BBC America has been having a good year, coming off its highest-rated quarter ever and having a legit, surprise hit on its hands with the rollicking sci-fi drama “Orphan Black.” The network rolled into the TCA summer press tour with its major franchise “Doctor Who” prepping for a major change as Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith departs the series and it celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special.
Is a new Doctor set yet? According to producer Marcus Wilson, who appeared with Smith and Jenna Coleman (who plays Clara Oswald), “the search is ongoing — you just want the best actor possible for the role. You just cast the net wide and hope you find somebody brilliant.” Timing is “all being worked out at the moment. We’re concentrating on Matt’s send-off.”
As for Smith, prepping to shoot his final episode is “kind of business of usual. We just make the show,” the actor said. “We jump into the hype and the fandom when we come to Comic-Con and here. It is going to be emotional — it’s a transformative experience as an actor,” he allowed. “The thing about ‘Doctor Who’ is it always looks forward.” The decision to leave, he said, “wasn’t an easy point to make,” but he felt “the show has come to a natural tipping point — it’s a good time for me and the show.”
In terms of what’s next for his career, Smith said “I’m the same as anyone else — just because I’ve done ‘Doctor Who’ doesn’t give me any divine right to walk into other jobs.” “I mean, I hope it does,” he laughed, noting he’d just made a film with Ryan Gosling, who “got in touch because he’d seen a bit of ‘Doctor Who.'”
The 50th anniversary special “An Adventure in Space and Time” is set to debut on November 23rd, a TV film about the creation of the “Doctor Who” series, directed by Terry McDonough and written by “Doctor Who” and “Sherlock” writer Mark Gatiss. McDonough and David Bradley, who plays the first Doctor William Hartnell (and who, it was pointed out, is “fresh from becoming the world’s worst wedding host” on “Game of Thrones”) were at TCA to talk about the feature.
McDonough noted that they wanted to recreate an era-appropriate look, with a “’60s Technicolor feel to it” and grain added. The scenes from the original show were recreated shot-for-shot, which meant hiring someone to operate a TV pedestal camera, as in 1963 the original creators were only allowed to stop the tape four times an episode, and were essentially shooting live otherwise. Despite the limited budget and resources, the series “was way ahead of its time,” McDonough added, pointing out it also involved both the first female producer and Indian director in the BBC.
The press corps wasn’t about to let Bradley go without commenting on playing Walder Frey on “Game of Thrones” and perpetrating the Red Wedding. “I love playing him, because he’s just irredeemable. There’s almost a comic relish to what he does. Like Shakespeare’s Richard III, he’s a great actor and just relishes the villainy and shares it with the audience,” said Bradley.
Bradley’s brush with fandom has been a new experience for him — “I tend to meet more people than I did,” he allowed. “Comic-Con — I had no idea how big these things were.” While he does get scolded from fans sometimes for his character’s actions, “I’m not exactly watching my back — they’ve got a twinkle when they admonish me.” For his part, he confessed to having watched the YouTube footage of the reactions to the sequence.