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Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan Takes the Stage at Comic-Con 2011

Comic-Con 2011 Day Four – Doctor Who Panel (plus Trailer for Rest of Season Six)

Stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillan on Season Six, River Song, Favorite Monsters, and more

Jul 27, 2011 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Doctor Who
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The first Comic-Con appearance for current Doctor Who stars Matt Smith (The Doctor) and Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) packed out Hall H, the biggest room at Comic-Con, on the last day of the convention. Some fans came in costume, many were armed with their light-up Sonic Screwdrivers, and at least two homemade Dalek costumes were spotted. The audience clapped the iconic Doctor Who theme just before the panelists took the stage to tease the second half of the show’s sixth season, which Smith revealed returns to BBC America August 27. A trailer for the rest of the season was shown (see video below) and they also showed an extended clip of an upcoming episode titled “The God Complex” and written by Being Human creator Toby Whitehouse (who was one of the panelists).

One of the first topics of conversation was the big reveal in the last episode [spoiler alert] that River Song (played by Alex Kingston) is actually the child of Amy and Roy. “My mum’s excited that she’s Alex Kingston’s grandmother,” Gillan joked. [end spoiler alert]

“We had a dummy ending on the actual script,” Gillan revealed, saying that they did a full table read with the fake ending and then show-runner/executive producer/writer Steven Moffat (who was not at Comic-Con) took Gillan and Smith aside. “He showed us the real ending and we were running up and down the corridors.”

Kingston knew the truth about her character much sooner than the rest of the cast and Gillan said that Moffat has told her a fantastic secret about her character that she can’t tell Smith or anyone else.

“He will tell you the things you need to know, but he takes great pleasure in holding back stuff,” said executive producer Beth Willis of Moffat. “He’s really mean in that way,” Smith joked.

Smith is the eleventh actor to play The Doctor (who’s an alien traveler in time and space who can “regenerate” his body and personality instead of dying, allowing new actors to seamlessly take on the role every few years). He had the gargantuan task of taking over from David Tennant, who was a big hit with fans (voted by them as their favorite actor to play the role) and critics. The panelists discussed the process of casting Smith in one of the most coveted roles in British TV (and in sci-fi in general).

“Weirdly, when David was leaving my mum texted, saying, ‘You should be the next Doctor.’ I went, ‘Alright mum,’” Smith revealed. The actor, who is the youngest actor to play The Doctor and wasn’t that well known when he was cast, knew that when he got the part he was taking on a huge responsibility. “It’s a real game-changer, it’s a real life-changing thing to take on, because it’s Doctor Who.”

Executive producer Piers Wegner said that once Smith auditioned, there was no question that he was going to be The Doctor. “It was the easiest casting decision for anybody involved, because it was so bloody obvious when he walked into the room.” Wegner also said that Smith brings a lot of himself to the character. “Matt is The Doctor, what you see on screen is pretty bloody close to how he is in real life.”

“What’s wonderful is getting to spend time with him,” said Smith of playing the role, “because as an actor that’s what you do, you spend time with the character in quite an interesting way. And to do it with a man like him, he’s such a benchmark for everything, for how to live your life. He’s a maverick and always makes choices independently for himself.”

Smith even had a hand in coming up with the 11th Doctor’s outfit, as he already owned a tweed jacket and suggested wearing both that and the bowtie. Smith’s Doctor has had a hand in making bowties cool again and the panelists found it funny that now fans are also wearing fez hats, as The Doctor did in one episode last season. “That’s just me bleating onto [Moffat] about wanting to wear a hat and he gives me the most stupid hat,” Smith laughed.

Audience members, with some in costume (including two Daleks), asked questions. One young girl dressed as a Weeping Angel asked if The Doctor would ever regenerate into a woman. Willis didn’t rule it out and said they are always open to considering a woman, it’s more dependent on who the right actor for the part is. But Wegner felt that the character of River Song had stolen some of the thunder of a potential female Doctor.

The panel was quizzed as to who their favorite Doctor Who aliens were. Smith responded with The Weeping Angels, where as Gillan was partial to the cat-like creatures The Sisters of Plentitude.

As Neil Gaiman wrote a memorable and well-received episode (“The Doctor’s Wife”) this season, one fan enquired as to which other famous writer the panelists would like to see write an episode. Smith replied with Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and J.J. Abrams (Lost, Fringe, Super 8), both Whitehouse and Gillan suggested the late Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox), and Wegner said he’d love to see former Doctor Who show-runner/writer/executive producer Russell T Davies come back and write an episode for the eleventh Doctor.

And, of course, the panel was also inevitably asked who was their favorite actor, besides Smith, to play The Doctor. Wegner and Willis both said Tom Baker (the fourth Doctor), Whitehouse said Baker or David Tennant (the tenth Doctor), Gillan said Christopher Eccleston (the ninth Doctor), and Smith said that Patrick Troughton (the second Doctor) and Baker were his favorites. “What’s so wonderful about this show is that everyone has their Doctor and so hopefully in, like, 20 years time there will be [fans] going, ‘Yeah, Matt Smith was my Doctor, Amy Pond was the companion. That’s the beauty of the show,” remarked Smith.

Willis and Wegner are leaving the show at the end of this season and Smith asked the audience to applause and cheer for them. “It’s just like being at a toy shop every single day, walking out on set and saying hello to The Doctor and the TARDIS,” said Willis. And it was clear that all of the panelists were honored and excited to be working on such a beloved and iconic show, one that began in 1963 and seems like it’ll continue on for many more years to come. “I took my kids into the TARDIS [set] and I was more excited than they were,” said Whitehouse. “And as a writer, writing in a script a scene heading ‘INT. TARDIS,’ for a man of a certain age there is no greater thrill.”


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January 26th 2014

If I were a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, now I’d say “Kaawbungo, dude!”