Over a 12 day period the production team behind Doctor Who has travelled the globe on a lengthy world tour to promote the show’s eighth season premiere, “Deep Breath.” It’s a big one this time with a new lead in Scottish actor Peter Capaldi and new tone that will see the whimsical fantasy elements of the show’s previous lead Matt Smith take a darker and rather subdued path. With two stops remaining between now and the episode’s August 23rd premiere on BBC America they made their way to New York for a big screening at the Ziegfeld Theater but not before attending a press screening at the Bryant Park Hotel in midtown Manhattan.
For Capaldi’s co-star Jenna Coleman and Executive Producer Steven Moffat they have been down this road before on the press end but all eyes on this tour are on new star Capaldi, a man facing the challenge of not only being the oldest Doctor of the revived series but quite possibly the darkest. In person however, he is more than jovial often displaying a relaxed demeanor and smiling and laughing as he answers every question. Although Coleman and Moffat have visited the Big Apple on previous visits this is Capaldi’s first time and his first impressions are still trying to find a place to register after traveling the world on this 12 day tour.
“It’s quite skyscrapery,” he said with a chuckle at the press screening. “I’ve been here for 20 hours. That’s a blink for anyone, let alone a time traveller thousands of years old.”
For Capaldi, a life-long fan, he never dreamed he would actually play the part despite being quite familiar to fans having appeared in the David Tennant story “Fires of Pompeii” and a memorable role in Torchwood: Children of Earth. He did admit that he couldn’t hide his inner fan when he first came on set for the former episode.
“I turned up on set and asked David [Tennant] where the TARDIS was and he pointed to it and it was covered in a large cloth sheet,” he recollects. “I remember touching it, the police box, and I got a little bit teary. I was just so thrilled to be there.”
Since taking over viewing rights from Syfy in 2009 the show has gone from cult status to heights of popularity never seen before here in the United States. Last year’s anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor” was seen by almost 5 million viewers and has graced the covers of entertainment publication standards like TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. Capaldi’s debut is highly anticipated and many are looking forward to getting to know him in the same way his co- star got to know him over the last eight months of filming. For Coleman there was nothing bothersome about having her co-star change, in fact, she welcomed it.
“Having to start again and reevaluate the dynamic is rather exciting,” she explained. “You are used to waiting for a response like Matt’s Doctor but this Doctor doesn’t give the same kind of response. It’s a bit jarring but it’s also incredibly exciting for an actor.”
Having been around to watch the original Doctor William Hartnell on screen it’s easy for Capaldi to remember starting out as a cranky old man in a junkyard and through the original run could be perceived as erratic, often eccentric, and dangerous but with a twinkle in his eye. After spending the last three years with what Moffat perceived as a “boyfriend Doctor” they decided to return to those roots with a deeper and often unpredictable incarnation. It’s a risky venture but for Capaldi it’s the risk and foreboding nature of the title that makes the show even more interesting.
“The thing that is so great about Doctor Who is the unknown,” he said. “He presents himself one way but there is always a part that goes unseen. We try to go for that by giving him something that the audience just can’t grab or figure out.”
Of course it wouldn’t be a new season without the social media community finding ways to complain about the current state of the show which has been a topic of discussion over the past few years. Since Capaldi was cast, many fan circles have complained about the lack of progression in casting either a non-Caucasian or female lead. Still, for all the comments and criticisms they result in as many positives as they do negatives. The new season will see a beautiful new title sequence designed by a fan named Billy Hanshaw, a motion graphics specialist from Leeds. For Steven Moffat this is the heart of what the show is about not all the negativity.
“When we talk about Doctor Who fandom we should discuss the extraordinary creative response and not all the madness,” Moffat said. “It can inspire people to want to work on Doctor Who or another show or even, and I still can’t wrap my head around this one, become scientists. Assumingly to look back at it and go “Wow, they made that shit up!”
Doctor Who returns with season premiere “Deep Breath” next Saturday, August 23rd at 8PM on BBC America.
Jason Stives is the resident Anglophile and Pop-Break representative for BBC America conducting weekly reviews of Doctor Who and Orphan Black. He is currently a contributing writer for PropertyofZack.com and a freelance creative consultant for fundraising and marketing campaigns in New Jersey’s various art communities. He is a graduate of Rutgers University’s class of 2010 with a bachelors in Journalism and Media Studies. When he isn’t attending concerts or writing the great American novel he moonlights as lounge crooner J.M Heavyhart turning the works of Dokken and Dio into Sinatra-esque standards (or at least he would like to be). Follow his constant retweets and occasionally witty banter on Twitter at @jaystives.