jason stives takes to the roundtable to interview the doctor himself…
In person, Matt Smith is all grins and hand gestures, which is fine. It’s very rare that you meet an actor who in real life greatly resembles the character he plays. The man who became the youngest actor to play the most famous Timelord on television is a very warm and welcoming individual upon introduction. Lanky, decked out in a T-shirt, brown vest, jeans and boots, he greeted the room of writers with the most humble of manners. Realizing immediately that the table of professionals were all nervous Whovians, he deflated the worries and promised nothing but great answers to all the wonderful questions he expected from us.
In this roundtable discussion, Matt joined me and seven other journalists where he discussed the upcoming five episodes that will see the final days of the Ponds, the return of the Daleks for the first time in two years, and the appearance of a famous king’s feet. The questions answered below came from several journalists in the room, and I myself was able to ask Matt whether the good Doctor keeps his pledge to stay in the shadows this season or if only reinforces rule No. 1: The Doctor lies.
Question 1: In the trailer, we see Amy telling the Doctor, “So this is what happens when you are traveling alone for too long,” and clearly after the Christmas special, he probably shouldn’t travel alone. Are we going to see the Doctor in a much darker place than usual, or is that counter-balanced by having someone with him?
Matt Smith: Yeah, and you definitely get that in the Christmas special. I think that’s coming from someone who he thinks is his friend saying you know don’t be alone too long ‘cause I think he gets more dangerous when he is on his own. He needs someone. It’s a human moral compass for him. He needs that and needs a grasp on it. I quite like that in a way in the character because it’s interesting to see how he gets when he is alone. He is just this old man wandering around the universe trying to make things right but getting people killed along the way. [laughs] When you look at it, there are a lot of clerics that die in certain episodes! It’s like, “Oh no! Another one bites the dust!”
Question 2: So does this season, even though it’s broken up into two parts, have an overarching story, or is the season sort of broken up into mini-arcs?
MS: Well, the five we are dealing right now is really about the fall of the Ponds. I mean, they are out of there! So that’s what we build towards now. Then next year, because we are still filming, the episodes following the Christmas special will deal with the arrival of Jenna Louise Coleman and her role as the new companion. So the subsequent adventures are just about her adventures with the Doctor. But yeah, now it’s about the Ponds and their exit in The Angels Take Manhattan, which is absolutely brilliant. I think you guys are really going to love it.
Question 3: When we last left the Doctor, he was seemingly dead to the universe and heading back into the shadows. Does he keep that promise this season? What kind of Doctor are we dealing with this time?
MS: Yeah, I think he does. We absolutely pick up where we left it and we touch basics with a man who is basically trying to step back a bit. He is trying to be less prominent, less apparent, famous, and all those things he has struggled with. We see him trying to deal with that, and it’s definitely a character trait he is really grappling with there. Perhaps it does make his soul a little darker, and like Amy says, he needs someone to tell him to pull it back a bit. I think that is such a fantastic quality.
Question 4: You said the Daleks are scary again? How so?
MS: Well, quite simply, I think we have gotten the design of them better and we have drawn on every Dalek that has existed, I guess, every one that has, and well, I can’t say stood on its legs. [laughs] Space wheels, I guess then. I think Steven has really just created something unique. I mean, you are in the asylum, which is designed so well. It’s scary because you are in dalekland, which is kind of like a perfect theme park for Daleks. [laughs] It’s wheelchair accessible. But I think the world that this story is set in makes them very frightening ,and the way it’s lit and the tone I feel we have achieved the intent of their nature because the Daleks are so important to the show.
Question 5: There are two definitions of asylum: One is a place where you keep mad people, and the other is a place where very dangerous people beg to be kept safe. Which of the two do you think fits this episode?
MS: I think it’s where you keep mad people really. I like the idea that some are just so mad that they beg to be kept there because I think the Daleks sub consciously have a human element that can be applied to them, but they are just alien evil encased in a tank. That’s why they are the Doctor’s greatest foes, because there is nothing that is not evil about them. They are only evil, and that is how he sees certain people. I think this is an interesting episode for the nature of the Daleks. I think we learn a lot about them, and like every classic monster that does return they will have had to move on somehow, and I think Steven has done that in a very interesting way with them.
Question 6: So the Doctor has encountered some very awesome historical figures, like Van Gogh and Churchill. Are we going to see him encounter anymore in the coming season? And if not, who would you like to see him encounter?
MS: Actually, we encounter someone’s feet. [laughs] He was a king, but I’m not going to give anything away. That’s in Episode 4 of this season [‘The Power of Three’], and he is chasing us. Me personally? It’s like what’s your favorite album I mean there are so many. My stock answer would be Frank Sinatra, but I won’t say that. Was Tarzan real? No I guess not. [laughs] But I love the idea of the Doctor swinging from trees with Tarzan and just doing that call.
Question 7: You did some filming here in New York. How is filming on location in comparison to filming on the sets in Cardiff?
MS: I want to film every single episode of Doctor Who here in New York. [laughs] I absolutely love this city, and everywhere you point a camera, there is something amazing to look at. Just the way the light falls on the city. I make no secret that I would love to live here one day on my own, and it’s great to do a period piece here in New York because the locations afford you so much. It was wonderful and we had a really great time. It was also a great experience because we filmed in Central Park, and we had like hundreds of fans and it was remarkable. It was like nothing I had never witnessed. Yeah, I would l love to come back.
At this point, Matt parted company with us after a brief goodbye and in his place materialized the lovely Karen Gillian …
All Photos Credit: BBC America