If you’ve never watched Doctor Who before, now may be the perfect time to start. The first episode of the new season, starting this Saturday on BBC America, begins comparably to how the show has since it’s premiere in 1963.
“Some nice people wandered along, saw a mysterious police box, went inside and met the Doctor. He’s a man who can travel anywhere in space and time and have fantastic adventures,” Executive Producer Steven Moffat said, explaining the general idea of the show to a Doctor Who novice at the Paley Center in New York City on Monday.
Fans, press and yes, newbies alike gathered to view the premiere episode and speak with Moffat and new cast members Matt Smith and Karen Gillan – the Eleventh Doctor and his Companion. “There is no such thing as the Eleventh Doctor. There’s the Doctor and his Eleventh face,” said Moffat.
“To my mind, it’s the greatest part for a man in British television history,” said Smith, who wasn’t allowed to tell anyone his big news for three months. He auditioned on the very first day of the casting process but Moffat knew he was the man “immediately.” As excited as he was, Smith said he needed to summon courage to take on the famous role. “There is so much exterior pressure from the public and the press and so much expectation and you really can’t let that get in your way because you have a job to do,” he said, revealing he read up on Albert Einstein for research. “I thought, who’s the silliest, cleverest man?”
“People complimented me on how much I had altered the script of the first episode to accommodate Matt,” said Moffat, “Actually, I hadn’t changed it at all. With Karen [Gillan], obviously she’s Scottish, which is just obvious and brilliant casting.”
Of course, Smith isn’t the only one that has to worry about expectations. “There is that sort of pressure there to live up to what’s been set before but I’ve never felt the burden of that, it’s just been exciting and a challenge,” said Gillan. The redheaded stunner previously appeared in the Season 4 episode, “The Fires of Pompeii,” but this is an entirely different experience. “Acting against the Doctor, as the Companion, that’s just completely exciting in every way,” she told Newsarama. She also mentioned her costar is very impulsive, “So that’s always keeping me on my toes.”
Moffat told the crowd, being in charge of Doctor Who is “wish fulfillment” for him as he’s been a fan of the show since childhood. In fact, the inspiration for the first scene of the first episode came from a youthful source – Tigger from Winneh the Pooh. And in case you were wondering, Smith really did eat all of that food in the scene. “I hate it when people don’t eat on TV,” he said.
Now, whenever Moffat has an idea for a Doctor Who story he can easily say, “And so there will be!’ Although not all plans will come so effortlessly. He has a few British actors he’d love to see on the show one day. “I think it’d be fantastic if someone like Michael Caine or Anthony Hopkins was in Doctor Who,” he said, “If they want to get in touch, that’s fine.”
Doctor Who is known for exploring historical events in Earth’s past, perhaps Moffat would consider Smith and Gillan’s suggestions for future episodes? “I would like to go to Atlantis, the Lost City,” said Smith. Gillan would prefer Woodstock. Smith joked that Jimi Hendrix would wind up being an alien. It looks like a long-shot though, “I’m always slightly worried that by the time we get to the end of Doctor Who, in four or five centuries,” said Moffat, “the Doctor would have been responsible for every single historical event.
A very important aspect of the Doctor’s own past will finally be dealt with this season as Newsarama learned exclusively – The Doctor’s regeneration limit. “It’s been addressed in a very, very cheeky way by an old friend of mine and I’m not going to tell you any more about that,” said Moffat, telling us to “wait and see.”
Something you don’t have to wait for is discovering who the Eleventh Doctor’s Big Bad will be. Smith told the crowd it’s seen in the very first episode. “Albeit, not in the most conventional form. You’re going to have to think about it and find out what it is, but it’s in there,” he said. “And that’s the one, that’s what takes us through the whole series and my god, it’s bad.”
Smith can say that with confidence as all thirteen episodes of this season have already been shot. When asked if Moffat had plans for three years down the road he replied, “God no! That’s just frightening. We’ve got notions where we’re going but I’m not gonna tell you them so there’s no point.”
“Let’s get next year out of the way and then we’ll go from there,” said Smith about how long he’d like to remain in the role. From the way he speaks of it though, things look good for fans. “There is no other TV show, to my mind, that is not bound by space and time or logic or genre or race. So every twelve days we film an episode and all those five things have changed,” he said. “Your mind and your senses are constantly challenged, as an actor, you can’t really ask for more.