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Comic-Con 2011: Daleks Attack and Other 'Doctor Who' Panel Highlights

by Maureen Ryan, posted Jul 25th 2011 12:45PM
Matt Smith of 'Doctor Who' experienced his first Comic-Con over the weekend, and at the start of the show's Sunday panel in a packed Hall H, he said it was "completely overwhelming."

And that was before he began answering fan questions from people inside Dalek costumes.

Below are highlights from the 'Doctor Who' panel -- and check out these trailers for the show's fall episodes, which begin airing Aug. 27 on BBC America. (Regarding the trailers and what's below, as River Song might say, "Spoilers!")

* Smith and Karen Gillan, who plays Amy Pond, said that the script for 'A Good Man Goes to War,' the show's mid-season finale, had fake pages -- the ending they read was not the real ending.

Executive producer/writer Steven Moffat (who wasn't in San Diego) took Smith, Gillan and Arthur Darvill (who plays Rory) aside after the episode's read-through, and told them what the real ending would be. Smith said they were "running up and down the corridor" with excitement at the news that Amy and Rory would be River Song's parents. Alex Kingston, who plays River, had known for some time that River was their child, but she didn't tell them, even though Darvill, Smith and Gillan had begged her to many times.

* Toby Whithouse, who's written an upcoming episode of the show, said that for a British man of a certain age, writing the words "Interior: TARDIS" in a script is the greatest pleasure there is. Producer Beth Willis added, "When we got Neil Gaiman's first draft [of 'The Doctor's Wife']... In scene 2, it said, 'Interior: TARDIS,' and then the next line was, 'I've been waiting my whole life to write that.'"

* They showed a clip from Whithouse's episode, 'The God Complex,' which appears to involved the pursuit of a Minotaur-like monster. Asked what it was like to write a 'Doctor Who' monster, Whithouse said, "I think you have to find the sympathy of it. There's nothing more boring than a straightforward villain who just wants to do evil. What you have to find is the kind of mitigating factor." "He never approaches a monster with the intention of killing it," Willis added -- the Doctor wants to know what the creature wants. "'Doctor Who' is essentially a detective story every week," Whithouse noted.

* A Dalek at the fan-question microphone asked if the Daleks would return. Though the panelists were very impressed by the costume, they wouldn't say.

* Do they ever get scared making the show? Gillan offered that she really only gets scared when Smith hides in her trailer and jumps out at her to frighten her.

* Asked if there would be another Five Doctors special, as there was several years ago (and a new multiple-Doctors special has been rumored to be in the works, to commemorate the show's 50th anniversary in 2013), Whithouse said, "Sure," but I wouldn't call that official confirmation.

* Another Dalek asked, "Will the Doctor's daughter come back so I can exterminate her?" It didn't sound that way; as producer Piers Wenger noted, they show just had us meet the Doctor's "wife."

* There actually is a method to Smith's madness when he's flying the TARDIS, he said. "They gave me a manual to flying the TARDIS on his first day," and he's taught Gillan how to drive it. "Never gets boring," he noted.

* Asked who their favorite Doctors were (excluding Smith), here's what the panelists said: Wenger -- Tom Baker, Willis -- Baker, Whithouse -- Bake and David Tennant, Gillan -- Christopher Eccleston, Smith -- Patrick Troughton and Baker.

* A little girl dressed as a weeping angel asked if the Doctor could regenerate into a woman. Willis said it was possible, but it would depend on the casting of the right actress at the right time. Wenger added that, in some ways, River Song has many of the attributes of a female Doctor and may have "stolen the thunder" of that potential iteration of the character.

* Everyone on the panel said Smith is much like the Doctor, especially given that Moffat has tailored the character to Smith's personality and energies. But everyone said Smith is much clumsier (he noted at one point that he breaks a sonic screwdriver almost every day).

* An aspiring actress asked Gillan and Smith tips on what to do at drama school. "Attend," Gillan said. Both Smith and Gillan said she should read and see as many plays as she could, and Smith added, "So much of acting is linked to courage. Be brave."

* The fez came about because Smith was "bleating on" to Moffat about wanting a hat for his character, so Moffat gave him the "most stupid" hat. He never imagined the fez (which was frequently spotted on the Comic-Con floor) would become a big deal. "Now it's all about the Stetson," he added.

* A kid asked why the TARDIS makes that distinctive whooshing noise. As was pointed out in an episode that (I think) aired last year, "the Doctor is flying it wrong," Smith said.

* What show would they want to cross over with? Karen Gillan, who geeked out over meeting Brent Spiner recently, said 'Star Trek: The Next Generation.' Matt Smith said, 'True Blood' or maybe 'The Big Bang Theory.'

* What does the red setting do on River Song's sonic screwdriver? Smith: "It turns you into an orangutan."

* Smith would love J.J. Abrams or Edgar Wright to write for the show.

* One of the most interesting moments for me came near the end of the panel, when Smith was asked whether we'd see more glimpses into the Doctor's dark side: "Well, I hope so. ...I think there's a lot of blood on the Doctor's hands," the actor said. "I actually think that's why he's so bright and bubbly and effervescent and mad, [it's] because he to keep going, he has to keep moving, he has to keep traveling, he has to keep saving people, he has to keep making jokes. Because if he stopped, if he sat down and began to contemplate, you know, losing the Roses, losing the Sarah Janes, losing all these people and letting go, I think that's very interesting area for him to explore. And I know that Steven is interested in it too, so I think there'll be a lot more." The third episode when the show comes back will delve into those areas, Whithouse and Gillan said. As Gillan said, "Rule No. 1: The Doctor lies. That's going to be explored."

* By the way, getting that photo of myself in the TARDIS at the Quantum Mechanix booth was one of the highlights of the con for me.

* My favorite thing about the trailer posted here? It appears to show Rory punching Hitler in the face.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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Thank you for this. Next best thing to being there :)

July 25 2011 at 4:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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