there. Gillan wanted to do something where she’s trapped in a piano and has to dodge the falling piano hammers. Darvill would like to see the doctor join a band, to which Smith reminded him that they DID sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” last night. Hardwick wanted the Doctor to land in Punxsutawney, PA and try to figure out Bill Murray’s time loop from Groundhog Day.
The cast was asked if they’d ever be tempted to take any cool props from the show. They all admitted they’ve stolen bits and pieces from the TARDIS.
The cast was asked if they had any particular theater roles they’d like to play. Darvill said he wanted to act in The Crucible; Gillan wants to play Lady Macbeth; and Smith wants to play a real villain.
The panel was asked if they’d noticed any weird or interesting idiosyncrasies from working with each other. Smith said Gillan often pinches her lips when thinking intently. Gillan said Smith makes a funny raspberry noise with his lips before takes. Smith said Darvill gets grumpy sometimes like an overprotective dad.
Smith mentioned that says he’s constantly being stopped by airport personnel who wisecrackingly ask him, “You didn’t bring your TARDIS, then?”
Moffat said fans should look forward to more Daleks than anyone’s ever seen in their lives, more weeping angels, and a broader variety of episodes than had ever been seen on Doctor Who.
Doctor Who returns to BBC and BBC America this August.