SDCC 2008: Doctor Who and Torchwood

Julie started the panel by apologizing that Russel T. Davies, Doctor Who‘s current showrunner, who was originally scheduled to appear at the panel, could not come because he is currently hard at work writing the third season of Torchwood. Steven Moffat quickly added that he is currently working on the fifth season of Doctor Who. Both were met by obvious approval from the audience.

The first question was what kind of emotional memories did Julie and Steven have from Doctor Who and what the show means for them. Julie admitted to not being a fan as a child but has come around in recent years. Her highlights include when she reads a new script for the first time and explores a new story as well as the read throughs where she can see how the actors bring their own interpretations to the story. Steven "saw the light earlier" and has been a Doctor Who fan since childhood. He first saw the new series as a fan until his own episodes ("The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances" two-parter in Season 1) made him a part of the show. He likened it to an airline passenger who loves flying being told to have a go at the airplane controls before realizing that that analogy isn’t very good because that scenario would be "bloody terrifying!"

Julie wanted to know if Steven found the first time he had to write for the Doctor or write a TARDIS scene to be a momentous one. Steven’s simple reply: "yes." While it was terrifying, he said he couldn’t let himself think of it that way and had to treat it as a job, then admitted that it’s great to be a fanboy who’s been given the "enormous toy" that is writing for the show. He says that in Britain, parents reward their children’s good behavior by letting them watch Doctor Who so he must have been the best behaved boy in all of the UK. Julie was quick to point out that Steven is not the best behaved boy in all of the UK because his scripts require a lot of expense and can be a producer’s nightmare. Her example was in the Season 2 episode, "The Girl in the Fireplace," where Steven’s script required 18th century France, a spaceship, and a horse breaking through a mirror into a ballroom. That is not good for the budget. Steven thought that a straight forward period costume drama was too boring. Whenever he saw one, he thought, "alien death machine kills them all!" The audience seemed to agree with his sentiment. Julie tried to cut the horse from the episode, but it kept coming back.

The moderator wanted to know how Doctor Who and its spinoff shows (Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures) have affected Cardiff, Wales where all three series film. Julie pointed out an audience member near the front who was dressed in a Welsh flag shirt and was also carrying a Welsh flag to audience cheers. She felt that the city has been very accommodating to the shows and is thankful for their cooperation.

A few clips were then shown of Steven’s previous work on Doctor Who, including "The Girl in the Fireplace," "Blink," and "Silence in the Library."

The next question was whether the actor Steven writes for influences his writing of the character. Steven felt that doing so would insult the actor. For example, he always writes for a character called The Doctor regardless of the actor and it is the individual actor that brings his particular interpretation to the role.

Questions were then taken from the audience. The first person wanted to know what the future of Doctor Who and Torchwood would be and whether stories about Gallifrey or the Time Lords, etc. would be told. "I’m not telling you!" was Steven’s reply.

The next person thought that the phrase, "wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey" was the best time paradox get out clause written. Steven begged to differ since there was no paradox in "Blink" and therefore was not a get out clause. He thought the phrase was funny and was a lot better than a bunch of boring technobabble. He also thought it was nice to know what was going to be on his gravestone one day.

Another audience member had previously asked Neil Gaiman whether he was going to write for Doctor Who. Neil had replied that it would be nice and that she should ask Steven. Steven replied that Neil Gaiman writing for Doctor Who would in fact be "nice," but wouldn’t confirm or deny whether it was happening. Julie thought all this talk between what Neil said and Steven said made her feel like she was watching a date. "They’ll be having dinner next," she exclaimed.

The next person wanted to know how Steven felt when he was chosen to be the new showrunner for Doctor Who. Steven thinks it’s exciting and fun, but all things that are fun are also hard work. They were followed by another who wondered if we would get more information about the Face of Boe. Julie pointed out just how excited John Barrowman was when he read the "The Last of the Time Lords" script where it revealed that Captain Jack was the Face of Boe. Steven won’t say whether anything more about Boe will be revealed.

Another person wanted to know what it was like writing character with a future history like River Song in the "Silence in the Library" / "The Forest of the Dead" two-parter and whether there was pressure to bring her back. Steven thought she was interesting for throwing in references to untold stories like how Russel references the Time War every now and again. Since we know the Doctor will see River again, Steven thinks that the Doctor may "sneak out of the TARDIS late one night with champagne and a corsage and possibly his toothbrush." He then advised the audience to never accidentally drop your toothbrush on a first date because you just look way too hopeful and "there’s no way out of that!" Julie wanted to know whether Steven was speaking from experience. "Or handcuffs, don’t drop handcuffs," he added. Julie did want to know whether River was the Doctor’s wife. Steven whispered the answer in her ear, but unfortunately, the audience was left out of that detail.

Audience questioning resumed with someone wanting to know which era was Steven’s favorite. He wisely replied that the upcoming fifth season looks pretty good and really he loves everything from the beginning to present but the new series is his favorite because he’s been able to write for it.

The next person asked about what the inspiration was for all the creepy monsters in Steven’s stories. He said it’s from watching Doctor Who as a child. He also said that fellow Who writer Gareth Roberts pointed out that you write the show you remember watching as a child. Since Steven remembers being scared silly while watching Doctor Who but loving it anyway, he writes things that he thinks would be scary but fun for kids. Another wanted to know if we’ll see Rose and associated characters beyond where we last see them at the end of the current season. Of course, Steven wouldn’t tell.

The next audience member had heard that Steven had some trouble getting into the US for the convention. "I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Americans really hate us!" He said there were forms to fill out and if you did them wrong, you were sent back to the end of the line. He was also questioned by a security officer and eventually taken to a room with other people "who all were definitely guilty" to the point where he felt the need to confess anything. When he told the officer that he was in America for Comic-Con, the officer ask
ed, "is that what you are?" He didn’t know what to say. Julie thought that if you wanted to know any spoilers about Season 5, just work security at the airport.

Following that, it was back to the show. The next question was about whether there were any creative differences between Moffat and the producers. Not really, apparently. There would be compromises and trying to accommodate all of the ideas with budget limitations. Steven then remembered a time when there was a disagreement and Julie ended up being right. After prodding from Julie to provide details, he mentioned the end of "The Forest of the Dead." He did not want Donna’s two children included at the end under the care of River. Julie wanted them there. Now she thinks that keeping the children there was right factually, but emotionally it would have been better not to include them.

The moderator wondered if there were any regrets about the decisions that were made throughout the new series. Julie said there were none. Compromises always have to be made when producing a show due to scheduling and budget constraints and that’s just part of the job.

The next audience member was admittedly a little mean spirited but asked his question anyway. "Who’s your least favorite Doctor?" That question caused a bit of an uproar in the crowd. "I don’t have one, they’re all brilliant," said Steven. He also pointed out that there really is only one Doctor so you can’t have a least favorite.

Another wanted to know if there could be a crossover between Doctor Who and Secret Diary of a Call Girl. Julie said they already have a show and it’s Torchwood. Steven thought you should just watch Secret Diary and pretend it’s Rose. The next guy wanted to know if River Song recognized the Tenth Doctor or if she could recognize the Doctor in a different regeneration. Steven said that the way he saw it, she has met the Tenth Doctor "but that’s not the only Doctor she’s met."

The next question was what was their favorite episode of the new series. Steven said that the episode he’s watched the most was "The Christmas Invasion." "I absolutely adore that one." Julie doesn’t really have a favorite because "it changes all the time," but if she picked one it would be "Utopia."

Another asked if other previous Doctors would be in the new series, acknowledging that there would be a "logistical problem" getting the first three Doctors into the show. "That would be one hell of a logistical problem!" noted Steven. Having a previous Doctor is a stunt that is only good for "8 minutes" according to Steven. There would need to be a good reason in the story to have a previous Doctor return, but he isn’t particularly in favor or against it.

The next question was about the Doctor’s final regeneration and a suggestion of how they could keep the Doctor alive beyond it. Steven just feels that since the Time Lords are gone, the rules no longer apply. "Since when did the Doctor obey any rules? He’ll be fine."

That was followed by a guy wanted to know where Steven got the idea for the Weeping Angels in "Blink." Steven said that statues are creepy and when into how there’s a childhood game where kids creep up behind others. When faced with all the blank stares, he wondered "do other people play that game or was that just me?" "He’s talking about dating again," added Julie.

The next person noted that Doctors seem to be getting younger in attitude and appearance and wondered if there was a reason for it. Julie’s simple answer, "running." Steven launched into an explanation of how when you’re young you want to be older and when you’re older, you act younger. Julie still thinks the reason is running. "He always ran," said Steven. "He runs faster now."

Another asked if Steven has a visual in his head when creating new stories. Steven thinks that the art department does a really good job of making things that look a lot better than what he’s visualized in his head. Julie pointed out that sometimes Russel would draw something since he has a background in drawing but it’s always a team effort with the art department. The following person wanted to know how Steven writes continuity. "I’ve taken the precaution of memorizing every event in Doctor Who history." Steven then added that a show that has parallel universes and the concept of changing time can not have a continuity error.

The next person wanted to know if the writers think twice about the international audience when they write a joke that may be too British. "You know what we do when we have a joke that’s too British?" asked Steven. "Put it in anyway!" Another asked if Steven ever gets scared of something he’s written. He thought it would be a bit sad if you’re afraid of something you thought of since you know too much about it. He occasionally gets scared of being unable to finish a script and has been scared from other people’s episodes like "Midnight" written by Russel.

Another wanted to see other classic series companions in the new series. "You’ve got all the action figures, haven’t you?" asked Steven. Once again, he won’t say whether he will or won’t but he noted that the show is at its best when it’s new and that they aren’t in the business of being "nostalgic." The moderator thought K9 must be fun to do. Julie just thinks "K9 is a nightmare to film." She did note that Phil Collinson, the former Producer of the show, loved K9. The good think about Doctor Who according to her is that you can have the old in the context of the new.

The next person wanted to know about a second season of Jekyll. Steven pointed out that he’s currently busy and that plans for a second season were always vague. Julie said that he will be taped to his chair this time next year, busy writing for Doctor Who. "I’d still come [to Comic-Con]," said Steven, making a cheap shot toward Russel T. Davies. "No, I’ve spoken to immigration," Julie shot back with the audience in laughter.

Another asked a question for a friend who wasn’t there about how scary Doctor Who is. Steven thinks, "you’re supposed to watch from behind the sofa." That was followed by someone who asked if events from the 1996 Fox TV movie are part of cannon and whether the Doctor really is half human on his mother’s side. Steven thinks the movie happened since you see the Eighth Doctor. As for the human thing, there isn’t a direct contradiction in the show’s history so it could be possible.

The final question was about the decision to bring Jenny back to life at the end of "The Doctor’s Daughter." Steven was quite surprised that the idea to bring her back was his since it was a passing comment he made that leaving her dead was "something Star Trek would do."

Julie then presented a surprise for the audience. A trailer for the Christmas special aired at the end of the season finale in the UK. They had apparently cut a longer version of the trailer, but didn’t air it before. This is what was shown for the audience at Comic-Con.

With that, Steven left the stage and it was time for the Torchwood half of the panel. Julie started to announce the panelists, but they hadn’t arrived at the room yet. While everyone waited for the actors to arrive, they screened the Doctor Who Christmas special trailer again. After that, Julie announced the panelists: John Barrowman, Gareth David Lloyd, and Naoko Mori. John made a move to kiss Ga
reth when he came out on the stage, but didn’t. He did the same to Naoko but with a dip. "I apologize now for everything I’ve said or done," said John.

The moderator started things off by asking everyone if they had a difficult time getting into the country since Steven had problems. None did. "I’ve never had a problem getting in," said John. He pointed out that he went to university in San Diego and knew the town well. He had just come in from Toronto and brought his whole family with him, who were in the audience. Gareth had just arrived the day before. Naoko had already been in the US for a few weeks, "eating lots of Mexican food." "I thought you were eating lots of Mexicans." said Gareth. "We’re across the border so you’re fine," added John.

Torchwood is more "sexed up" than Doctor Who and the moderator wanted the panelists to tell a little more about that. "Thank God Steven Moffat’s left the panel," said Julie, probably thinking about all the dating innuendo that had just transpired. John doesn’t think it’s necessarily more sexed up but that it reflects real life. "We all sleep with aliens," added Gareth. Naoko thinks Tosh really gets around for someone with a sad lonely life. John pointed out that Captain Jack for all his talk doesn’t actually do anything. "He keeps his coat on," Naoko added. "Coat sex – safe sex" is how John put it. Gareth disagreed with a simple, "Episode 11 [season 2]. There was no coat in naked hide and seek."

The next question was how each actor saw their character. Naoko thinks she has a lot in common with Tosh in that she’s a bit of a geek and liked how she came out of her shell. Gareth likes the mysterious nature of Ianto because it makes him more interesting and he "gets to shag the leading man." John likes the way that Jack started out as an unlikeable person in Doctor Who and became more human and loves humanity and he gets to play a hero. "There’s a lot of John Barrowman in Captain Jack…" John started to say before he realized how it sounded. "There’s a lot of Ianto there as well," added Gareth.

With that they played a few clips from Torchwood, ending with Tosh’s death scene. All the panelists were teary eyed after that. John said that that particular scene was very hard for everyone but praised Naoko for acting it "so beautifully." "That’s the second time I’ve died in John Barrowman’s arms," Naoko pointed out since the two of them starred in Miss Saigon several years ago. Julie apologized to the audience that Tosh had to die.

It was now time for the audience questions. The first person talked about the Downfall clip on the Internet with new subtitles showing Hitler discussing how upset he was with the end of Torchwood season 2. John has seen the clip and thinks that whoever did it "has far too much time on their hands." He thinks it was very funny but slightly sick but he loves that. Gareth had also seen it and thought it was funny.

The next wanted to know if two Doctor Who cast members seen at the end of the fourth season were going to be in Torchwood. Julie told everyone to wait and see. The moderator pointed out that deals regarding Torchwood season 3 were done just that morning.

Another asked if Jack and Ianto will get married and have children. "Season 6" was the cheeky reply. John pointed out how Jack said he’s been pregnant and was never doing it again. John’s microphone was getting turned off around this point but they got it working again.

The next person was a father asking for his son who he was trying to embarrass. The question was about how different season 3 was going to be. Julie said that this mini season is one story and the team have never been under such a high level of stress or jeopardy. John said he doesn’t like to fly and was reading the script for the first episode on a plane. The story was so engrossing he didn’t even care about the flight.

That was followed by someone who wanted to know what the initial emotional response from each panelist was when they read their first script for Torchwood. Naoko was excited about the possibility of working with Russel T. Davies and liked the combination of science fiction, action, and drama. She saw a lot of potential in the show. Gareth had read an article about the show before he got a script. He liked the concept and once he got an audition, he worked really hard to get the couple of lines he had right so he could get on the show. John was already playing Captain Jack on Doctor Who and was very excited about heading his own series. He acted out the geeky excited reaction he had at the time for the audience’s benefit. Julie said that they were in a hotel bar in Central London when he was yelling and jumping around while they were trying to calm him down so the information doesn’t leak to the public too early.

Another audience member wanted to know what it was like for John to work with Andy Barnicle. Andy was John’s acting teacher in college. He had the attitude that all the acting students were wasting their time with acting but "look where I am now!" John thinks Andy was a great teacher and added that he still teaches.

The next person asked John which of his three fellow panelists he would marry, shag, and throw off a cliff. Since Tosh is dead, Naoko would get thrown off the cliff but John said he would shag her first. He would shag Julie because he thinks she has a wild side in her. Finally, he would marry Gareth because he’s seen him naked. "Season 6," said Julie.

Following that amusing interlude was someone who wanted to know if it was possible to get Steven Moffat to write for Torchwood. Julie said he is busy. Another asked John if he would play Captain America in the movies. Once again Julie pointed out that he is busy. John would love to because Captain America is one of his favorite superheroes. He did say there were some other things he was working on.

Another person wanted to know how the actors reacted to the new character background information revealed in the episode "Fragments." Julie said they didn’t tell the actors about the background stories until they read the scripts so it was a surprise for all of them. John said he waits until the last possible minute to read his scripts because he wants his reactions to be fresh and real. With that, Julie asked him to talk about when he learned about the Face of Boe reveal in Doctor Who. John said that he hadn’t read his script while everyone was pestering him to read it, so eventually he did. Naoko was there when he finally got to the Boe part and "there was whooping over the valleys of Wales." As a fan, John liked how it changed the whole dynamic between Jack and the Doctor. Julie then brought things back to topic by asking Naoko about the reveal of Tosh spending time in a secret prison. Naoko felt it made sense for Tosh and loved that episode. Julie then asked Gareth about where Lisa was while Ianto was trying to get the job at Torchwood Cardiff. Gareth thought that helping Lisa was Ianto’s life project and that fancying Jack caught Ianto by surprise. John loved the look on Ianto’s face at the moment he finally got the job.

The next question was about metaphor and allegory and which episode the panelists thought best showed that. Julie thinks Torchwood is about sacrifice, hope, modern city life, liking someone and not being able to talk about it, and dying for a close knit group. John said the final t
wo episodes of season 2 definitely exemplify that and Gareth and Naoko agreed. Julie said that despite the reputation of Torchwood having a lot of sex, there really wasn’t a whole lot so that isn’t a big part of the show.

Another person wanted to know if there would be an American spinoff, film or if future episodes of Torchwood or Doctor Who would be done in America. John said he better be in the spinoff if there is one. Naoko thought Tosh and Owen could have a Joanie Loves Chachi thing. Julie didn’t shoot the idea of an American spinoff down, but it was clear that there was no intention of doing so.

The next audience member thought being buried underground for 2000 years would have some psychological toll on Jack and wondered how that would be portrayed in the future. Julie thinks it is a lot of mental stress. John is claustrophobic so definitely thinks Jack went through something. He thinks Jack can put himself in a trance and was prepared for it since he already connected with Captain John and had the ring so he knew he would be found one day, which is the only way he could cope with such a situation. The day they filmed the scene, John said everyone was having a lot of fun throwing dirt on his face and were probably getting their payback for the tricks he plays.

Another talked about how Tosh was his favorite character then proceeded to ask John how it felt to be brought back after being killed in Doctor Who season one. Once again John’s microphone was turned off when he tried to answer but it was fixed quickly. He was "ecstatically excited" and said the story is in his book, "Anything Goes."

That was followed by a question about pranks that were pulled on the set. John ducked under the table at that. Naoko asked, "how long do we have?" John said there are some outtakes in the DVD box set that showed some fun moments and they like to have fun on the set but wouldn’t go into details because there were children in the audience. Naoko said it’s something you get used to and a lot of times you don’t even know everything that is going on.

Another wanted to know if the BBC was interested into turning Doctor Who or Torchwood into a manga series. John said no but thanked the lady for asking. After her, someone asked if Torchwood season 3 takes place after Doctor Who season 4. Julie said it does.

The next question was about how the team dynamic was going to change without Tosh and Owen there. John said we would have to wait and see and that the dynamics will differ. At this point, a few people in the audience yelled out for Lisa. John said they used to play a joke on set long after the Cyberwoman episode where they would put a picture of Lisa on the wall and ask Gareth who that was. Right on cue Gareth called out, "Lisa," in the most puppy dog manner imaginable.

Following that was a question on whether there was enough extra material available for them to make extended episodes in the future. Julie said there she didn’t think there was a whole lot of extra material other than the deleted scenes in the box sets so there would be no special extended director’s cut.

The next person seemed to think that both Tosh and Ianto suddenly became more central to the story in Season 2 and wondered what Naoko and Gareth thought of that. Neither saw a sudden shift in their characters. Julie said that the nature of the show is that some characters will be in the foreground and others background and that would change depending on the story. Everyone turned to Gareth and he said that what Julie said was exactly what he was going to say.

Another person wanted to know what the panelist’s reactions were when they first saw the Hub set. John was amazed even when he saw it as an unfinished particle board set. He saw it as a little boy in his playroom. Julie pointed out that the TARDIS set is next to the Hub and is only separated by a curtain, which John thought was a perk of the job. "When I want a little Doctor, I go that way. When I want a little Ianto, I go this way."

The next question was whether we would ever see the bachelor adventures of the Face of Boe. John thought it would be a little sick since Boe is essentially a giant head in a jar. How could he get around? He was also more concerned about how he becomes headless than how he spends life as just a head.

The next audience member wanted Naoko and John to duet "Sun and Moon" from Miss Saigon. Naoko started to sing but John stopped her since he didn’t have much of a part in that song. Instead, he began to sing "Last Night of the World" and Naoko joined in. Hearing their fantastic voices was a thing of beauty for the audience. The funny part was poor Gareth who was sitting between the two of them and trying not to get in the way. When they were finished, the audience gave a standing ovation with deafening cheers.

Once back to questioning, the next person wanted to know what it was like working with Freema Agyeman. Naoko thought she fit right in on the set. Gareth thought "she’s hot." John loved working with Freema and thought she brought a new dynamic to the group since Martha knew a lot about Jack and Jack the the rest of the team didn’t and Jack respected her for her work in saving the Earth.

The next person asked if John would change anything about Jack. "Nothing." Another pointed out that Jack’s deaths and resurrections are not exactly the same thing as immortality. Julie thinks dying keeps Jack connected with humanity and the fact that there is a cost every time he dies. John agrees and says that’s why he portrays each resurrection as a shock or a jolt.

Another person wanted to know whether Gareth’s acting and delivery developed Ianto’s character. Gareth said sometimes some unconscious acting choices get picked up by the writers. He thinks he brought the dry humor to Ianto. Julie said we will learn more about Ianto in season 3.

The last question was about how each actor got started in acting. Naoko started with classical singing lessons when she was a kid. She knew in her teens that she wanted to do theater and was in Miss Saigon when she was 17. Gareth made a very concise response which basically said he acted in school and continued with it until Torchwood. John simply said to buy his book.

With that the panel was over. The moderator called it "the greatest panel of the day." It certainly was an entertaining two hours. The Doctor Who Season 4 finale airs on the Sci-Fi Channel this Friday August 1st. Torchwood season 3 will air on BBC America next year.

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