Daleks, Dinosaurs, and Westerns: Doctor Who at San Diego Comic Con

It took a Dalek to ask the question that was surely on everyone’s mind at the Doctor Who panel on Sunday morning. After the obligatory cries of “WE WILL EX-TER-MIN-ATE YOU AND ALL OF HALL H,” it came: “Will there be a multiple Doctor episode?

“I’m not going to tell you!” Steven Moffat cried. “Not even for the Daleks! Sorry!”

Doctor Who fan extraordinaire and Nerdist host Chris Hardwick (sporting a t-shirt that I need, immediately) presided over an enthusiastic Sunday morning panel discussion among executive producer Caroline Skinner, showrunner Steven Moffat, and stars Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill in front of a crowd of 6,000 screaming fans, many of whom—in a scenario that is now ubiquitous at SDCC—had camped out the night before to be sure they could get in. 

Though Moffat lamented having spent most of the convention in his hotel room writing (“It’s nice to meet six thousand new people because I’ve been very lonely.”), everyone was extremely enthusiastic about the San Diego experience. “I’d just quickly like to say that if the world was a bit more like Comic Con it would be a better place, right?” Smith said. It was the lack of cynicism he loved, the ability to celebrate one’s enthusiasms without being judged. Gillan and Darvill agreed—”we had to have some throat sweets earlier on because we’ve spent all our time going aaaaaaa,” Darvill said, after being hailed with noisy screams from his fans in the crowd.

Hanging over the panel, of course, was the Ponds’ impending departure from the show. “I didn’t stop crying for two weeks; anything was setting me off. Broccoli! Tender stem broccoli!” Gillan confessed. Moffat said he was saddened as well, knowing that writing these characters out also meant the end of a close working relationship—”it was genuinely, properly sad.” 

“There’s no way to write them out completely, right?” Hardwick asked. “You reckon?” replied Moffat. “I hope you enjoy the episode, Chris.”

The friendship and rapport amongst Smith, Gillan, and Darvill couldn’t be more plain when you see the three of them together. “We don’t really have conversations, just noises.” Darvill said. Smith concurred: “Noises and silly phrases.” “We like to call them episodes,” Moffat added dryly. Later during the audience Q&A, they gave a rundown of all the weird or interesting habits they’ve noticed amongst themselves. “There’s a lot of time to kill on a film set,” Smith said, “so all we do is irritate each other.” 

So what’s next for the Ponds? At that question, there was a whispered conference between the two—the result of which was that they agreed to tell what the other’s plans were while doing impressions of each other. Darvill managed an extremely passable Scottish accent (despite Gillan’s protests that she sounded nothing like that) to inform the audience that her next projects are the films Not Another Happy Ending and Oculus.

Gillan then took a shot at an impression of Darvill (“Sorry, I’m just a bit bumbling because that’s me!”), who will be appearing next onstage in London, and then in the ITV drama Broadchurch—featuring none other than David Tennant, and written by frequent Doctor Who contributor Chris Chibnall.

Of course, it’s not a Hall H appearance without some footage especially for the Comic Con crowd. The first bit came about halfway through the hour: “We are doing a western!” Moffat announced, “And for extra authenticity we did what we must always do when you are shooting an iconic piece of American culture—we went to Spain.” The excerpt from Toby Whithouse’s “A Town Called Mercy” featured the Doctor, Amy, and Rory strolling in to an old West bar, where the Doctor soon found himself quickly sized up by an undertaker and—surprisingly—instantly recognized as an alien.

Moffat closed the panel out with what he calls “the secret of TV success”—putting dinosaurs on a spaceship. And that does-what-it-says-on-the-tin phrase seems to be the title of the episode of which we got an extremely lengthy glimpse, one that included Mark Williams (last seen as Arthur Weasley) as Rory’s father, Sherlock‘s Rupert Graves as an English explorer, and Riann Steele as Queen Nefertiti, who become part of the Doctor’s new “gang” (“This is a gang! I’ve got a gang!”) who need to stop a 24th-century mystery spacecraft from crashing into the earth. And there are dinosaurs.

And what else can we see? “More Daleks than you’ve ever seen in one place,” Moffat said. “Lots and lots and lots of Daleks, what we see when we close our eyes in our TARDIS-wallpapered bedrooms.” There will be tragedy and comedy and westerns—Moffat believes that it’s a bigger variety of episodes than we’ve had before. New companion Jenna-Louise Coleman was mentioned briefly, but nothing at all was said about her introduction to the show, obviously still under close wraps. And there was indeed not so much as an inkling of what might be in the works for the show’s 50th anniversary. Still, nothing about Season 7 was a hard sell to the 6,000 fans gathered in Hall H; the team is confident that they’re about to deliver something the fans will love, and the fans are ready to love it.

Karin Kross does not want to admit how long she spent in the Hall H line for this panel. She and her co-conspirators have been blogging SDCC at nerdpromnomnom.


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