EXCLUSIVE – Matt Smith Talks New Doctor Who Series And 50th Anniversary Special!

With Doctor Who returning to our screens this Saturday, SFX reached for the trusty space-time telephone and buzzed the Doctor himself, Matt Smith. We’re talking Ice Warriors, Neil Gaiman, the big five-o and what it’s like to be a first class kind of chap…

A first class kind of ch… oh, please yourselves.

This is a question I’ve never had a chance to ask anybody before: what’s it like being on a stamp?

It’s a great privilege that the nation will be licking the backs of our heads. It’s an amazing thing – I’m really proud to be part of it. It’s cool. it’s something that I can show my grandkids.

Would you feel a bit self-conscious, sticking it on a gas bill?

No, absolutely not. Take that, gas man! And give me some money off!

So the new series – we’ve seen the promo poster of you riding that great big bike. Are you good with bikes or was it a world of terror for you?

It was very exciting. I am innately very clumsy, and my mother has always forbidden me from getting a motorbike. I’ve driven mopeds before, abroad and stuff, without her knowing – well, now she knows. But that’s like a big old Harley looking bike, and I wouldn’t know where to begin… It was amazing filming those scenes. It was on a rig, and we got to sort of travel round London. Car rigs are different because you’re in a car, but being on a bike it’s like you’re on a sort of fairground ride. It was a really crisp, sunny day and we kept going around Waterloo Bridge and Westminster Bridge and Waterloo Bridge and Westminster Bridge and it was just one of those days where you think ‘This is a very privileged place to be for a day at work.’

You’ve got Jenna joining as Clara. What new colours does she bring out of your Doctor?

I think that essentially she allows him to complete his grieving period, as it were, over the Ponds. Not that he’ll ever forget the Ponds but she gives him his mojo back somehow, and his spirit of adventure, and allows him to go right, you’ve got to look forward. Importantly, she gives him something to be curious about, because she is this impossible girl and he doesn’t really understand how or why or what context she exists in. I think she ignites his curiosity. And with the Doctor that’s the thing that keeps him flying around.

Jenna told us you recommended some Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn films for her to watch. Do you see the relationship in that kind of screwball comedy tradition?

If you look at those movies you get a real sense of teamwork on screen, and chemistry, and so much of the show is about teamwork that leads to chemistry. I just thought it was a good point of reference, really. Yeah, I think there is a degree of that screwbally thing – we flirt, we don’t flirt, we love each other, we don’t love each other, I’m strange, you’re in control, actually I’m really in control… it flips and flops around all the time, and I think those movies really land and deliver on the double act thing, and obviously that’s where we needed to get to. It’s a strange process, the whole Doctor/companion thing. Everyone expects you to have this immediate firework chemistry but that wasn’t the case with me and Karen – you work at these things, and it’s the same with me and Jenna. You have to work at these chemistries, and the detail and the layers and everything. And that’s what we did, and it was an enjoyable process. She’s cracking.

Was there a specific moment when the two of you clicked and you found that rhythm?

You might find it twice in a day, you might find it ten times in a day, you might find it fifteen times in a day, you might find it once in a day. It’s the nature of making this show; so much of it moves so quickly, and you just keep trying to prepare as thoroughly and in as much detail that you find the moments of magic. If you take an instance like the kiss at Christmas – there’s a good chemistry to that scene, it has balance and it has an interesting point of view for both of us. It’s just about understanding the story and where you fit into it.

Your costume’s had a bit of a shake-up. There’s a bit of a teddy boy vibe going on there…

Is there? I don’t know… Well, I always said that the costume would evolve, and I always wanted something purple, a la Pertwee. And so now I’ve got purple tweed, and cool purpley boots and a cool purpley waistcoat and a purple bowtie and purple lining. I’ve got my purple wish.

[Not quite catching] Sorry, your purple what?

My purple wish!

I thought you said whisk…

A purple whisk would be even more exciting! Yeah, I’m going to ask for one of those!

That would be brilliant. A sonic whisk…

Yes, a sonic whisk! That’d be great, wouldn’t it? That’s it – chocolate and Guinness cake in a second! Butterfly cakes from space!

So the costume’s evolved…

If you look at it, it has sort of slightly evolved, bits and bobs, each year. With the departure of the Ponds and the new title sequence and all that, we thought why not, let’s shake it up a little. And here we are. Do you like it?

I do like it – I quite like the teddy boy thing. It’s a different silhouette with the longer coat.

Yeah, it is a slightly different silhouette, isn’t it? My big concern with changing the costume is that I didn’t want him to lose the sense of the silly. There’s something silly about tweed and a bow-tie, so I was keen that it never dipped into trying to be too cool. I don’t think he’s someone who dresses to be cool. I think he dresses practically and he just happens to think bow-ties are cool.

Rematerialise on the next page for Matt’s thoughts on Ice Warriors, Neil Gaiman, the 50th anniversary special and which old monster he wants his Doctor to meet…