After over thirteen hours at what was aptly named the “Doctor Who Line Con,” I was fortunate enough to make it into a screening of “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon,” the two-part first episode for Season 6 of Doctor Who. Afterwards, a live Q&A session was held, hosted by Chris Hardwick of Nerdist.com (and recorded for that very same podcast show). All the lead actors were present, along with head writer Steven Moffat, director Toby Haynes and producers Beth Willis and Piers Wenger.
If you missed it, don’t feel bad, we’ve got a transcript of the Q&A for all of you to sink your teeth into, so no one has to feel left out of this fantastic fan event!
(Note: the transcript has been slightly edited for clarity and recording fuzziness in places. Apologies for those audience members whose names we missed. No spoilers!)
Chris Hardwick: [What are your thoughts on why] the decision to finally come to America after almost 52 years?
Steven Moffat: As an excuse to come here! We had an idea for a story set in 60s America around NASA and all that. We talked to BBC America and they thought we could actually shoot on location. It seems odd when you can go anywhere in time and space to make a fuss about travel you can actually do with a plane. It does change the look and the feel of it… It’s a unique way of looking at the show.
Chris Hardwick: You guys shot in Utah for quite a while, right?
Toby Haynes: It was amazing. Just the landscape, these John Ford landscapes, to see them for real. I mean it actually felt like they dropped them in afterwards with CGI. It just looked phenomenal. And to turn our camera on these guys [motions to the cast] standing in front of it, these guys are icons and mixing the two feels great.
Chris Hardwick: I had the most insane nerd pleasure watching the show with you guys. That first shot in Utah when it’s all just the open planes, Matt was like, “Whoooaaa.” It was so cool. Did you guys have fun filming in Utah?
Matt Smith: Yeah, it was incredible, it’s such a journey to get here. Toby’s done a marvelous job directing it. [The weather] was kind of hot and cold.
Arthur Darvill: It didn’t really feel real sometimes. I mean, it looks like you’re in a movie.
Matt Smith: When does Doctor Who ever feel real, though? [audience laughter] A lady just disintegrated in a toilet!
Chris Hardwick: You guys do a amazing jobs at keeping things under wraps.
Steven Moffat: The first thing we do, and I’ll just do it right now, is we beg the press and the audience not to say anything. A few days ago at the British press launch I stood up and said, “Please, we can’t force you, but don’t tell anyone who dies.” And I know it’s a boring thing for me to say. But tease them. Torment them. Just don’t tell them.
Chris Hardwick: You guys do a better job than Apple at keeping things under wraps. When you were in Utah, I know people did track you down. It was like a mini Woodstock. Did you expect that kind of reception?
Arthur Darvill: We didn’t really know where we were ourselves, so to have other people find us as well, it was quite strange.
Alex Kingston: There was one call where we were there at four in the morning and there were already families standing there and fans, and they just somehow knew that we had an early call. And it was freezing!
Chris Hardwick: How much do you guys know about what’s coming up? Is it sort of like LOST where you only get pages at a time or do you sort of have an idea of where things are going?
Matt Smith: Steven teases us. He teases us. Alex knew the most, and I knew the least.
Chris Hardwick: Kind of like the actual story.
Matt Smith: Yeah, we get it kind of episode by episode and we’re always going, “…No. ….No!” I mean, wait till the end, episode 6. Your jaws will be on the floor. So it’s exciting because we get to learn about the plots like the fans do.
Beth Willis: We often get false endings, so we’ll sit in the read-through and everyone will think “that ended weirdly,” and we’ll scurry to Steven’s laptop to find out what really happens.
Chris Hardwick: Are the three of you [Moffat, Willis and Piers Wenger] just drunk on power all the time? I mean you have insane secrets in your head that people would claw each other’s eyes out to get.
Piers Wenger: Steven is generally drunk.
Alex Kingston: I was pretty drunk on power for a while.
Chris Hardwick: Rory is sort of the companion’s companion. And it’s amazing…the fans genuinely…what does that say? [looks at a sign an audience member is holding up]
Steven Moffat: “Rory is my spirit arrow?” That’s just a bunch of words.
Chris Hardwick: Spirit animal. It’s sort of an American thing.
Steven Moffat: All right.
Chris Hardwick: But people absolutely root for [Amy and Rory] as a couple. Was Rory a character that was planned early on?
Arthur Darvill: I really didn’t know how much I was going to be in it when I started. I mean it was literally script by script, and then, you know, dying a lot last year. Yeah, I mean Steven doesn’t give much away.
Steven Moffat: It was always the plan. Married couple on the TARDIS and seeing what that was like. And the Doctor with the married couple, standing in the control room thinking, “What have I done?”
Beth Willis: We were so lucky to get Arthur because, yes, it’s always been Steven’s plan, but you know, we fell in love with him last year and he’s just so completely brilliant.
Steven Moffat: And he’s clearly very comfortable in his own brilliance—look at his body language.
Wenger(?): It’s his spirit animal just come out.
Chris Hardwick: The chemistry you guys have is amazing. I mean, you must have hit it off.
Arthur Darvill: We hated each other.
Karen Gillan: Yeah.
Chris Hardwick: I saw the Christmas video you made last year where you sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” That’s not a cast who hates each other. So right away, was there instant chemistry?
Arthur Darvill: You’re thrown into it so quickly, you don’t really have time think about it.
Karen Gillan: Yeah, we’d just met. We met—when did we meet? At the read-through.
Alex Kingston: I just have to say, when I come to do some of the episodes these two boys [meaning Smith and Darvill] treat Karen so badly. Like two brothers who just give her hell.
Chris Hardwick: Your lives must have changed overnight. What was it like, this overnight transformation?
Matt Smith: It’s quite a drastic transformation to go through, I suppose. But it’s a wonderful job and we work with wonderful people and we’re very fortunate to come and be in New York with people screaming and generally being quite nice to you. It’s quite a bit fun, really.
Beth Willis: At the same time, these guys are now stopped in the streets, but they works six days a week and they spend their Sundays studying lines and they work so so so hard. They’re the most disciplined actors we’ve ever worked with ever.
Arthur Darvill: We’re actually very very boring people. We don’t really do anything else and we’re not allowed to talk about our job, so there’s nothing to talk about.
Matt Smith: But we do laugh.
[At this point the Q&A was opened to audience questions.]
Sofia [Audience]: I saw you had to be 16 [to be on the show]. I was wondering if there’s any other way to be cast on the show?
Matt Smith: Who would you want to play? A villain? A goodie, a baddie?
Sofia [Audience]: I don’t know, I kind of had in mind the girl who was in “Silence in the Library.”
Matt Smith: We’ll look out for you.
Dawn [Audience]: On behalf of being a female fan and also a feminist, I would like to thank Karen and Alex for playing two of the strongest female science fiction role models. You guys are exceptional.
Chris Hardwick: You guys constantly break ground. You always put interracial couples on the show, you always put gay couples on the show, and I think it’s nice to see that on television and particularly in sci-fi. Is that a plan? Because I would love to see more of that on television.
Steven Moffat: I don’t think that it’s really a plan, it’s just more fun. I mean, we go quite mad on that later, so just wait and see.
Dawn [Audience]: [to Steven Moffat] You arguably write for two of the most exceptional minds in fiction, which is the Doctor and Sherlock Holmes. You write for two of the most ordinary partners who are in themselves extraordinary men, which is Watson and Rory. How do you find the parallels between them, or do you really manage to keep them very separate?
Steven Moffat: It’s kind of more visual. They’re all cheekbones and big noses, aren’t they? [audience laughter] [to Arthur] Sorry dear, I forgot you were there. Don’t tell Benedict. He’s in a film with a horse—that’s taking a risk! To be honest, I don’t think Sherlock Holmes and the Doctor are actually very similar at all: Sherlock is cold and cruel and remote and aloof, and the Doctor is mad and silly and really wants to go to the fun fair. He doesn’t value his own genius at all—it’s effortless for him. Sherlock Holmes is a human being who aspires to be a god and the Doctor is a god who aspires to be human. He likes the fun things. He likes the silliness.
Chris Hardwick: [to Matt Smith] I heard that after you were cast, [when you cross paths with Benedict Cumberbatch] you go “Doctor.” “Sherlock.”
Matt Smith: No sadly, that’s not true. But we can make it so!
Audience member #1: Besides Doctor Who, what is most challenging role or project that you’ve done?
Alex Kingston: For me, in terms of a role, physically, I think River Song is the most challenging because I get the chance to kick some ass and do stuff on wires. Which I love, and I love all the running around, it’s just fantastic and to be given that opportunity is great. So please, let me have some more.
Arthur Darvill: Every job has it’s challenges. And this works us really hard, but it’s got such amazing rewards as well.
Matt Smith: It think this job for us three, we constantly say yeah, it’s probably is the most challenging thing we’ve ever done; purely on a practical level to learn the lines, but also the most thrilling and rewarding and maddest. So yeah, I think the Doctor is the greatest part I’ve ever played.
[pause as they prod Karen Gillan to give an answer]
Karen Gillan: Oh! [audience laughter] Um… I once had to play an anorexic nun. That was a short film for Channel Four in the U.K. It was a comedy.
Chris Hardwick: You actually appeared on the show earlier on.
Karen Gillan: Yeah, I was in “Fires of Pompeii.”
Chris Hardwick: You just did that one episode, so how did that come around?
Karen Gillan: It was completely unrelated actually because these guys, it’s a whole new team. So it was completely unrelated, just coincidence.
Chris Hardwick: When you auditioned, were you like, “I’ve already done the show, I don’t know if you noticed.”
Karen Gillan: I didn’t want to say it, I didn’t want to tell them!
Audience member #2: First I want to say—Arthur we all love you up here a lot. [cheering] It’s a good day for you! Steven—when you created your characters you seem to know their backstories incredibly well, but also where they’re going. What is easier to create in your mind before it’s on the paper? Where they’ve been or where they’re going to go?
Steven Moffat: Well, it all sort of happens at the same time really, because it’s a story you’re telling. I write my way into it, I write dialogue and scenes and you start to know who they are and where they must have been and where they’re probably going to go. And that sounds like a terribly vague answer. But it is a vague answer.
Chris Hardwick: You basically have decades of storylines that you have to work within, so how are you able to balance writing the stuff, but staying within the rules?
Steven Moffat: You mean because of the long history?
Chris Hardwick: Yes.
Steven Moffat: First of all, at a terrifying fan level—I have memorized all of Doctor Who. I know better than those guys. I can outfan the fans. It’s a terrible thing to be because you can’t have a girlfriend ever.
Chris Hardwick: You gotta be careful because I just heard a sound from a dude up there who took that as a personal challenge. [audience laughter]
Steven Moffat: The actual backstory of Doctor Who is quite tiny. I discovered that you can actually sum up the backstory of Doctor Who in three sentences, it’s really really quick. And it’s something like, “He’s called the Doctor. The box is bigger on the inside and travels in time and space.” And that’s all you need to know.
Audience member #3: Whether or not this was ever an idea—what are your thoughts on Benedict Cumberbatch as the Master?
Steven Moffat: Well, as if my life weren’t complicated enough already! Uh listen, if John Simm could hear you, you would not live another hour. [audience laughter] I shouldn’t tell you this… but I’m going to. After [“The End of Time”] he’d been saying, “I think now that David’s left as the Doctor, I would have to leave the Master,” and he pulled me aside and said, “I didn’t mean that! Look at me, I’m fit, I’m okay!” So Benedict has to wait in line probably. And how confusing would it be? All four cheekbones on one screen! I tell you, I’ve stood between [Matt Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch] in a photograph; it’s a really really good way to look extra ugly.
Audience member #4: My question is for Matt. If you had to chose a hat, like a new hat now, what would you wear?
Matt Smith: For me, we’ve had this debate. Karen goes for the fez, I go for the stetson. I would love any hat.
Audience member #5: Okay, as we do on the internet—this is sort of the internet come to life—we look at shows that we love and combine them. Like I would say “I want to see Doctor Who go up against Godzilla!” What would you combine that you could never do on the show?
Steven Moffat: I’d probably say for me, as a fan, I would like the Doctor to meet Mr. Spock.
Arthur Darvill: I want the Doctor to meet up with Michael Palin.
Chris Hardwick: I would love to see the TARDIS land in the British version of The Office.
Steven Moffat: We probably get Ricky Gervais for that right?
Joy [Audience]: [to Steven Moffat] How do you go about writing a script? Do you work out the plot in advance and then the dialogue? Do you do it at the same time?
Steven Moffat: Generally speaking, if it’s Doctor Who, I’m thinking of great big fun things. I think, what would be an exciting thing to happen? [Also,] in a state of panic, and very very aware that I can’t spend the budget before the opening titles, but always do. Big strong idea, a big question at the beginning, a big surprise in the middle and a big bang at the end and that’s your Doctor Who.
Chris Hardwick: Have you ever appeared on the show in the background somewhere, or would you ever appear on the show?
Steven Moffat: No. You know, I did that once in the kid’s show I did years ago, I actually got into the background of the shot and it was rubbish! I’m never ever doing it again, completely boring. And it takes ages to make it, and they repeat it over and over again.
Audience member #6: What advice would you give a young dramatic writer starting out?
Steven Moffat: Write. Everything else is easy, everything else. Getting your scripts read, easy. Write all the time, write every single day, and be incredibly critical of what you write, and don’t tell people it’s brilliant when it’s not. Be your first and worst critic always. But write! There are people who claim to want to be writers, they’ve got one script. You’ve got to write and write and write. And the first 100 scripts will be rubbish. And next hundred will be rubbish too. You’ve got to get the first 200 out of the way pretty quickly. And then maybe one of them will be mediocre. I’m not kidding, but that’s what it’s like.
Audience member #7: [to Steven Moffat] With the 50th anniversary coming up—are you working towards something?
Steven Moffat: …are you asking me what I’m going to do in two years?
Audience member #7: I just wanted to know if you were planning anything big for us.
Steven Moffat: Yeah. [audience laughter] Something big.
Audience member #7: A small question for Matt, I see you’re wearing a tie today. So what is truly cooler, the bowtie or the tie?
Matt Smith: Oh, bowties are cooler.
Audience member #8: Do you feel maybe just a little bad about the terrible cliffhanger you’re going to give people after watching the first episode?
Steven Moffat: Do I look like I’ve got feelings? No! Oh, and that’s not the worst, it gets far worse. [evil laughter] It’s going to be a long summer.
Q&A photo from the BBC America Facebook page
Emily Asher-Perrin loved the DW Line Con. And she won’t tell you who dies. Nope. Not even you ask really nicely and bribe her with time cookies. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.