Doctor Who fans have a special place in their heart for the companions of the titular time traveler — as was demonstrated this week by the outpouring of grief which followed the news that former TARDIS regular Elisabeth Sladen had died.
The Doctor’s current companions are Karen Gillan (who plays Amy Pond) and Arthur Darvill (who plays Amy’s husband Rory). Both were in attendance at a recent New York screening of the new season’s first two episodes, where the pair’s arrival was greeted ecstatically by fans. The following day, EW spoke with Gillan and Darvill separately about the U.K. sci-fi show’s latest run of episodes, which debuts on BBC America this Saturday.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: For the opening two episodes of the new season, you shot in the U.S. — a first for Doctor Who. What was that like?
KAREN GILLAN: Amazing. The shots we got, we just couldn’t do with a green screen in Wales.
In the ’70s-era Doctor Who, the Utah desert scenes would definitely have been shot in a Welsh quarry.
Yes, exactly. Pretty much every alien planet was filmed in a quarry. But, no, it was amazing. We had a helicopter, so we got these massive epic, grand sweeping shots. It looked just like a film. I couldn’t believe it was British television when I saw it.
Tell us about the upcoming season.
I can say that a main character will die in the first episode. And we’re going to find out who River Song is at the end of episode seven. So that’s going to be a bit of a cliffhanger.
What can you tell us about the Doctor Who show written by Neil Gaiman?
It’s got Suranne Jones in it and it’s really really good. Also Amy and Rory might stumble into an old console room.
In the TARDIS?
I wonder why the characters rarely hang out in other parts of the TARDIS. I mean, it’s huge, right?
I know, I want to see the swimming pool and the library…merged!
Did you know who Neil Gaiman was? Are you much of a comic book fan?
Not really. I had heard of him, but I had not read any of his stuff, in all honesty. But when his script came in, everyone was so excited. It’s so brilliant.
Was he on set?
Yeah. I showed him around some corridors. I said, “This is a corridor!”
That may be on your gravestone.
“She showed Neil Gaiman corridors.” Yep.
How has life changed since you started playing Amy Pond?
There’s quite a lot of hype around Doctor Who in the UK. You get recognized a lot more as you’re walking down the street. However, we are kept away filming for nine months of the year. So actually, it’s just the same as it was. You’re kind of shielded. But then you go to a screening or some sort of photo shoot and it’s suddenly brought to your awareness, what you are doing.
What’s next for you?
I am going to play [iconic '60s model] Jean Shrimpton in a drama for BBC 4 about David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton and a photo shoot they did together for Vogue magazine. And we’re going to shoot here in New York. That’s so exciting.
What does Jean Shrimpton do now?
She runs a hotel in Penzance (a coastal town in the south-west of England).
Have you spoken with her?
No, I haven’t. She doesn’t like the fame side of things. She likes to keep away form all of that. But I really want to get in touch with her.
Could you give me one line of your dialogue from this season?
“It’s my phone.” Sorry, that is the worst. It will all make sense!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’ve never been a screening where anyone got quite such an ecstatic reception as you folks did last night.
ARTHUR DARVILL: Neither have I. It was quite surreal. It was great, though. We’re all so kind of hidden away in Cardiff filming this. To suddenly come out here and see that was just really weird. But brilliant.
I think people cheered louder for you than anybody else. Why do you think your character has struck such a chord with Doctor Who fans?
I think it’s something to do with being “the normal guy” on the TARDIS. The Doctor’s the Doctor and he’s amazing — this incredible brain. And Amy’s this fantastic, imaginative, adventurous thing. And Rory’s just trying to get through life a bit. I think people relate to that. I like to think they watch it through his eyes. He’s always freaked out at the times that people would be freaked out.
I heard fans tracked you down when you were filming it America.
That was crazy. Obviously, in Cardiff, they hunt us down fairly easily. But we really didn’t expect to see anyone in America. I mean, the crews we were working with, most of them didn’t really know what the show was. I think it was our first day there, there was a bunch of people that had driven for hundreds of miles to sit by the side of a road and watch us walk between our trailers and the set and were perfectly happy to do so. I think there’s something quite wonderful about Doctor Who fans. They’ll always go the extra mile. Or the extra thousand miles.
This was in Utah?
Yeah. I didn’t even really know where we were! I couldn’t have pointed it out on a map. And also, they keep these things secret. It’s not like open knowledge where we’re filming. But somehow they find out. There’s a whole little detective agency: Where’s Doctor Who filming?
What can you tell us about the upcoming season?
It’s going to be really scary. It’s bigger. The scale of it has completely increased. The first two episodes, they’re like movies. And every episode is of a similar scale, really. Even if it’s in tiny corridors, it feels like a film. It’s very, very scary and it’s very funny. And there are some great twists and turns. Steven Moffat [head writer and Doctor Who overlord] has written numerous cliffhangers that I think will just drive people absolutely insane. It’s just really exciting TV.
Do you have any idea how long you will be on the show? Or is that purely in the noggin of Steven Moffat?
It’s purely in the noggin of Steven Moffat. I’m not told anything. Just in case I give something away, I suppose. Or just so I can’t plan my life! No, it all lies in Steven Moffat’s hands.
Would you ever pose naked with a Dalek, as one of your TARDIS predecessors once did?
No. I don’t think anyone would want to see that, to be perfectly honest.
Judging by the reaction you got from fans last night, that is not true at all.
[Laughs] Trust me, there are going to be no naked pictures of me with Daleks appearing anywhere soon. And I’m sorry to disappoint anyone. Me, I’m keeping my clothes on.
Recite one line of dialogue you say this season.
I think I probably say “Run!” quite a lot.
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‘Doctor Who’: Alex Kingston talks playing River Song, and whether she’d ever pose naked with a Dalek
Elisabeth Sladen: An appreciation of the ‘Doctor Who’ actress
‘Doctor Who’ actress Elisabeth Sladen dies at age 63
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