In advance of season 7, the first five episodes of which (starting Sep. 1, 2012 on BBC America) will lead up to the farewell of Amy Pond and Rory Williams, lead writer Steven Moffat and stars Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill sat down and talked about their reactions to the stories and what fans can look forward to in coming weeks.
On starting off with the Daleks:
Steven Moffat: We've been off the air for longer than usual, so it was an easy decision to come back with Doctor Who at its most iconic and that means Daleks. Lots and lots of scary Daleks. There have been many monsters to face the Doctor over the years, but only one that can sum up the whole series just by being there. Also, it's my first go at writing for them. I LOVE the Daleks, and I've held off till now. But I had what I thought was a good idea, and couldn't resist any longer!!
Matt Smith: "Asylum of the Daleks" is going to be a cracker. Steven has written an absolute belter and we have made the Daleks scary again, something I am not sure we got right before.
Karen Gillan: It was AMAZING! We have totally made them scary again. I expect everyone to be watching from behind their sofas, I know I will…
Arthur Darvill: Rather wonderful, the great thing about Doctor Who is that it always tries to better itself and that has really happened this series. It feels like a movie! What is fantastic is that the Daleks are actually scary in this episode. It was quite an odd experience being on set that day, not only because of all of the Daleks, but because there was generally a lot more people on set as they were so excited about what was about to happen.
On having a favorite Dalek:
Matt Smith: Absolutely! The blue and white ones from the 1960s, I think they are from the Troughton era…they are just kind of groovy, smaller but fantastic. And the lovely Barnaby (Edwards) who operates them. The day we filmed with all of those Daleks there was such an excitable atmosphere on set from cast and crew alike. It was a brilliant few days at work!
Karen Gillan: I think my favorite is the 1960s Dalek with the white and blue armour, there is something more menacing about them as they are smaller and they just look so original. If I was going to own one, it would be one of those, I would keep it in my kitchen.
On the first five episodes:
Matt Smith: We have five of the most exciting standalone episodes, with everything from Daleks to dinosaurs and of course, the fall of the Ponds.
Karen Gillan: This season has been done in a really interesting way with five standalone epic episodes, like a movie a week, all building to the departure of the Ponds! We actually kick-off the season with Amy and Rory's relationship in a sticky situation; it is less than marital bliss. Those scenes were really interesting to do, she explains, because they created such a different on-screen atmosphere between Amy and Rory, something that the viewers wouldn't have seen before. That is the good thing about Doctor Who, it gives you the chance to shift the character, and you never know what is going to happen from episode to episode.
On new monsters and guest stars for season 7:
Steven Moffat: There's a terrifying Cyborg in the old West, and wait till you see what's invading Earth in episode 4. There's never been an extra-terrestrial incursion like this one!! Guest stars include David Bradley, Rupert Graves, Stephen Berkoff, Mike McShane, Ben Browder, Adrian Scarbourgh, and Anamaria Marinca.
On shooting in Spain and New York City:
Steven Moffat: I don't think I've ever worked on a show before that's had foreign location shoots on three out of five episodes -- it's quite astonishing. We have snowy mountains for the series opener, New York for the finale and along the way a full-blooded Western shot on location where all the best cowboy movies come from -- Spain. Location shooting at this level is such a blast of fresh air for the show -- wide open spaces and wide open skies! It's easy to say "movie scale" but that really is what we're delivering.
Matt Smith: There is only so much CGI can do. We were in the middle of a western village, which was brilliant for Doctor Who, adding to the imagination of it all. And I am such a fan of New York, and we got to use some properly iconic locations, like Central Park. There is nothing quite like running through Times Square trying to shoot a scene.
Karen Gillan: So much fun, using a location that had actually been the set for other westerns made everything feel so much, well, realer.
Arthur Darvill: I am a huge fan of westerns, me and my dad used to spend Sunday afternoons watching them, so it was kind of like living out a boyhood dream, filming in Almeria where so many westerns had been shot.
On Amy using a gun:
Karen Gillan: Definitely, Amy Pond should be nowhere near a gun. I remember for a previous episode I had to fire a gun with blanks, followed quickly by Rory shouting ARGHHH as though I had hit him. I completely forgot this when action was called, so when I fired and he shouted I really thought I had shot him! It was awful! In this episode when she gets hold of a gun you can see the fear on the faces of the other characters, but they weren't acting, I genuinely think all of the actors including Matt and Arthur were in fear for their lives!
Arthur Darvill: I am always terrified when Karen picks up anything! Of course there was a guy there to make sure it wasn't loaded. But Karen is better at these things than she pretends to be, even though she looks like she is made of spaghetti!
On having a story called "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship":
Matt Smith: Steven you are a genius! It's Doctor Who in a nutshell. I have always wanted to do a dinosaur episode, so I was very pleased to get the chance. And the Director Saul [Metzstein] has done a fantastic job, with David Bradley playing a cracking villain. I think it is such a fun episode with a wonderfully crafted script by Chris Chibnall.
Karen Gillan: That was a crazy filming adventure. With all the adventures that I have been on through-out the show that was perhaps the most surreal! There was a lot of running from things we couldn't see, which is always fun, BUT a couple of the cast got to ride a dinosaur…
Arthur Darvill: Such an amazing title, but to be honest I wasn't sure how they were going to do it, getting Dinosaurs on a Spaceship! With one of the biggest sets ever built to house the prehistoric creatures. The dinosaurs were huge, going on set was like walking in to a massive aircraft carrier.
On riding a dinosaur:
Matt Smith: More painful than you can imagine. I had to wear padded trousers! Dinosaurs are a lot lumpier than horses, so it was a painful couple of hours, a laugh though and definitely worth it as it's going to look great.
On Mark Williams as Rory's dad:
Karen Gillan: He was so fantastic, naturally funny and such great casting, you could totally imagine Rory having a dad like that.
Arthur Darvill: That episode is made extra special with Mark Williams playing Rory's dad, he was just hilarious, so lovely and just a funny guy.
On tough moments between Amy and Rory:
Arthur Darvill: Every relationship has their rocky moments, but it was quite fun to play out a problem in their relationship and it shows a different side to both of their characters and makes them more real. I think that was an important side to show.
On Amy's changing relationship with the Doctor:
Karen Gillan: So this is what happens when you travel alone. Just as any relationship changes when it matures. We get to see a glimpse of what Amy and Rory do when the Doctor isn't around and how the adventures and time away from home has affected their own relationships with friends and family. I think the Doctor also begins to realize how he has changed Amy and what happens when he isn't there, and at first he doesn't really understand it. There is a really sweet moment in episode 5 when the Doctor notices Amy is wearing glasses...
On the Weeping Angels and the departure of the Ponds:
Steven Moffat: The story of the Ponds hasn't even begun to end yet -- they've got loads more adventures with their mad friend the Doctor ahead of them, and we'll see more of their lives and Time Lord-complicated relationship than we ever have before. This more than any other, is the year of the Ponds. But, yes, it's true, I cannot lie -- somewhere out there, the Weeping Angels are waiting for them....
Matt Smith: I think I can speak for all of us when I say that the Weeping Angels are one of our favorite monsters. The fact that they don't speak just makes them crueler. And with the last episode set in New York and to have River back, it all just made sense. I really think, Karen and Arthur go with a bang and tear!
Arthur Darvill: I was really happy to go out in an episode with the Weeping Angels. They are a relatively new monster, but Steven immediately made them a classic. I think they are one of the scariest villains within Doctor Who and episode 5 is very creepy.
On what they'll miss most now the Ponds are gone:
Matt Smith: Stupid dancing, stupid faces and stupid everything. Being ridiculous, there were points when we wouldn't even have conversations, but just make noises at each other. We had a laugh and that really informed the energy and spirit of the show. The relationship between our characters on screen and off screen really blurred!
Karen Gillan: The never ending pranks and my two best friends. Matt used to hide in the cupboard of my trailer and jump out of it at me and I used to go flying back against the wall in absolute shock! He must have done it like a hundred times and I fell for it every single time! But honestly even with the bruises, it really was the biggest and most exciting time of my life. I wouldn't change it for the world!
Arthur Darvill: The people, it is such a big family. But me, Matt and Karen still chat every few days and meet up when we can. The great thing about Doctor Who is that you get to work with the best of the best. It has been such a fantastic adventure and I hope everyone enjoys the remainder of the ride.
On pranking Karen Gillan:
Matt Smith: I used to hide in her trailer a lot and just jump out at her and she is a real screamer. Or I would dance really close to her face, which would also make her scream! It was very much like a brother and sister relationship with Arthur and I pranking her like older brothers!
Arthur Darvill: During down time on set if there was a lull a great way to entertain yourself was to tell Karen that a moth was flying around her head. She would literally go mad, flinging her arms around and screaming, it was hilarious! She hates anything with wings!
On saying goodbye to the Ponds:
Steven Moffat: Amy and Rory have been with the Doctor since I took over the show, they're part of the landscape for me. It was just traumatic to consider a future without them. Amy is everything I admired (and sometimes feared) about strong, clever, reckless women, and Rory is the man I'd like to be -- so strong he never has to show it. Karen and Arthur have become friends, and I still can't get my head round the fact that I'll never find them on the set again. Brilliant performers and warm and lovely people -- the best of the best.
Matt Smith: It was terribly sad and I do miss them as they are such great chums. We knew it was coming, but just didn't believe it. It is one of those things like when you are on holiday and you suddenly realize it is Friday and you are going home on Monday. But that is what the show is about, evolution and regeneration, and we now have Jenna who is lovely and great.
Karen Gillan: I always knew that Steven had an ending for Amy Pond and when I met with him a year or so ago it was kind of like, so what are the plans for the character and we both said that she should go at this point. It was such a fantastic mutual decision and completely the right time for Amy to leave. I will miss her, but I can't wait for fans to see what happens…..