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The Eleventh Doctor himself, Matt Smith, and companion Amy Pond, co-star Karen Gillan, made their American-convention debut Sunday before an ecstatic Hall H crowd at Comic-Con International peppered with cosplayers dressed as various Time Lords and companions – and even Weeping Angels and Daleks.
The Doctor Who panel kicked off with the unveiling of a trailer for the second half of the season, which premieres Aug. 27 on BBC and BBC America, and a clip from the upcoming episode “The God Complex.” The two stars, joined by producers and writers from the hit sci-fi series, then launched into an hour-long discussion, providing a few behind-the-scenes secrets and insights into what it means to be the Doctor.
“It’s the first time that we’ve been here, and it’s completely overwhelming,” said Smith, who’s in the middle of his second season as the Doctor. “The levels of enthusiasm and passion and even the costumes we’ve seen – we’ve seen loads of Doctors, loads of Amy Ponds.”
The trailer, which you can watch below, is crammed with rapid-fire images, including shots of Rory (Arthur Darvill) slugging Adolf Hitler, a sword-wielding Amy and the return of the Weeping Angels. While BBC and BBC America later gave the trailer wide release, the clip from “The God Complex” has, so far, remained a convention exclusive. It opens with the Doctor saying, “We’re going to catch ourselves a monster.” A crazy voiceover of someone appealing to his master to kill him plays over shots of a hotel reminiscent of the one in The Shining, while Rory has a mop and Amy talks to a clown with a red balloon. A monster that looks like a minotaur stalks through the hotel, before it’s revealed that the voiceover is someone talking into a sonic screwdriver wired to a radio, before the Doctor says, “That’s quite enough of that.”
The Q&A portion of the presentation was essentially a lovefest between the actors and the audience, something that became most evident whenever a fan dressed as one of the characters from the series stood up. Two people in Dalek costumes came to the microphone, leading Smith to comment on the physical difficulties they faced in asking questions: “That Dalek’s taking his hat off! That’s just …”
Asked about the big reveal in the midseason finale that the feisty archaeologist/thief River Song (Alex Kingston) is actually Amy and Rory’s daughter Melody, the stars explained that they had no idea about the plot twist until just before they spoke their lines.
“We had a dummy ending on the actual script,” Gillan said. “We did the read-through and [head writer and executive producer] Steven Moffat took us out and showed us the real ending. We were running up and down the corridor! Only Alex knew.”
“It’s like watching an episode,” Smith added. “We’re truly all fans of the show, so it’s like watching it on telly.”
That enthusiasm extends to the writers of the show. “When we first got Neil Gaiman’s first draft, it said on Scene 2 ‘Interior TARDIS,’ and then the next line said ‘I’ve waited my whole life to write that,’” executive producer Beth Willis recalled.
When asked who their favorite Doctors were, the panel agreed, for the most part, on the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. However, Gillian went with Christopher Eccleston, while Smith couldn’t decide among Baker, Patrick Troughton, or his immediate predecessor David Tennant.
An elementary school-aged Weeping Angel asked whether the Doctor could ever regenerate into a woman. The panel agreed that, while it was certainly possible, the concept may be somewhat unnecessary with the appearance of River Song. “Can there ever be a female time traveler to match her?” asked executive producer Piers Wenger. “A little bit of me thinks she’s maybe stolen the thunder of a female Doctor.”
Asked what show they would like Doctor Who to cross over with, Smith replied True Blood. Gillan’s response reached back into her own fandom: “Star Trek: The Next Generation. I met Brent Spiner the other day – I was so embarrassed! I took a picture with him and everything!”
“Last night, you told Wil Wheaton how excited you were to meet Brent Spiner,” Wenger added.
Smith said he thinks the Doctor’s darker side is going to return more in the second half of the season. “I think there’s a lot of blood on the Doctor’s hand, and I think that’s why he’s so bright and bubbly and mad,” he said. “If he stopped, he’d have to sit down and contemplate losing all these people and letting them go and that’s a very interesting area to explore.”
When asked who they would like to see as guest writers, Smith suggested J.J. Abrams or Edgar Wright, while Gillan offered Roald Dahl. Wenger had to look no further than the show’s own recent history: “It’s a bit of a copout, but I’d love to see [former head writer] Russell [T Davies] come back and write one.”
The panel ended with Smith getting the audience to give Wenger and Willis, who are leaving the show, “a group woo-hoo,” before showing the trailer for the second half of the season again.