BBC America’s big “Doctor Who” panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego brought 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi to Hall H for the first time, along with companions Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Michelle Gomez (Missy), and lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat for a discussion the long-running series’ past, future, and everything in between.. Chris Hardwick moderated the panel.
Moffat spoke about the shift in tone for the Doctor from Matt Smith to Capaldi, saying he “wants to make the most of” each actor. But, he said, “there’s not that much difference in the way you write them. … The Doctors are surprisingly similar.”
Hardwick mentioned that Moffat “let [the Doctor] be Scottish this time,” referring to previous Scottish Doctor David Tennant. Moffat replied, “Well, we let him be English before — why should he have an English accent, an American accent?”
Talking about the “companion” relationship between Clara and the Doctor, Hardwick said that Coleman’s character often “dommed the Doctor” in Season 8. But Coleman siad it was more a matter of the two characters “trying to work each other out.”
“It’s kind of like getting to know your best friend all over again,” Coleman said.
Despite Clara’s hedging last season due to her relationship with Danny Pink, “in series 9 she’s head first in the TARDIS.”
Asked about her character’s mystery, Gomez said, “Luckily I never know why I’m saying what I’m saying” before the big reveal, which she said keeps it fresh. Becoming the Master “is still a pinch-me moment,” she added.
Gomez described Missy/The Master as “the best friend you kind of love to hate” and “everybody’s idea of the perfect villain.” “When you break it down, it’s about this great friendship that just went wrong — and everybody has that,” she said. “So now she tracks down the Doctor and says, no, you started this, I’m right.
“And he always gets in the way of me trying to destroy the world.”
Moffat added that “they are indeed friends, that’s the scary part — it’s the friendship between the vegetarian and the hunter.”
“We both kill a lot of people, he feels bad about it, I don’t,” Gomez added.
Capaldi said the Doctor seeing the Master is like “this person walks into the room and your heart sinks — you’re happy to see them and then you think, ah, I’m going to have to put up with all this shit.”
Capaldi said “regeneration is as much of a shock to the incumbent as it is on everybody else,” and so each Doctor’s first season is often spent figuring out who he is. “He’d rather there was peace, he’d rather sit in the car park after dark and not have to blow up Daleks — but I like blowing up Daleks, and I think he does, too, once he gets down to it.”
Coleman said that after the trials of last season, Clara and the Doctor “are very much a team.”
The trailer for Season 9, which begins airing September 19, ended with a cameo by Maisie Williams’ new character. The Doctor responds to her with a surprised “You….!” and Williams replies, “What took you so long, old man?”
Joking about special effects, Capaldi said, “People ask me when I first felt like Doctor Who. I tell them it was when they threw a rubber spider in my face and said, ‘fight it!’
This season “Clara does help him with his social skills,” Capaldi said of his character, “makes him a more welcome party guest.”
Hardwick then opened the floor to fan questions.
“The way that Missy comes back into the Doctor’s life is not something I think you’re going to predict – it’s very, very different,” Moffat said. Even though his take on the two characters is one of an on friendship, Missy will “still be doing these psychopathic things, just in an adorable way.”
Discussing the kiss, Gomez said, “the question is who kissed who, and who pulled back… and if you play that back, as I’m sure many of you have, you’ll see there is some suction there.” She joked that “what you didn’t see was that I was also holding Clara’s hand.”
A fan asked the panelists’ opinions on the possibility of a female Doctor. “Well, there’s no vacancy,” Moffat said, “you’ve just met Peter Capaldi.” Moffat added that “I think I’ve expressed my opinion in the show.”
Coleman said “I’m sure it will happen at some point, but as Steven said I think it’s about finding the right actor. I don’t think Peter’s going to change costume.”
Capaldi said he’d be up for a drag episode, which the crowd seemed to favor.
Asked about his literary influence, Moffat laughed embarrassingly that “it was probably Doctor Who.”
“What got me interested in television was that the Doctor changed, and I didn’t understand me,” Moffat said. “My dad had to explain it to me, that it was because one actor didn’t want to be Doctor Who, so somebody else would have to come in. Then I had to deal with the fact that someone would be Doctor Who and then choose not to be – I had to deal with that in my adult life, as well, it’s terrifying!”
Asked about potential future companions, Capaldi said the Doctor “has that special bond with Clara,” but “I think he’d want to see his granddaughter.”
A fan asked Gomez what Missy’s perfect day would look like. After first offering “squashing a lot of bugs,” she said, “I think her perfect day would start with a croissant, then slapping Wonder Woman in the face.”
Hardwick asked why the Doctor “is so enamored of humans.” “Budgetary reasons,” Moffat said.
On the subject of a “Doctor Who” / “Sherlock” crossover, Moffat said, “I wouldn’t have a problem with it, it’s all the rest of them that have a problem with it – I’d do anything for a laugh, I’m a tart.”
After giving Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor the most chronological years, a fan asked how Moffat “would show love to Peter.” “Show love? I stranded him in a village for a thousand years,” Moffat said, perplexed. “That’s a weird definition of love. I aged him to death! Well, I guess that’s marriage…” He added that he wouldn’t answer the question, because it’s dealt with in some manner this season.
A man in a Grinch costume asked Capaldi whether he “felt the other Doctors deep inside of you.” The phrasing of the question, plus the costume with its long fingers, led to some commentary and laughing from Hardwick and Capaldi. Capaldi added that he does feel that there is some “resonance” with the other eleven versions of the Doctor.
Asked about his biggest surprise, Capaldi said, “you hear that it’s successful overseas, that it’s catching on in America… but I never anticipated this.” He added that he has the benefit of the show’s 50-year history “pointing in my direction.”