Matt Smith previews the new season of 'Doctor Who': 'We learn so much about the characters'

Dr-Who-Smith

This Saturday, the new season of cult British sci-fi show Doctor Who debuts on BBC America. The premiere is the first half of a two-part story in which the titular time lord (Matt Smith) travels back to 1969 America and battles an alien menace known as The Silence, with help from Richard Nixon.

As a self-confessed Whovian, I have of course marked this momentous occasion by placing a four foot tall inflatable Dalek outside my office door. Also, over the next few days I will be posting interviews with cast members Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, and Alex Kingston. But first up, it’s Mr. Gallifrey himself: Matt Smith.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How would you compare the new season with the previous one, which was your first as the Doctor?
MATT SMITH: I think Steven [Moffat, Doctor Who head writer and executive producer] is really pushing the form in terms of writing the show. He’s tailoring his writing more specifically than ever for me and Karen and Arthur, so that’s quite exciting. What’s great about this season is that we learn so much narratively about the characters we’ve invested in — River Song and the Doctor and Amy Pond. And that’s always good TV, isn’t it?

Would you say it is a darker season?
I think Steven’s writing is always quite dark. You look at “Blink.” You look at “The Empty Child.” I think we’ve got a great monster in The Silence.

You and the rest of the cast received a genuinely Beatlemania-esque reception at the recent New York screening of the first two episodes.
I know. It’s so overwhelming. There’s something wonderful about the way Americans communicate their enthusiasm for the show. It’s overpoweringly wonderful.

One woman who asked a question was actually moved to tears.
It’s mad isn’t it? But I guess that’s the power of the show. It has nothing to do with me or Karen or Arthur or anyone. It’s the Doctor. It’s that character who is the star.

Why do think Doctor Who connects so well with Americans?
It seems like there’s a real appetite for science fiction in the States. The storytelling in Doctor Who is quite universal. I think there will always be stories that are interesting about this mad man who turns up and saves the universe with a cricket bat and piece of string and a toaster. There’s something interestingly ridiculous about it. It’s a wonderful televisual conceit. One of the greatest. But we really want to push it in the States and we want it to reach a wider audience.

Is that why you shot parts of the opening episodes in America?
That’s probably a producer question. I think Steven’s quite interested in that period, in the ‘60s, and probably just wanted to write about a president. I don’t know if there was any other motive other than it was a good story. There’s something great about having Nixon in it, isn’t there? It’s just cool to see a lot of American actors in Doctor Who. I find it totally intriguing. And then to come to Utah and film in those locations that have such filmic history. Those locations are vast and sprawling and epic and that’s everything that you want Doctor Who to be.

Would you like to film more in America?
Oh, yeah. I would love to come back next year. I’d love to film one in New York. That would be great.

One of the episodes in the new season was written by comics legend Neil Gaiman. What can you tell us about that?
Well, um, not a great deal, as always. Sorry to be a pain! But we were thrilled to get a writer of his sci-fi stature and magnitude on board. And he’s applied his rather brilliant and mad brain to a brilliant and mad idea. All I can say is that the Doctor spends a lot of time with the Tardis.

Michael Sheen is in that episode. What was it like acting with him?
I didn’t, actually. Because he came in and did a voice for it. So I didn’t get any actual scenes with him. Which is a shame. But, god, it’s a real coup to get an actor of his quality.

You’ve said that there’s a cliffhanger at the end of episode 6 that is going to flip people’s wigs.
Yeah. Totally. And seven as well. But it all starts kicking off in six. This year, there’s some really great cliffhangers. It’s quite a dramatic season and, as I said, big and sprawling and quite cinematic.

Is it strange playing a role that you know one day you’ll hand off to somebody else?
No, because I think [it’s the same] if you play Hamlet or Macbeth or Lear or any of these character. But it’s certainly a role that’s the greatest challenge of my career to date. He’s the most exciting and brilliant character that I’ve ever played, absolutely.

Do you know how long you will be playing him for? Or is that information which resides solely in the mind of Steven Moffat?
That kind of is, I’m afraid. As are most things that are Doctor-related. But it’s a job I love and not one that I want to give up any time soon.

Recite one line of your dialogue from this season.
“I wear a Stetson now. Stetsons are cool.”

You can check out the trailer for the new season of Doctor Who below.

More from EW.com:
‘Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol’ review

Comments (48 total) Add your comment
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  • znachki

    So excited for Saturday! I’ve been a Who fan for decades(Thank you KTBC!!)- and I loved last season. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

    • znachki

      Oops – that’s KBTC.

    • LOL

      Americans love crap.

    • Gurjinder

      karl deogracias July 9, 2010 this post is quite old pero cnmoemt pa rin ako.i have been here at france for around 10 years now and theres a little truth the the frenchies arrogance. but for me the worse people are the brits. they are the most racist and the most arrogant..if not for the english channel and the americans, the british would be speaking german.

    • Alessandro

      m/41/76 /255#Took an extra rest day after the 7 mile run on Sunday: CF WoD: Time approx. 22:00 I gseused because I was so smoked that I forgot to stop my watch at the end of the last row. All as RX’d except jumping pull-ups.Had a brain fart and forgot to do the DE SDLs today so I’ll make it up tomorrow.

  • Caitrin

    OMG SQUEE I can’t wait!!!

  • Shea

    just found out very sad news for the Whoniverse. Elizabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith passed away. So sad to hear this, she was a tremendous actress.

    • spiek78

      Yeah, sad. She was great!

      • Muhammad

        Happy Christmas and New Year to Everyone. It has been a surreal 2011 Kate wise. Even thoguh it\’s happened and I have two brilliant new albums to listen too I still don\’t quite believe it. Time is just evaporating. It didn\’t seem that long ago when a New Kate album felt like it was just not going to happen at all, ever. Then we got Aerial, and this year Director\’s Cut and 50 Words for Snow. Suddenly Kate\’s post- Red Shoes work feels not only real but even prolific!! Here\’s to the future and many more amazing years like this one.

    • Alice

      What a shock! I grew up watching her with Tom Baker. Sympathy to her family.

  • Tracy

    Elisabeth Sladen better known as Sarah Jane Smith has passed. very sad day.

    • Mark A

      She had started filming the next series of The Sarah Jane Adventures.
      Don’t know if enough was filmed to show a new story.
      The BBC are repeating some old stories on the cBBC channel this week.

  • Anissa

    Sorry to hear about Elizabeth. I really really hope River Song is not too present this season. I really don’t like her!

    • Yogzotot

      Sorry to disappoint: River Song will already appear in the opening episodes, and Moffat was clear that this season we will finally know who she actually is. And no, it’s not about the Neil Gaiman episode with the infamous title…

    • AB

      How can you not love River Song? Her name alone is music. River is the best!!!

      • MyGeekLife

        How can anyone hate River Song? She’s witty, complicated, sexy, and absolutely brilliant, as close to an actual intellectual equal as we’ve seen on the show since Jack Harkness. And as a tragic romantic foil for the Doctor, she absolutely blows Rose Tyler away. In addition to being one of the strongest female characters in science fiction today. What’s not to like?

  • mage?!

    I have been an American Whovian for decades now. It is nice to know that we are finally embracing this brilliant BBC export for the genius and wildly entertaining program that it is.

    (Very sad to to hear about Elizabeth Sladen, I had the most fierce crush on her.) Long live the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith.

  • Fido

    Dr Who in America – rock the rock on !!!!

  • znachki

    Absolutely gutted… RIP Elisabeth Sladen. First the Brig, now Sarah Jane.

  • Kal

    I’m so excited for the new series, it looks fantastic, and Matt Smith is wonderful as the Doctor. Also: RIP, Elisabeth Sladen, you were wonderful too.

  • JCHicks

    Great interview, and I look forward to reading the ones with Karen, Arthur and Alex. … RIP Elisabeth Sladen

  • REW

    Yay, in only four days!

    But I’m also in deep mourning for Liz Sladen–Sarah Jane was one of my favorite companions and I really wanted to meet her someday. Now I never will.

  • Sandy

    Yay, Doctor Who is coming back! Bring back the fez…. Only just started into the Sarah Jane Chronicles and it’s a shame to hear about Elisabeth’s passing.

  • Shadow

    According to Terminator 2, today April 19, 2011 … at 8:11 PM … Skynet became self aware.

    • Jeremy w.

      Sarah conner chronicles. Not T2.

      • jp

        …and wrong Sarah. Although that is an interesting tidbit.

      • Chris

        Run for your lives! Some crazy futuristic tanks are attacking outside of my office building!

  • Chobeesix

    Is it Saturday yet? Having a hard time waiting for this season, er, series. Matt’s my doctor and I hope he sticks around for a very long time. (RIP Elisabeth Sladen and condolences to her family and friends. She will be missed.)

  • Kat

    I’m so excited! Sadly, I’ll have to watch it online, because I don’t have BBC America.

    And I almost cried when I heard about Elisabeth Sladen. You will be missed, Sarah Jane.

    Kat

    • Yoosafali

      Hi someone. Not rellay. I did not base it on that. I just used it as an example. It’s just that most of my friends abroad always tell me that people’s first impression of them is like that.But yeah, I feel you especially re your last paragraph. Most of my non-Pinoy friends always tell me that some of their lot find our being-so-proud-yeah-we’ll-rub-it-in when it comes to our achievements annoying sometimes, especially on the Web.and the Kurakot part. the sadder part is, you know there’s truth in that.Hey, thanks for dropping by. I appreciate your comment. It makes me rethink a number of things, actually.

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