'Doctor Who': Alex Kingston talks playing the mysterious River Song and whether she'd ever pose naked with a Dalek

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Alex Kingston is best known for her lengthy stint playing Dr. Elizabeth Corday on ER. At least, that’s what she assumed until recently. “In America, people come up and to me and I keep thinking they’re going to say, ‘Oh, I loved you on ER,’” says Kingston. “Now it’s ‘Oh, I love you on Doctor Who.’ I thought BBC America was only watched by Brits. What I’m starting to realize is that a lot of Americans are tuning in now.”

Doctor Who fans of all nationalities will be glued to the TV this Saturday night when BBC America debuts the latest season of cult sci-fi show, in which Kingston has a recurring role as the mysterious River Song. The actress talked with EW about the returning show, why it should be compulsory viewing for children, and whether she’d ever pose naked with a Dalek:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did your years on ER stand in you good stead for reciting pseudo-scientific gobbledy-gook on Doctor Who?
ALEX KINGSTON: [Laughs] Well, it wasn’t gobbledy-gook on ER. It had better make some sense! The difference on ER is that there were always medical consultants working on the show.

You don’t have time travel consultants working on Doctor Who?
No. It’s very frustrating. But I always knew exactly what I was doing on ER. You had to be seen to be doing everything exactly right. So, learning the lines, it made complete sense to me why I was saying what I was saying. Working on Doctor Who is a little bit more difficult because but there is a certain amount of gobbledy-gook. [Laughs] Don’t let [Doctor Who head writer] Steven Moffatt hear me say that!

What is the difference between British and American Doctor Who fans?
The one thing I hope is that more children in America get on board. In England, Doctor Who has always been considered a children’s show, at least by children. My daughter and her contemporaries, they feel like it’s their show. Parents are allowed to watch but it’s the children’s show. Whereas here, it’s still very much a show that people who are interested in sci-fi are all over. Children’s programming in America, I think it’s pretty shoddy in terms of lack of diversity. It’s pretty much cartoons and Disney sort of shows. I don’t find any of that stimulating for children. Doctor Who is really challenging and fulfilling on so many levels.

Was it always the plan for River Song to be a recurring character?
When I first did Doctor Who with David Tennant, I wasn’t expecting that at all. As far as I was concerned, it was just a two episode story arc with me being held forever in a computer, or whatever. But Steven always intended that she would come back.

Because it was made clear right from the start that you had met the Doctor many times in the past, or the future, or whenever.
Yes. The really exciting journey for me, and for Steven, is backtracking. The characters keep missing each other. She’s like the Time Traveler’s Wife. In this particular season, and certainly in the first two episodes, what you see is her knowing that she’s on the brink of the moment where the Doctor doesn’t know any more who she is. And I think that’s just tragic, really.

Say one line of your dialogue from this season.
I can’t! Oh, I can’t. I’d give something away. Okay, let me just think if I can give you something that would be a teaser. Mind you, Steven might kill me for it. Oh, I don’t think I can!

Would you ever pose naked with a Dalek? [EW shows Kingston a photo of a former Doctor Who cast member doing just that] In case you’re thinking that’s a sexist question, I’d like to point out that I asked Matt Smith the same thing.
Did Matt say yes?

He said that he would not.
Who is that?

Katy Manning. She played Jo Grant, one of the Doctor’s assistants
[Gasps] She did play Jo. She posed naked with a Dalek? I can’t believe the BBC allowed that.

I suspect the corporation did give its blessing.
They don’t want any of their monsters ridiculed. But the answer’s no. I would not pose naked with a Dalek.

Read more:
Elisabeth Sladen: An appreciation of the ‘Doctor Who’ actress
‘Doctor Who’ actress Elisabeth Sladen dies at age 63
Matt Smith previews the new season of ‘Doctor Who’: ‘We learn so much about the characters’

Comments (40 total) Add your comment
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  • MWeyer

    Still hoping River turns out to be the Rani.

    • Victoria

      What a beautiful woman and MonogamyDate was amazing

    • Emily Cook

      That would make the flirting a little inappropriate. i don’t think that is the direction they are going in.

  • Rose Tyler

    My husband and I watch every week with our four kids. Yesterday our son went to school dressed as the 10th Doctor. Doctor Who is a family thing in our house and we all love River and hope to see more of her this season.

    • Shar

      My nine year old son went as the 11th Doctor for Halloween last fall. He wouldn’t wear a fez, sadly. Had the bowtie though. My almost five year old girl loves it too, especially the young Amelia.

      • ea

        aww that’s so cute! your kids sound pretty cool!

  • gimplygump

    Maybe someone a few decades later the Doctor weds.

  • Orac

    Romana, returned from E-space…

    • Tarc

      YES! I’d totally freak out (in the very best way) if they brought Romana back! Someone is going to have to do a ‘Rebirth of the Time Lords’ arc sometime soon.

  • Cris

    They keep talking about the game changer. I’m wondering if there’s a real significance to the fact that the Doctor’s got a Pond and a River … maybe they’re actually one and the same?

    • Rush

      River is Amy and Rory’s daughter conceived on the Tardis while it was travelling throught he time vortex.

      • S. Brasseux

        Please label SPOILERS for heaven’s sake!

  • Brian

    At least we’ll always have ‘Croupier.’

  • JMark

    The photo of Katy Manning posing naked with a Dalek was a few years after she left Doctor Who. I believe it was printed in The Sun,the famous trashy UK tabloid.

    • Izzy

      Katy Maanning doesn’t need BBC’s permission but anyone uses the image of Dalek does and they guard it VERY carefully. They didn’t even let Craig Fergusion to use it last year on his talk show, even though Craig is a huge fan.

      • Karen Sealy

        No, Craig was able to use a Dalek. When Matt Smith was on there was a giant Dalek standing (sitting?) next to Geoff Peterson. It was the theme song that wasn’t cleared.

    • slamaina

      It was in “Girl Illustrated” which is an Australian men’s magazine.

  • Gina Vera

    I love EW covering so much DW is a real treat maybe if they do really well DW will get a cover for the second part of the Season!

    I saw Alex at the premier she was wearing this fancy dress with sneakers. I had a David Tennant flashback!

  • Casey

    It may not be considered a children’s here, but I know plenty of kids and teens who love the series. I’ve seen kids be daleks for Halloween, throw Doctor Who viewing parties, and even write papers on it. One of my friends wrote a paper on why daleks will take over humanity. The teacher didn’t know what a dalek was and gave her an A for her “in-depth research”.

    • Bob

      My high schoolers both love Doctor Who (getting very antsy at 7:20PM for the premiere). They even started a Doctor Who club at school.

  • fish eye no miko

    “In case you’re thinking that’s a sexist question, I’d like to point out that I asked Matt Smith the same thing.”

    I just looked at the interview with Smith, and I don’t see that question anywhere. Did EW edit it out, or is Collins lying? Or maybe it’s in another other interview?

    • clark collis

      I did ask Matt Smith the question, as I did Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan, interviews with whom I’ll be posting later in the week (for the record, they both also said that they wouldn’t pose naked with a Dalek). To be honest, as the question seemed entertaining, but not THAT entertaining, and all the answers were the same I didn’t think there was much point including it in more one Q&A.

  • karmink

    i would never let a kid under 13 watch dr. who. it is way inappropriate and violent for young kids. I have watched since the early 1980’s and I feel strongly that dr. who is not, and should never considered a kids show. Even the old, super cheesy dr. whos.

    • Bob

      So I guess you never let them watch the old Warner Bros. cartoons (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, etc.)? I watched all of that growing up and I didn’t become a mass murderer. It’s a great show.

  • awfaw

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  • WONDERING

    When David was the Doc there was an episode where he had a “daughter” who he thought died but in the end you saw her take off in a space ship. I was wondering if she will ever come back in the picture.

    • Amber

      me too!

      • wsugar

        not me

  • orville

    Alex, you’ll always be Hero in “Much Ado About Nothing” and Cordelia in “King Lear” (from the 1990 season in the Royal Shakespeare Company) or Moll Flanders.

    • Bob

      So are you going to see Catherine Tate’s version this summer in “Much Ado About Nothing”?

    • Leslie

      I remember Alex from ER-one of favorite characters. And she was wonderful in Moll Flanders. Are we dating ourselves?

  • cork

    As a 60 year old American viewer, I think Dr Who is great! I also think Alex is SO HOT!!!!!! What ever I could contribute to her, I will!!! Google me!!!!!!!!!!

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