So it’s back and with a James Bond-esque urban thriller. Why did you decide to kick-off the new series with a very modern day threat?
It was Marcus Wilson’s idea. We were discussing how the first episode of the second run would probably be a contemporary Earth adventure, so the Doctor could meet the modern day Clara – and anyway, I wanted to do Wi-Fi monsters – and Marcus suggested we do a proper urban thriller. The Doctor can never be Bond or Bourne – but if he tried it might look a bit like this.
What else can we expect from the new series?
A haunted house, a submarine, a planet with cool rings, Victorian Yorkshire, a journey to the centre of the TARDIS, Dame Diana Rigg and her daughter Rachael Stirling together on screen for the first time, new Cybermen, and the Doctor’s greatest secret revealed.
You are bringing back a couple of classic monsters with the Cybermen and Ice Warriors, are there any new ones to look out for?
Plenty of new monsters! Watch out for the Spoonheads, the Whispermen, and – my favourite – the Vigil. Oh and Neil Gaiman has done something horrible with the Cybermen!
We finally get to meet the Clara that will travel with the Doctor across the series’ eight epic adventures. Can you tell us a little bit about her character?
You’ve sort of met her, but you sort of haven’t. The same shed load of attitude you saw before, the same rapid-fire banter with the Doctor, but this time she’s living in modern London with no memory of the Time Lord!
How has the dynamic of the relationship between the Doctor and his companion changed since the introduction of Clara?
It’s all new for the Doctor – this time the greatest mystery in the universe is standing right next to him.
What was it about Jenna that made you decide she would be right fit for the role of the new companion?
Casting is a funny process – the right people sort of choose themselves. It happened with Matt a long time ago, and when we saw him bantering with Jenna it happened again. Auditions start with you telling the actor about the character – sometimes they end with the actor telling you. That’s what happened with Jenna!
A ghost story, a period drama to end all period dramas and an underwater siege, was it intentional to go as big as possible with this series in the year of the 50th?
We try to make every year the biggest possible, but when you see that big, glittering 50 hanging above you, you start trying even harder. I’ve been a fan all by my life and I know we have to deliver!
I think it is going to be very exciting to introduce Clara to the world and Steven has hit a real vein of form, explains Matt as he chats enthusiastically about the new series.
Along with a new costume this series, the Doctor has a new TARDIS to travel through space and time. Walking on to the new TARDIS was like the first day at school, explains Matt. I actually found it quite difficult as I had got so used to the rhythm of acting on the old one, where I used to slide about on the glass floor, but Michael Pickwoad has done a fabulous job, he continues. This one is more like a machine.
Having lost his first companions, the Ponds, at the hands of the Weeping Angels in New York last year and after a period of mourning the Doctor is joined by a new companion this series, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, she’s done brilliantly well, says Matt. She’s kind, charming, thoroughly prepared and very brave as an actress. And most importantly of all we get on, which is vital on a show like this. I’m so proud of what she has achieved in the last year, he concludes.
So what do fans have to look forward to this series? An urban thriller, ‘The Bells of Saint John’, brings the series back with a bang as the Doctor’s search for Clara Oswald takes him to modern day London, where wifi is everywhere. But something dangerous is lurking in the signals, picking off minds and imprisoning them. Filming for this James Bond-esque thriller took Matt to Westminster Bridge, the Southbank and St Pauls, amazing, I loved shooting in London, says Matt, there is something so brilliant about having the locations there rather than just adding them in.
Following on from this the second episode, ‘The Rings of Akhaten’, take the Doctor and Clara away from earth and on their first proper adventure… in outer space. Featuring an alien market Matt remarks, it was very ‘Whoey’. We had between 50 to 60 prosthetic aliens, which is something that only really this show can offer, he continues, making it a very unique experience as an actor.
As well as introducing some new monsters, the new series brings back a couple of old monsters in the form of the Ice Warriors and Cybermen, I think it’s good to pay homage to the classic series, says Matt, especially for the fans. This series we have modernised some of the monsters for a whole new generation.
Soggy, like drowned rats, Matt is explaining the shooting experience for the third episode ‘Cold War’, written by Mark Gatiss. Set on a Russian submarine spiralling out of control in 1983 an alien creature is loose on board, having escaped from a block of Arctic ice. They built a submarine and the five-year old in me was like “yeah it’s a submarine!”, says Matt. I loved getting sprayed down at the beginning of the shoot, Matt continues, and it wasn’t a chore as it does so much of the acting for you, making it really authentic. Mark Gatiss has delivered one of the best episodes of the series, he concludes.
Very excited, Jenna is talking animatedly about her first series as the Doctor’s companion. It will be fantastic to see the final version with all of the elements put together.
Having made a surprise appearance as one of the Doctor’s most notorious of enemies, a Dalek, in last year’s series opener, audiences have been treated to two different versions of the latest companion.
We’ve had one introduction to Clara in the Christmas special, but not necessarily the same Clara we will see in this series, explains Jenna. But the essence of all the different versions is the same, Jenna continues, she’s very brave and resourceful, a match for the Doctor and an explorer in her own right. She dreams of travelling and seeing the world and wants more than what’s on offer.
So how has Jenna found working with Matt Smith? Just a joy, it really is. He is the most perfect leading man and sets such a lovely tone on set, making the atmosphere so wonderful. There’s not much more you could ask for in your co-star, she says.
The series opener ‘The Bells of Saint John’ is a modern day urban thriller, which sees the Doctor and Clara face a monster in the wi-fi, as minds are uploaded by an organisation run by Miss Kizlet (Celia Imrie). Set in London, Jenna was thrown in to the deep end as she was asked to get on a motorbike… driven by the notoriously clumsy Matt Smith.
I loved shooting in London, says Jenna, it was so much fun. It was one of those moments where I thought “I’m filming Doctor Who, on a motorbike, riding across Westminster Bridge with the Houses of Parliament in the background.” So would Jenna trust Matt to drive her on a motorbike in real life? Well on screen it looks very exciting, but both of us were being very silly as we were so tightly strapped in. I just clung on!
As the newest edition to the show, Jenna explains how this series will take the viewer on the same journey of discovery she experienced when she first joined, especially for episode two ‘The Rings of Akhaten’ which is set on an alien planet. It’s one of my favourite episodes, says Jenna, it’s so weird and wonderful and something that only this show can offer. It show’s Clara for the first time what life with the Doctor will be like. It’s a complete fantasy, she continues, and it’s great for audiences as the story begins again and we get to explore all these strange new worlds together, as well as getting to know the Doctor again.
The third episode, ‘Cold War’, set on a Russian submarine marks the return of the classic Doctor Who monster the Ice Warriors. They were terrifying, exclaims Jenna, I think this is the first time Clara is really, really scared. The whole set was really realistic and built to size, which wasn’t too much of a problem for me, she jokes. So how did they make it look so realistic? Before every take they would come and spray us, the whole make-up process was reversed as they would damp us down in the morning and rub my mascara off! We were soaking wet for two weeks.
So having completed filming and watched most of the episodes, does Jenna have a favourite? I really like ‘The Rings of Akhaten’ as and it’s the first proper adventure for the Doctor and Clara.