Doctor Who at Bafta

What was said after this week’s “The Pandorica Opens” screening…

SFX was lucky enough to snag a seat at this week’s very special Bafta screening of “The Pandorica Opens”, the first half of this year’s Doctor Who season finale. If you want to a hint of what to expect, check out our spoiler-free episode teasers. In the meantime we thought you might like to read the highlights of the audience Q+A that took place afterwards…

Before this series began you said that one of the things you were going to be guided by was this idea of a fairy tale, and that’s something we can see really clearly in “The Pandorica Opens”. This is about things that go pretty deeper, stories that we almost half remember from our childhoods…
Steven Moffat:
Fairy tales are the way we warn our children of the dangers of the world, and that’s what Doctor Who is. Doctor Who more commonly than it goes into outer space takes outer space and makes it under your bed or in the back of your cupboard.

What are you trying to warn us about then?
SM: That everything is genuinely frightening and children, you’re right – there is something in the back of your cupboard!

When did you know that you’d got the new series right?
SM: I avoided the press on the day after broadcast, because I thought there was bound to be quite a lot of negatives because David was so brilliant and so popular. I didn’t realise that the press would be amazing, we got all these responses and I hear “Best Doctor ever” quite often. I didn’t expect it to be, none of us did, that instant. It was just instant, so that was brilliant.

What did you expect before you started, Matt?
Matt Smith: I guess you just hope to come out alive, really. It’s impossible to calculate before it happens, but what we have received has been overwhelming and very positive, pretty humbling and very exciting.

It wouldn’t have got this much attention in the old days…
SM: And that’s shameful, actually. It should have had that attention, there was absolutely brilliant stuff. I hate the orthodoxy that Doctor Who became good in 2005, that’s not true. I didn’t fall in love with that show because it was rubbish, it was because it was brilliant.

If the programme didn’t change, what did?
SM: All of us who grew up watching nothing but Doctor Who all day long took over television and made it behave properly – got rid of all that Star Trek nonsense. Those of who grew up loving it, venerating it, and not just regarding it as this silly thing, we became middle-aged and put our love into the show.

Is there anything you’ve put on screen this year that’s a cherished idea you’ve carried through from your teens?
SM: I think there’s 13 episodes of that! Mainly, because I’ve spent a great deal of my life since I was about seven thinking of really cool things that could happen in Doctor Who, I just carry on doing that, and think, oh yeah, I can actually do that… Then we have the budget meeting! It’s yes and no. There’s one very specific thing I’d like to see happen to Doctor Who, and I’m not going to tell you what it is!

If you could hop in a time machine and travel back to this time last year knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself
MS:
Have porridge for breakfast.
SM:
That must be a really strange thing, to see your future self and give yourself the information, have porridge.
MS: Porridge is very important. It gets you to 11 and stops you grazing on custard creams. I’m sure there’s a lot of practical stuff I would give myself, a lot of advice about courage and the like, but I shall make that my own, if that’s okay.

What do you make of the story this week about Stephen Fry talking about chicken nuggets and infantilisation of television?
SM: Let’s be fair, Stephen Fry’s the biggest Doctor Who fan in the world. He’s just trying to sound grown up. It was designed specifically to be a family programme, that’s what it’s for, it’s the junction between  children’s programmes and adults programmes, it’s the one that everybody watches. So it is for adults, it is for children. It’s a rather brilliant idea – why don’t we make a television programme that everybody wants to watch? We should do that more often. It surprised me that it took me until I was 47 to be working on a show like that. It’s a good idea, isn’t it? And the comparison to chicken nuggets? This is a very, very high end, very, very high quality show, it has absolutely no comparison to junk food at all, and he knows it. That’s Twitter, he’s thinking about! I love Stephen and Stephen loves Doctor Who, so don’t worry about that.

There’s been a lot of talk in fandom about how similar Matt is to the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, and there has been a feeling of looking back as well as forwards in this series. Was that deliberate, that you wanted to get that old-school feel back, or did that just happen organically with Matt’s performance?
MS: It was completely unconscious. I don’t think you can imitate anything as an actor. Some actors can but I certainly can’t. I enjoy Patrick’s performance because I think he manages to be peculiar without ever trying to be peculiar, but there is never and there never will be any conscious borrowing of any previous Doctors, because it’s mine to invent now, and I like that. But I’m flattered by the comparison because I like Patrick Troughton. I think he’s extraordinary.

How much influence on your wardrobe did you have?
MS: There were five or six of us involved in that process, but I was involved. Actually I went for a costume fitting this very morning for next year, which is very interesting. I just heard [gesturing towards Moffat] “Tell him he can’t have a hat unless it’s a written down that he has a hat.” Let’s see. There’s going to be a whole back and forth. I’ve always said that I think it will evolve, but I’m very pleased that the costume feels like it has an element of the professor. Just practically we film in November and it’s freezing, so just a tweed jacket can get a bit cold, so who knows…?

You’ve got some really good running narrative devices. When you’re thinking about the overall climax, how do you go about structuring it among the other episodes?
SM: For the most part you try not to let it overpower the other episodes because all these stories have to standalone, but what you’re trying to do is give people another reason to watch without giving them reason to feel left out. It’s by guess and by God sometimes and by last minute panic and remembering I’ve forgotten to mention that… It sounds very brilliant and planned when I talk about it, but really it’s me going, “Oh no, I haven’t mentioned that yet, have I?”