Many of the fans packed into Hall H on Thursday waited overnight on the street outside of the San Diego Convention Center for their chance to catch Peter Capaldi’s first appearance at SDCC since becoming the Twelfth Doctor on Doctor Who. Capaldi himself had visited the line for Hall H earlier in the day, embodying the goodwill actors portraying the Doctor have shown fans going all the way back to the classic series era.
Headoverfeels.com creators and editors Sage Young and Kim Rogers held their spots in line for 21 hours, with only one break to rest at a nearby friend’s house. “We had an amazing time,” Rogers said of the nearly day-long experience, “we thought it would be miserable but it was a gorgeous day. We had food, we had friends, and we knew we would have an amazing seat.” The pair ended up being some of the first 100 people let into the massive 6,500 seat hall.
If the fans were tired from their line-waiting experience, their enthusiasm was undimmed as Capaldi took the stage with co-stars Jenna Coleman and Michelle Gomez, who portray the Doctor’s companion Clara and long-time nemesis The Master respectively. The stars were joined on the panel by showrunner and long-time Whovian Steven Moffat. Chris Hardwick of The Nerdist and Talking Dead moderated the hour-long discussion.
Hardwick kicked things off by commenting on Capaldi’s take on the Doctor’s newest regeneration, saying: “I love that you’re kind of cranky and intense.”
Capaldi replied: “I think he [Steven Moffat] just saw those qualities in me, and just cast me.”
For his part, Moffat explained that writing for the different Doctors wasn’t what made them unique, saying: “On paper the Doctors are actually quite similar, it’s what the actors bring to it.”
Putting on the mantle of a character that’s over 50 years old is no simple task. “Did you feel the weight of Who immediately?” asked Hardwick of Capaldi, who is still in the midst of filming the show’s ninth season.
“It’s in my bones, it’s the only show I’ve followed since I was six years old,” said Capaldi, who then referenced his first appearance on the BBC series in the rebooted fourth season. “I thought that would be the only time of being in Doctor Who.” He then related how excited he was to be on set while David Tennant was playing the part of the Doctor’s Tenth incarnation, asking: “‘David! David! where’s the TARDIS?’ I got quite teary.”
Coleman revealed that her character, Clara Oswald, companion to both the Eleventh and and Twelfth Doctors, “has a rule that that she gets dropped off 30 seconds before she left. I think she’s a bit of a control freak.” Coleman then added that “This series she’s more head first into the TARDIS,” and would be spending more time on-board the Time Lord’s time-traveling spaceship.
Following “Death in Heaven,” the finale episode of season 8 which saw Gomez’s character seemingly de-materialized in the final moments of the show, there was much in the way of fan-speculation that we hadn’t seen the last of The Master’s game-changing female regeneration known as Missy. Her appearance on the panel confirmed the theories correct.
When Hardwick asked Gomez’s approach to playing Missy, she replied: “Luckily I never know why I’m saying what I’m saying…the writing is all there for me. It’s just a thrill to turn up and get this opportunity to be The Master, it’s still ‘pinch me?’” Gomez further explained her take on the long-running character, saying: “I think he or she or it is the best friend you love to hate…the rules don’t apply to her and that makes her really fun to play.”
Moffat agreed with Gomez’s assessment of the Doctor/Master relationship: “They are friends, which is terrifying. It’s like a friendship between a vegetarian and a hunter.”
Gomez added: “It’s this great friendship that just went wrong. And we’ve all had those…and you’re trying to get in the way of me destroying the universe,” she said, looking to Capaldi, “which I have to do! We both kill a lot of people, he feels bad about it, I don’t.”
Capaldi expounded on his feelings regarding the character of the Doctor: “ I think he doesn’t know who he is, he’s always scrambling around trying to figure out who he is…he’s a constantly growing character.” Echoing a debate his Doctor has with Clara’s love interest Danny over his military past, Capaldi continued: “He’s not a soldier. He’d rather sit at night in a car park looking at the stars than be blowing up Daleks,” before adding: “I like blowing up Dalek’s.”
Though Capaldi felt his Doctor was still mostly a “bohemian/philosopher/rebel time lord,” Coleman was asked about her character’s trouble with the transition of the Eleventh into the Twelfth Doctor.
“She was familiar with how it was working,” said Coleman, “then suddenly your best friend changes his face and who knows what to trust anymore? It’s changing all the rules basically.”
Hardwick inquired after the health of Twelve and Clara’s relationship, asking: “Are they okay now?”
Coleman felt they were, saying: “They’ve found their groove, eating up all of time and space with reckless abandon.”
A never-before seen trailer for Doctor Who’s upcoming ninth season was then shown, which announced the return date of the series as September 19th and ended with a shot of highly publicized guest star Maisie Williams squaring off with Capaldi’s Doctor. The Doctor clearly recognizes Williams’ mysterious character, saying, “You?”
To which Williams replies: “What took you so long, old man?”
When the lights came back up, Moffat explained he could say no more about the episodes featuring the actress, best known for her work on Game of Thrones as fan-favorite character Arya Stark.
Capaldi told the crowd about the first moment he felt he was really the Doctor: “I think it’s when they threw a rubber spider in my face and said: ‘fight it!’ I said, it doesn’t work, where’s the operator? And they said: ‘there is no operator, it’s just a big rubber spider. Fight it!’”
Coleman was asked about her character’s difficulty in returning to a normal life after adventures on the TARDIS, to which she answered: “I think it becomes addictive and I think that’s the problem.”
Pondering the fact of the TARDIS’ “bigger on the inside” feature, Moffat said “I used to wonder why the Doctor didn’t use that more? ‘Don’t believe I’m an alien? Look at that!’” When the crowd didn’t react, he continued: “I guess that was just me, then. My Mom was right I should have got a girlfriend instead. Applause for my imaginary girlfriend!” The crowd offered some, and over the sound of the clapping Moffat teased: “Virginity kept me pure.”
The Doctor, for all his humanity, often fails to understand human nature. This seems particularly true of Capaldi’s incarnation, with Coleman commenting: “Clara teaches him how to interact with humans more this season…helps him with his social skills, makes him more of a welcome party guest.”
Speaking again of the Doctor/Master relationship, Moffat said: “This is not new, the Doctor and the master being friends.” He explained he recently went back and viewed “the Delgado and Pertwee episodes.” Said Moffat: “One of them wants to blow up the world the other one wants to stop it, but they don’t let a little thing like that get in the way.”
When the panel opened up to questions from the audience, one came from a young boy who thanked the panel for helping him with his “Make-a-wish.” Moffat seemed visibly moved in recognizing the child, who asked what Capaldi felt was iconic about this Doctor.
Capaldi answered: “Eyebrows.”
Hardwick extended the question to the other actors on the panel, and when Coleman balked at answering, Moffat chimed in with: “Eyes, huge eyes!”
Gomez added “Lips. Obviously.” She then talked of her kiss with the Doctor in episode 11 of last season, asking fans to decide who was kissing who, saying that if they watched it back again: “Peter is — there’s some suction there…what you couldn’t see was I was also holding Clara’s hand.”
“That’s hot!” a fan cried loudly from the audience.
Another fan asked of Moffat what literature he drew most from for inspiration. Moffat answered: “Doctor Who is what made me wanted to be a writer…. I was so inspired by Doctor Who.“He added: “Every screenplay William Goldman has written is great, and if you want to know about comedy writing read Neil Simon.” He later added: “For the record, I do anything for a laugh, I’m a tart.”
When the panel was asked to describe their character’s perfect day, Gomez replied she thought Missy would start her day with a croissant and some tea before saying: “And then slapping Wonder Woman in the face.”
One of the final questions asked if the panel had any advice for aspiring actors. Gomez said: “My agent calls me the roach because I keep getting squashed like a bug and coming back,” before encouraging the audience: “just never give up. This world is abundant, there’s enough for everyone.”
As the panel drew to a close, Capaldi reflected on his first SDCC experience: “To come here and find this warmth and affection for something I’ve been following since childhood is extraordinary….I feel the warmth of the full 50 years pointed right at me.”
Hardwick closed the proceedings by showing a trailer for the recently announced Lego: Dimensions video game featuring a Lego version of Capaldi’s Doctor interacting with Lego Batman and character’s from the Oscar nominated The Lego Movie. Hardwick also announced that his Nerdist network would be broadcasting a TV special titled Doctor’s Finest on August 15th, showcasing the Nerdist’s top 8 favorite episodes of Doctor Who hosted by Youtuber Hannah Hart.