Doctor Who: Deep Breath premiere Q&A

Interview Louisa Mellor 8 Aug 2014 - 12:45

Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Steven Moffat talk accents, flirting, Capaldi’s first day on the TARDIS and more…

Read our entirely spoiler-free review of Deep Breath, here.

Not one but two posh UK premieres happened yesterday for Deep Breath, the Doctor Who series eight opener, the first in Cardiff and the second in London.

After each screening, Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Steven Moffat came out to peals of applause to talk about the episode (we’ve squirrelled those bits away until after the BBC One broadcast) the new Doctor, his relationship with Clara, and more. Amongst other things, read about Capaldi's audition for the role, first experience of stepping inside the TARDIS, and, if he could, what he would tell his eight-year-old Doctor Who-fan self...

On series eight’s slightly different tone, pace and longer scenes:

Steven Moffat: To different degrees, that carries on throughout the series, in different ways. But that’s not an accident, that’s a very explicitly clear idea. I was starting to think there was a danger we were getting faster every year and soon the episodes would be over in four minutes [laughter]. Not that I didn’t like that, I loved the way we did it, but every idea has its end and there has to be a new one.

On how the new Doctor has changed things:

Jenna Coleman: I think the show feels very rejuvenated. It’s thrown everything off kilter and turned it on its head, especially for Clara, because suddenly she’s faced with this man and she can’t figure him out and she can’t control and he doesn’t respond in the same way as she’s used to, so that is really frustrating and confusing for her, how to figure out how this now works because it’s so totally different. It’s been a really interesting story to tell over the series.

[…] Again it’s going from being so safe and comfortable with Matt’s Doctor to somebody who doesn’t even register that she’s a girl, or human for that matter! It’s all these changes and trying to figure out how this is going to work now.

Steven Moffat: The thing about Clara with the Eleventh Doctor was that she was comfortably in control, she really had him quite tame. He was thinking ‘she’s really great and she hangs out with me I’m so cool. I’ll roll over on my back, she’ll tickle my tummy and that will be that’. From the moment Peter’s Doctor turns up she realises she’s in terrible trouble, that he’s just rude to her and whatever he might secretly feel, he’s just being awful. Seeing Clara on the back foot, particularly in this episode, makes her very funny I think. We had the perfect girl and we absolutely messed her head.

On what came first, the decision to cast a different type of Doctor to Matt Smith, or Peter Capaldi being considered for the role?

Steven Moffat: Given that this has worked out really, really well, the decision was arrived at at phenomenal speed. I sort of realised we couldn’t just go for another Matt Smith type. We couldn’t go for another quirky young man with interesting hair, people would start to notice that’s what we were doing and start styling their hair in improbable ways in the hope of being cast [laughter].

I’d known Peter for quite a few years, I remember when Doctor Who was coming back and The Thick Of It had just started I was at a party and Peter came looming up to me in his sinister fashion, and I thought, fantastic, that’s the bloke from The Thick Of It, I can talk about The Thick Of It, and he wouldn’t let me, he just kept going on and on about Doctor Who, so I thought, okay, he’s interested.

Many years later it just came into my head – what if it was him? I spoke to my old friend Mark Gatiss and I said make me a list of who you think should be Doctor Who, and he spent the next seven days solidly writing names – obviously, because this is Mark – but right at the top of the list with a space underneath to indicate that this was the top choice, was Peter. Then I went to talk to Brian and Andy [Minchin, executive producer and Pryor, casting director] and Andy was really into it – Andy Pryor’s casting sense is impeccable – and Brian loved the idea because he knew Peter from Torchwood: Children Of Earth so it’s just like everybody had the same idea at once.

On Capaldi’s audition for the part:

Steven Moffat: We got Peter round to my house to do an audition– I’ll write him some special scenes, it’s only polite, he’s coming round – and he was fantastic though he had a Catweazle beard from The Musketeers.

Peter Capaldi: The funny thing I didn’t tell you is that I thought when we did it that was a disaster. I thought I’d done it so badly and I was so out of the loop. But I’d enjoyed the experience so much that I thought, if that’s as far as it goes that’s worth it.

Steven Moffat: I did three daft scenes, and they weren’t really intended to be any attempt at a twelfth Doctor. There was a scene based on an old Christopher Eccleston scene, a scene based on an old David Tennant scene and a scene based on an old Matt Smith scene. They were just nonsense, because one of the things you’re going to have to do – I hate to say this, sorry Peter after all these months of doing this – but you have to be able to talk absolute insanity as if you really mean it, without a hint of irony. Unlike Peter said, I could show you that footage and he was fantastic. Obviously it’s him, look at him, he’s been rehearsing in his bedroom since the age of four!”

Peter Capaldi: You wrote a very hilarious, I thought, regeneration scene that we never showed in which the Doctor couldn’t see his face but kept questioning Clara about it and kept saying ‘How’s the face, does it look good?’ and she was going ‘it’s okay’, ‘what do you mean okay? Is it old?’ and she couldn’t say.

On whether Capaldi really went to London’s Forbidden Planet for the devilry of being the only one there who knew he had the part:

Peter Capaldi: [laughing] I did. I might have taken a trip there just to stand around. The fun of it for me was that they didn’t know I was the Doctor. I was the only one who knew I was the Doctor. I won’t go back now!

Steven Moffat: I once had a long conversation with John Barrowman in Forbidden Planet, and we stood there, chatting to each other, next to a Dalek. Nobody bothered us! John was wearing glasses so that really works, the Clark Kent thing.

On Capaldi’s well-publicised insistence that there be no flirting between his Doctor and Clara:

Peter Capaldi: I think that was inflated in the article into something that it never was. I don’t recall having this conversation with Steven, but I can remember in my own head thinking that Papa and Nicole would be a dangerous route to take [laughter].

Steven Moffat: It’s an interesting one, how powerful that flirting thing is. David Tennant was a magnificent, brilliant, flirty, sexy Doctor, and when Matt came in to do it, he decided that he would be rubbish at flirting, doing this [flailing his arms] every time he gets a kiss – if you look, every time he does it, it’s a disaster, it never works, he flails like that – the only time he manages it successfully, he realises River isn’t actually in the room. So we haven’t had a properly flirtatious Doctor for years really. The idea had peaked and gone away, but my God, it worked in its time and Doctor Who’s a lot richer for that scene between Billie Piper and David Tennant on the beach in Doomsday. You keep changing.

However, it’s got to be said for those of you who actually have pored over the classic series, flirting did not begin in 2005! Watch Patrick Troughton in the first episode of The Enemy Of The World, he’s practically climbing over her! [Laughter] And actually, William Hartnell flirting with Barbara is disgusting, every time Ian Chesterton says something, it’s ‘You’re an idiot’, Barbara says something, it’s ‘You’re fantastic’. It’s the beginning of that story! The old fraud.

On whether Peter discussed the role with Matt Smith or David Tennant:

Peter Capaldi: Yes. What they said is private, it’s a very unique and small club of people who know… Matt and David have been fabulous because it’s a unique position to be in and they understand it, and they also know the personnel, and they’ve been wonderful. I took Matt to lunch and he turned up on crutches and I said what’s happened to you and he said “This show mate, this show” [laughter]. He’s thirty years younger than me and he’s on crutches! What am I going to do?

Before it all started, David sent me an email saying ‘is it true what I’m hearing?’ and I said ‘well, it might be true’, so he decided for reasons best known to himself to invite me for coffee in Soho House, where the two of us could be seen in a corner! [laughing]. They were both wonderful.

On the decision to keep Capaldi’s Scottish accent for the role:

Steven Moffat: One of the first things we talked about on that day, and you just said – and I think it was a very right thing to say – I need to move the Doctor closer to me. But also, what does it mean? His accent must be acquired randomly, it doesn’t make any sense what accent he has. Why shouldn’t he be Scottish?

Peter Capaldi: And also, he’s had an English accent for years. The idea that he doesn’t have an accent is ridiculous. I just felt that it was important, as Steven says, to try to bring the Doctor to me. A lot of actors who I enjoy, they don’t become the part, the part becomes them, so you pull it more closely to yourself. Funnily enough, I think the Doctor is closer to me than, for instance, Malcolm Tucker was. There was a bigger leap, more stuff to do, more distance to cover. [Agreeing with host Boyd Hilton] I am much nicer.

On the new Doctor’s costume:

Peter Capaldi: Lots of people have different ideas about what the Doctor looks like. Sometimes you find yourself dressed in a lot of crushed velvet and long scarves and floppy hats because people tend to think that’s how Doctor Who should look! I just always saw Doctor Who in dark colours, but perhaps that’s because it was black and white television when I was growing up!

[…] There was just one version of it in which I felt like Doctor Who and I thought that’s what we should go with. I also wanted to try and do something that was stark and simple and easily imitable, that kids wouldn’t have to spend a lot of money on, they could just button up their school shirt or whatever and wear a dark jacket.

On whether Capaldi, a writer and director as well as an actor, would like to go behind the camera on Who:

Peter Capaldi: No. It’s so incredibly challenging and I stand in awe and admiration of all the people who are doing it, physically it’s such a demanding job. I’ve had a go at directing and writing so I can see what it’s like and I’m really happy doing the acting. I have great respect for the people we have on the show doing it. The writing we’ve had has been fabulous this season, it’s been so clever and sharp and witty, but honestly some of the days that I see the directors have to do, some of the things they have to achieve in one day would knock David Lean over!

Steven Moffat: I’m still reeling about ‘I had a go at it’ – you did win an Oscar! You know that doesn’t happen every time!

On who Peter would cast as the Doctor if it wasn’t him:

Steven Moffat: I don’t think Peter has ever had any other choice but him for the Doctor!

Peter Capaldi: There are lots of brilliant actors who could have done it, but not at this time. This isn’t the right time. I have to say though, it was absolutely fabulous seeing John Hurt as the Doctor.

On what it was like for Peter to step inside the TARDIS for the first time:

Peter Capaldi: It’s quite strange because it is the TARDIS on the outside, but on the inside, it’s not the lovely TARDIS that we see on the telly, it’s just like a cupboard your dad’s made, a fan’s TARDIS where they’ve run out of money and paint on the inside. And Jenna’s there – there’s not much room – and there’s a prop guy with a smoke gun who you don’t really know and who’s a bit embarrassed ‘Hello, I’m the new Doctor Who, I’m about to make my debut just now. We don’t have to talk’ and of course the back of it’s often not there, and it’s dark. I think in the future I’m going to get a kettle in there. This was discussed on set, it’s quiet in there.

On whether Steven Moffat is planning on bringing the Master back anytime soon:

Steven Moffat: [Abruptly] No [laughter]. I accidentally just said the truth. No, not really. I think the story’s sort of done. I thought what Russell did with that was so brilliant, because I did think it was over. Once you’d lost Roger Delgado who was so brilliant, it was tough to keep it… it’s like Moriarty in Sherlock - yes, I know – you think, you’re a great master villain, you know what you do a lot, you lose! You’re always tremendously confident and then you’re humiliatingly defeated and you don’t remember that the next time you pop up with your ridiculous plan. So no, the Doctor doesn’t really need an arch-enemy, so we’ll go for new ones. So, sorry John Simm.

On which Doctor Who story Peter and Jenna would have loved to have appeared in:

Jenna Coleman: I loved the Vincent Van Gogh story, Vincent And The Doctor I think was beautiful.

Peter Capaldi: I would like to do The Dalek Invasion Of Earth.

And finally, on what Peter would tell his eight-year-old Doctor Who-fan self if he could:

Peter Capaldi: I would say to him, don’t listen to what they say about you. Wear your anorak with pride!

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