The Doctor (Who) Is In30 Jul, 2011 By: John Latchem
The British cultural phenomenon “Doctor Who” hit San Diego Comic-Con International July 24 to promote the upcoming second half of its sixth season on BBC America, as well as the recently released DVD and Blu-ray Disc of Doctor Who: Season Six, Part One from BBC Video.
The current “Doctor Who” show continues a legacy dating back to 1963, when the series first debuted on the BBC. It tells the story of the Doctor, a time-traveling adventurer who protects Earth from a legion of aliens and monsters. His vehicle of choice? The TARDIS, a blue police call box that’s bigger on the inside than the outside. In nearly 50 years of adventures, the Doctor has picked up quite a few friends and fans along the way.
While at Comic-Con, Home Media Magazine chatted with Matt Smith, the current Doctor and the 11th actor to take on the role.
HM: How much energy does executive producer Steven Moffat brings to the show?
Smith: He is “Doctor Who.” He is the Doctor. He is a brilliant man, and I’m very fortunate. I think he’s a genius. I think what he does with the show, I think he pushes the form, he pushes the storytelling, and I think he’s taken it back to old school “Doctor Who,” which I loved. It’s just in his blood. He’s a great man and someone I have the utmost respect for, and I think he’s just going to continue to do brilliant things. The way he plays with time and explored central concepts of the show, which is indeed time, is just remarkable, I think.
HM: What was it like to see the script for the beginning of series six where they kill off the Doctor in the first few minutes?
Smith: I saw that and was like, “OK, what the hell! Don’t write me out!” What’s great is you always know Stephen is going to do something brilliant and inventive and play with time in such a clever way. I was just excited. I just thought, ‘How bold to open and kill off your main character.’ Only Steven Moffat, you know? (A future version of the Doctor is shot, leaving the present version to solve the mystery of why).
HM: What was it like filming in America for series six?
Smith: We had a great time. It was in Utah, in this place that is part of filmic history. It’s where they filmed Forrest Gump and a lot of great John Ford movies and stuff. I really like having “Doctor Who” set in America. I think it broadens the scale of the show, which I think is great.
HM: What has it been like working with guest star Alex Kingston (“E.R.”), whose character of River Song kind of serves as your love interest on the show and who began that relationship with your predecessor, David Tennant?
Smith: She and I get on very well. She tells me I’m a brilliant flirt, which I take as a huge compliment from Alex Kingston because she’s a brilliant flirt. So I just get to flirt with Alex all day at work. She’s a great friend and a great actress, and I think River is one of the great “Doctor Who” incarnations, actually. It’s great to see the Doctor slightly usurped by someone, and she totally does that.
HM: You played the Doctor in an episode of the spinoff series “The Sarah Jane Adventures,” alongside Elisabeth Sladen, who died in April but had played Sarah Jane since 1973. What was it like to work with her, and what did she mean to the franchise?
Smith: She was like royalty. What’s incredible about Liz is she actually meant something to three generations, to kids back in the ’70s and ’80s, to kids now and to adults now. I think that’s a remarkable feat and a testament to Elisabeth Sladen. She had great grace and a great sense of youthfulness about her, which I’ve not seen in many people. It’s a real tragedy, and it was a real sad day for everyone associated with “Doctor Who.”
HM: What is the difference between American and British fans of the show?
Smith: At their heart, the fans all have the same core passions about the show. I think Americans are slightly more expressive. There has always been a core audience in America for “Doctor Who,” and now there’s a bit more accessibility to get it out there and to get it out to the masses. “Who” fans kind of unite across the world. They are passionate about it, and they love it. And they tell you when they don’t love it as well. That’s why I don’t go on the blogs.
HM: It’s been said by you and others that “Doctor Who” is a quintessentially British show. Do you think there’ll ever be an American remake, and if so, who would be the Doctor?
Smith: An American version with an American Doctor? It might work. Johnny Depp would be a great Doctor.
HM: What time traveler from another film or TV show would you most want to meet?
Smith: If I could meet Marty (Michael J. Fox) from Back to the Future — the Doctor would love it. Or Doc, maybe. The Doc (Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown). They’d kind of get on, wouldn’t they? The Doctor would be looking at the car. Doc Brown would be looking at the TARDIS. And they be like, let’s race!
HM: Or maybe the TARDIS vs. the phone booth from “Bill & Ted”?
Smith: Oh, wow, yeah. I met the director of Bill & Ted actually, and I was like, “Time-traveling phone booths? Copyright, man!” I think the TARDIS is prettier. And it’s bigger on the inside, so come on. There’s a swimming pool and a library. There are a lot of things to do in there. That’s what I liked about the TARDIS girl episode (“The Doctor’s Wife,” part of Series Six, Part One) is you got to see the corridors of the TARDIS. I’d love to see the Doctor’s bedroom, if he even has one.
HM: Did you have a particular moment at Comic-Con where you just geeked out?
Smith: I met the guys from “True Blood,” and I was like, ‘Whoa.’ I love the show. I did a panel with them and was just trying to remain cool. Alex Skarsgard must think I’m a complete loser because I was like, ‘I love you, I love you, oh my god!”
Secrets With a Twist
Episodes of “Doctor Who” delight in keeping fans guessing, but often the actors aren’t always aware of what’s going on, either.
Karen Gillan, who plays the Doctor’s companion Amy Pond on the show, said the twist ending of Series Six, Part One, involving the true identity of Alex Kingston’s enigmatic River Song character, was kept a closely guarded secret by executive producer Steven Moffat.
“I couldn’t believe it when I found out because there was a dummy ending on the script,” Gillan said. “And then Steven Moffat took us outside into the corridor and showed us the real ending, and we were like, ‘Oh my god.’”
So what was the decoy ending?
“River Song comes back, and she’s just like, ‘It’s going to be all right,’” Gillan recalls. “We all were a bit like, ‘What?’”
(L-R): “Doctor Who” stars Alex Kingston, Arthur Darvill, Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and the TARDIS.