SDCC 2017: Doctor Who
Doctor Who fans are a buzz with the recent announcement. Peter Capaldi’s time as The Doctor has come to an end, and the new Doctor will be female (to be played by Jodie Whittaker). So, everyone wanted to hear all about Capaldi (and showrunner Steven Moffat’s) last go-round with Doctor Who, hints about the upcoming Christmas special, and what’s to come next season. Let’s dive in.
Let’s talk about that Christmas special!
Peter Capaldi (The Doctor): I’m always interested when the show touches it past. I find it quite electric, but you have to be very careful with those moments and not make it something that happens every week. I think it’s always lovely. I find it electrifying when we see a connection with what’s gone before. There may be some of that…. The Christmas special has come to be somewhat of a tradition in Britain. There’s a little pressure that comes with that because it has to be different than the rest of the show….It’s a special episode of Doctor Who that happens to have a Christmas element.
How long did you know, Steven, that you wanted the doctor to be a woman?
Steven Moffat (showrunner): I’ve known it for the entire series that the next Doctor would be a woman. I didn’t know that it would be Jodie until the Friday before the announcement, though. I didn’t want to know until Peter knew. That was my rule. You have to phone Peter first, then you have to phone me….I thought well if this is the last go-round for a long time of The Doctor being a man, I should write him [with] all these manly qualities. There aren’t any. He doesn’t have any masculine qualities at all. It makes absolutely no difference. This man slash woman doesn’t have anything. She probably won’t have any feminine qualities either. She’s an alien in the form of a human male; now an alien in the form of a human female, and that’s it. The truth is, how long does it take for The Doctor to notice? ‘Cause Missy didn’t know, “Oh I’m a woman now, awesome!” Time Lords don’t care about that kind of stuff. They’re not like us.
As many of those involved close out their time on Doctor Who, we discussed what those last moments were like. For instance, were there things written into the show?
Steven Moffat: William Hartnell turning up again. That’s probably one I would not have done earlier in my run. As the ultimate fan boy, [I just said] “Let’s just bring him back. Let’s go right back to the beginning!” Having said that, I think we’ve got a good story to tell that would work if you haven’t seen that Doctor before–which many people won’t have.
How has you writing changed over the course of your time on Doctor Who?
Steven Moffat: When I came onto Doctor Who I was very good at comedy and structure, but I was a very glacial writer. The way you’re gonna make this mad tale work, the way we’re going to make science fiction appeal to a main stream audience (to be honest it often doesn’t), is you have to deliver the emotion. People say that’s how we needed to appeal to girls, but, the truth is, that’s how we needed to appeal to boys. All the boys who weren’t just the geeks at the back of the class; those people who don’t like science fiction. How do you draw them in? They can dismiss the monsters as silly. They are. They can dismiss our plots as insane. They are. But if you deliver true and honest and emotion then you’ve got an audience. I think I got better at writing emotion.
Mark Gatiss (writer): Yes, absolutely. It’s been a huge learning curve in that sense….I’m amazed at how often I cry at Doctor Who. It’s because [Steven] does that so beautifully….when you have a huge concept like this where you can sort of do anything, I think it’s a real victory, a real triumph to make you care like that. You realize it can be just about the tiny little things; in watching Peter Capaldi’s finale, that last speech is just beautiful. It’s a heartfelt thing you’d want to hear from anybody, not just from a Time Lord. This is a great thing to be able to do in a mainstream show, and you realize there aren’t a lot of other shows like this.
Peter Capaldi: If you go back and watch this season, you’ll probably see with [Steven and myself leaving] in mind, the sense The Doctor knows [the end] is coming. I sort of knew it was coming. I wanted to just touch that in here and there. If you look at it carefully, there are little references to it.
What character legacy do you hope to leave behind?
Pearl Mackie (Bill): I think she’s really challenged [The Doctor] a lot and the stuff he’s done and the way he thinks. I hope that is something that is carried through. I think that is something Bill should be remembered for.
Peter Capaldi: I’ve no idea. I don’t look at it in that way. I try and do my best as an actor. I have to stop being a fan and be a professional actor. That’s how I approached it. I can’t walk onto the Tardis and go “OH OH!” At the same time, the little fan boy is still there; he has a good time when he sees what’s going on. [A legacy] is not something that’s ever concerned me. What concerns me is making the stories work, making the drama work, week-to-week and bringing myself to it. I never set out to leave something behind.
What was your challenge in bringing The Doctor to life?
Peter Capaldi: The challenge is to make him not human. He’s become this character who’s avuncular and wacky. I thought he was an impenetrable alien creature that you shouldn’t be able to understand, but that’s difficult when the script gives you lots of gags and jokes. And trying to keep it fresh because there’s so much of [the show]. The last season we did was ten months, twleve hours a day, every day. How many different ways can you find to say, “There’s gonna to be a paradox split in the galaxy unless…”. So it’s hard keeping it fresh–even though I love it.
Where do your characters go from here?
Michelle Gomez (Missy): I think with Doctor Who there’s no such thing as black and white. There’s a lot of grey in there. Let’s just say Missy has gone to sit on a cloud of grey matter until further notice.
Matt Lucas (Nardole): Nardole definitely has a job to do, fighting those Mondasian Cyberman, and we don’t know if he’s going to pull that off or not. So, your guess is as good as mine.
Pearl Mackie: I wasn’t aware of [Bill’s love story] at all until getting the scripts for the finale. I like how she offers her the choice of being able to go back to her everyday life, but she chooses to go have some adventures.
How has it been working with Steven on his last season?
Michelle Gomez: The thing about Steven is that he set down this incredible journey for us all to do from day one. It’s all mapped out for us emotionally, as well. There isn’t really that much more for us to do other than put the costumes on, turn up, have learnt your lines, say it, and go. He watches you closely, but you don’t see him watching you; then he creates these wonderful characters with nuance and depth, and he draws them so beautifully. He’s the puppet master. He’s got us all dancing to his tune, and it’s quite a beautiful tune.