Last season of Doctor Who was BBC America’s highest rated season ever. On September 19th, the Doctor, portrayed by Peter Capaldi, and Clara, played by Jenna Coleman, begin a new adventure in time and space, taking them to deadly alien planets, Viking villages and a city of Daleks.
Executive Producer and writer Steven Moffat spoke with journalists at the TV Critics tour, with Peter and Jenna joining in via satellite from the studios in Cardiff UK, where they are currently shooting the upcoming season.
The new Doctor in his first season seemed a little more uncertain of himself than the previous Doctors we’ve seen in their first seasons. Was that an intentional choice in the writing or the performing or in both?
Steven Moffat: I think the Doctor always takes a moment to find exactly who he is. I don’t know if we did that more with Peter or not, but because Peter’s Doctor is less on the charm offensive, he’s just on an offensive. Maybe he doesn’t cover that up to the same degree.
I think there’s an interesting story to be told, and that you should always tell, of what it’s like just to become somebody else and not really know yourself for a while. He might angst a bit and say, “Am I a good man?” “Answer: Yes,” and, then, just blow up some Daleks as usual.
Peter Capaldi: I think it’s interesting to explore how somebody develops. The idea that someone has to struggle to discover who they are is a fun story to tell. So I think that’s what we are trying to do and continuing to try to do.
Jenna, what can you tell us about the differences we’ll see in your character this season versus last season?
Jenna Coleman: Post-Danny leaving the show the last series, her perspective on life, I think, has changed, and she’s no longer divided between Earth life and a TARDIS life, so she can kind of go a TARDIS life full throttle with nothing to lose.
So there’s more of a fearlessness and a reckless abandon that Clara and The Doctor throw themselves into adventures headfirst.
Steven, did Peter coming on the series make everything fresh for you?
Moffat: Of course, it refreshes the show unimaginably when you change the lead character. It’s not just casting a new actor in the same part.
The part changes as well. And that’s why Doctor Who is still alive, because it becomes a new series.
It’s a star vehicle Doctor. It used to be the Matt Smith star vehicle. Now, it’s the Peter Capaldi star vehicle. That’s how it works as a show. It seems counterintuitive, in a way, because we keep changing the lead.
Jenna and Peter, what it’s like in the UK when children come up to you.
Capaldi: You get a real sense of how magical this character is. I don’t mean my performance of it. I mean the character himself.
I’ve walked into a room and all of these kids have gasped with delight, or some little kid shouts, ‘Doctor Who’ from the other side of the street. And I’m waving to her, ‘Stop. Don’t stop. Don’t run across the road.’ Doctor Who would be very good at teaching road safety.
Coleman: It’s amazing when we get people come to the set as well and step onto the TARDIS and see Peter as the Doctor. It’s a really lovely part of the job to see that reaction.
With the DavidTennant and Matt Smith Doctors, it was three seasons and out. Is that the plan with Mr Capaldi, or is it open-ended?
Moffat: Peter is going to play the part for the rest of time. It’s in his contract. It’s perpetual. He is the Doctor forever. Peter, do you want to take that one?
Capaldi: I didn’t look at the small print. So I didn’t see that clause.
How long do you see yourself doing this?
Capaldi: Well, it’s certainly until the end of September.
Moffat: It’s the only job in television where everybody asks you when you are leaving.
I’m not making this up, the first question that David Tennant got at the preview of The Christmas Invasion, someone said, “How long are you planning to stay?” And he said, “I just got here. I’ve just arrived.”