Peter S. Svensson writes for Bleeding Cool. Octavio Karbank takes photographs for Bleeding Cool.
The Doctor Who Panel started with a startling surprise. Hall H was not full. There was no line. Anyone could come in and enter. I breezed right in, sitting down at the back. Seriously. You may have missed this panel because you didn't even try.
After a quick showing of the trailer of The Last Kingdom, a historical drama that will be airing on BBC America with the tagline "Britain is Born.", Nerdist host Chris Hardwick, who is famous for Talking Dead and running a ton of panels, came to the stage. He played a recap video of Series 8, featuring a brooding 12th Doctor, Clara, falling and snogging and disintegtrations and Missy and meeting Robin Hood and fighting and blasters, and Cybermen… and the Doctor proclaiming "Who am I? I am the man who stops the monsters!"
Lights come back up. Writer-Producer Steven Moffat comes to the stage. Followed by Michelle Gomez, playing Missy, the new female regeneration of the Master, returning this upcoming season. Jenna Coleman, playing Clara Oswald, continuing her tenure as the Doctor's Companion. And at his first appearance at a Comic Con, the 12th Doctor himself Peter Capaldi!
Capaldi was impressed with the amount of fans assembled, and when told that there were about 7,000 people in Hall H, responded "I've never been in front of 7,000 people before!" and did the thing where he pretended he couldn't hear us to get us to be louder. You know the thing.
Chris began asking questions of the assembled cast and crew, starting off with how Capaldi's doctor is cranky and intense, and it's questionable if he's a good guy or not, and asking how Capaldi came up with that approach.
"I think he just saw those qualities in me, and cast me that way." said Capaldi.
Moffat elaborated that "the difference in how you write the Doctor isn't that great, it's what the actors bring to it. You have to get out of the way and facilitate it a little. On paper, the doctors are surprisingly similar. It's what these brilliant actors bring to it."
Chris asked how long it took during production for the writers to get a feel for the new actor's performance, and Moffat explained that it's a pretty swift process, starting with the first post-Regeneration scenes they filmed for Deep Breath "You almost want to blind yourself, so that you're just writing for that voice. It's Scottish, which is automatically better."
Chris: You let him be Scottish this time.
Moffat: We let him be English before!
Chris Hardwick then tried to make a joke off of the "Lots of planets have a North" gag from the first episode of series one, but Moffat found his attempts at the accent lacking.
Peter Capaldi then explained that this is a show that is deeply in his bones, something he's followed since he was six years old. He's happy that people have such an intimate connection to Who, something he's known and loved dearly. When he gueststarred on an episode with David Tennant, he was overjoyed and thought that would be his only contribution. While on set, he went to Tennant and asked "David, where's the Tardis? He took me to the police box and I got quite teary."
Jenna explained that Clara is figuring out her new relationship with the Doctor's current regeneration, how she's balancing the school teacher, earth bound side of herself and working with the Doctor and helping to fly the Tardis. "It's like getting to know your best friend all over again, the dynamic is different, exploring it together and seeing how it falls. She has a rule to be dropped off 30 seconds after she left."
Chris: Why does she do it?
Coleman: She's a bit of a control freak.
Michelle explained her approach to the character of Missy. "Luckily, I never know why I'm saying what I'm saying. It helps to arrive fresh, saying the words on the script. It's one of the easiest jobs I've ever had. It's just a thrill to turn up and be given this opportunity to be The Master. Pinch me." She explained that she was really happy that the chemistry between herself, Coleman and Capaldi seemed to work.
Chris: Who do you think the Master is and what does she want?
Gomez: I think he or she or it is the best villain you can have, the best friend that you love to hate in a way, she gets to say the things we think and aren't allowed to say. The rules don't apply to her. That makes it really fun to play.
Chris elaborated that it feels like Missy's motivation is wanting her friend back. Michelle Gomez explained that there's "this great friendship that just went wrong. Her life's purpose is to chase after the Doctor and make him understand 'no, you started it. I'm right. You're not getting that! You're also not getting in the way of me trying to destroy the universe."
Moffat continued, stating "They are friends. She isn't his archenemy. It's a friendship between a vegetarian and a hunter." He continued with the metaphor that the Master sees complaining about killing people akin to being upset about the pigs killed for your bacon sandwich. "The Doctor is a bleeding heart liberal, and I kill people for fun, doesn't mean we don't have a lovely time together!"
Michelle concluded with "We both kill a lot of people. He feels bad about it, and I don't!"
Capaldi then gave his opinion on the Doctor's relationship with the Master. "I think she distresses him terribly." He went on to applaud Michelle Gomez for taking on a previously male role and making it her own. And when the Doctor sees the Master, there's a second when he's pleased to see her, and then "His heart kind of sinks." (Yes, Capaldi used the singular.) "I remember, now I have to go through all this shit."
"Life is shit. Business as usual." quipped Capaldi. "Scottish philosophy."
Chris asked about the Doctor's self-identity, about the most recent series raising questions about whether the Doctor is a Soldier instead. Capaldi answered that "Regeneration is as much a shock to the incumbent as it is to everyone else. He doesn't know who he is, he's scrambling to find out what his nature in." That the Doctor knew he was compelled to act for the greater good, and questioning if that was a good thing to be. "He's a constantly growing character. Not a soldier. He's a good guy. He'd rather there was no violence, just peace, and get to sit in the car park and look at the stars, not having to blow up Daleks." Capaldi quipped that he as an actor likes blowing up Daleks though. As for the Doctor, "he does too a little when he's in the thick of it. He's a bohemian philosopher rebel time lord."
Coleman responded to a question about Clara's relationship with the Doctor, hinting that now that she's gotten used to the current regeneration, that the two of them have found their groove and will be going through time and space with no abandon.
This is where the Series 9 Trailer premiered. You can watch it too!
September 19th is when the series returns. Now, if you're not watching it right now, what you'd see includes: Stars. The Tardis. Danger. Sparking /exploding consoles!? Eyes opening. Eyes closing. A flooded corridor where the lights one by one shut down. "I want to kiss it to death." The Doctor Shrugs. A scarred man in a robe? Some sort of priest? An alien city with spherical architecture, could it be the Dalek homeworld of Skaro? People scared. A man sitting down. A ghost of a man, all misty around the edges? The Sonic Screwdriver flying across the screen. "I'm the Doctor and I save people!"
Maisie Williams (Arya from Game of Thrones), a young girl in a swashbuckle-y costume, removing her Zorro-esque mask, much to the Doctor's surprise. "What took you so long old man?"
Moffatt can't say anything about Maisie Williams' guest appearance, only to say "She's grand."
Capaldi is excited for the new season, "because Clara and the Doctor feel more in a groove, they are really enjoying being the luckiest people in all of history, getting to play with the toybox of time and space and the universe, throwing themselves recklessly." (Recklessly was a recurring answer about the upcoming season. Huh.) "It's fun and witty and clever, and there are men in rubber suits pretending to be monsters! There's a B-movie element that still survives!"
Chris Hardwick immediately leapt to defend the improved special effects of the current series, but Peter Capaldi explained that the first moment that he really felt like he was on the set of Doctor Who was "When they threw a rubber spider in my face and said 'fight it.' I asked who was operating it, they said 'there is no operator! It's just a big rubber spider, fight it!'"
Coleman explained that she feels like she and Capaldi, after having worked together already "in our glory years." and really emphasized the high octane adventurous feel for the coming season. In response to a question about whether this is a reaction to the tragedies her character suffered last season, she continued with "I think so. It's a change of perspective. Life is short, I want to live it and feel it and eat up time and space and hang out with my best mate in the TARDIS."
As for how she manages to do that and be a teacher, "She's a multitasker."
Chris Hardwick pointed out that recently, the Doctor has been much more open to letting strangers and newcomers onto the TARDIS. Moffat quipped "Peter has such a friendly face." before elaborating that while he hadn't noticed it, this was in keeping with the general evolution of the character who was much stricter when he began. He also explained that as a child he wondered why the Doctor never used the Tardis as a means of proving that he's an alien with advanced technology to people, and joked that it was only him that cared about such things and he probably should have gotten a girlfriend instead.
Chris asked if the Doctor is becoming gentler, and is he a nice guy? Capaldi's response was "Do I think he's a nice guy? He's fabulous! He's a wonderful guy! He's incredible, he's a laugh, he's great looking. He's terrific for his age!" before seriously answering that the Doctor isn't a guy, he's not a creature, and suppositing that as a Time Lord he may not properly have a corporeal being but merely present himself as possessing one. "If he was a guy, he'd have my face and look really nice."
Coleman pointed out that in the upcoming series, Clara helps the Doctor to relearn how to deal with humans and their social situations.
Capaldi explained that when his Doctor offers someone to travel in the Tardis, he tells them that if they walk through those doors, the whole of time and space will be available to them. And if they hesitate and blink, he's gone. "He doesn't wait for you."
The floor was then opened to Q&A.
Our first question was asked by Puppet Laura, being held by presumably human Laura.
"With a new Doctor and new Mistress, how will the dynamics between them be? How will that change in series 9?"
Moffat responded that the way she is coming back into the Doctor's life is very very different than anyone is expecting. And that portraying the Doctor and the Master as friends isn't new, as he's harkening back to how the Jon Pertwee Doctor and Roger Delgado Master's relationship was portrayed. (The applause at this was pointed out by Moffat as being from all the old people who watched the original series and could barely clap anymore. It was a joke.) They absolutely play it as best friends, and hey you can't let those little things like being violent and psychopathic get in the way.
Our next question came from a kid who was a Make A Wish recipient in 2013, who met Jenna and Steven, saying that doing so really helped him out. He asked what do the actors think they bring to the part. Jenna joked that obviously for Capaldi it's eyebrows. Leading Jenna's contribution to be her eyes, and Gomez's to be her lips?
The kiss between the Doctor and Missy at the end of the season was brought up, and as Gomez stated "The question is who kissed who, and who hung on and didn't let go, … there's some suction there…" implying that the Doctor may have been more into it than he'd let on. Coleman pointed out that there was a take where Missy held Clara's hand while kissing the Doctor, which further complicated things.
There was some joking about what that meant for the upcoming series.
Next question was whether we'd see a female Doctor. Moffat pointed out that he's not hiring for a new Doctor know, but that his answer is clearly stated in the text of the series, and that people just need to read the subtext. Gomez pointed out that she's not revealing her character to be a man. Coleman believes it will happen eventually. Capaldi deadpanned that he'd have to do an episode in drag to test the waters.
Chris Hardwick quipped "Doctor Doubtfire!" Moffat joked that the Doctor's sister could appear.
When asked what his greatest inspiration was, Moffat reluctantly responded Doctor Who as a program. something he was raised on as a child, and that having had regeneration explained to him as a means of one actor leaving and another actor taking his place is what inspired his love for television as a media. He advised anyone interested in screenwriting to read the scripts of William Goldberg, and anyone interested in comedy to also read Neil Simon. Horror of Fang Rock was the classic Who serial that inspired him the most as well.
Capaldi was asked if he could travel once more with a previous companion, who would it be? Hardwick then walked over and covered Jenna Coleman's ears so that she couldn't hear the answer. It was silly fun. Capaldi responded that while the Doctor does have a special bond with Clara, if he had to choose, he'd like to see his granddaughter again. (Susan, who traveled with the First Doctor before being forcibly stranded in the future by him. He had the best of intentions!) Hardwick pointed out that this was the perfect answer, and was impressed.
The next question was "What would a perfect day for your character be?"
Gomez responded that the Master would like squashing really big bugs in the snow, perhaps tea and a croissant, and then slapping Wonder Woman in the face.
Coleman's answer started with teaching Jane Austen, then going to the Tardis, going to Jupiter or perhaps Uranus (and then all the jokes about how that planet is pronounced happened) , no no definitely Jupiter. Jupiter. Killing some octopus aliens, save the world.
Capaldi felt that the Doctor would start his morning with coffee, read the paper, look up at the night sky, because while it was morning this might be a planet where morning is night, get bored and then perhaps head to Skaro. (Homeworld of the Daleks.)
"Why is the Doctor so enamored of humans?"
"Budgetary reasons" said Capaldi.
The next question was about the possibility of a Who/Sherlock crossover. Chris Hardwick remembered asking Moffat about it, saying that the Doctor is practically Space Sherlock, before Moffat explained that they totally aren't the same character at all. The Doctor has compassion for everything. Sherlock does not. Hardwick was then embarrassed because he made a fool of himself in front of someone he respected.
Moffat explained that he actually isn't adverse to the idea, but that getting everyone else involved to agree to let it happen is. "I'm a tart. I'll do anything for a laugh." he joked.
We aren't going to see more exploration of Clara's nature of being an Impossible Girl scattered across the Doctor's timeline, though Moffat did point out that Doctor Who Magazine did a comic with that premise recently.
Jenna Coleman was asked if being a companion was something she'd dreamed of, and she had to admit that she's of the generation that didn't grow up with Doctor Who, as it was off the air during her childhood, that getting cast was a very happy accident. She had to play three characters in the same audition.
"American fans are more generous in how they enjoy themselves. British people enjoy themselves in public secretly." responded Moffat to a question about how American and British fans differ.
The next fan said that Moffat showed his love of the 11th Doctor by having him be the oldest incarnation, with the most years spent in that incarnation in-story, so how would he show love to the 12th? Moffat responded that his "love of the 11th Doctor" was trapping him in a village for a thousand years and then aging him to death, so the premise might not be entirely valid, but that there would be something interesting this season.
Everyone was asked to give advice to an aspiring actor. Chris Hardwick joked to get into hosting instead. Jenna Coleman said to read as much as you can. Michelle Gomez said to never accept rejection, as her nickname at her acting agency is Cockroach for never giving up despite being smacked down so many times. Peter Capaldi said that learning your lines is key. Hardwick then seriously responded that in the modern day, making your own art and videos online is a great way of getting your name out there.
Capaldi was then asked if he felt the other Doctors inside of him when acting. All the jokes you can think of about "feeling them inside you. Deep, deep inside you." were made, but Capaldi then seriously answered that while he's not actively trying to channel previous actors, he is aware at times that some elements of being the Doctor did originate in other actors performances.
The final question was about the most amazing thing to happen since working on Doctor Who. Capaldi answered that it's all been an extraordinary experience, that he didn't realize that the overseas fan base would be so huge, that all of these people are fans of something he's loved since childhood, but most importantly that all the love people are giving to over 50 years of a beloved franchise, all of that is currently aimed at him, and he's incredibly thankful.
The panel ended with playing the Doctor Who Lego Dimensions trailer, and the announcement of a BBC America Doctor Who special produced by the Nerdist, The Doctor's Finest, hosted by Hannah Hart premiering August 15th.