Wonder Con 2011 – Doctor Who Panel

As a testament to the ever increasing popularity of both Wonder Con and Doctor Who, the line for the Esplanade Ballroom started at 6 am; by the time the final day panel began at 11:30 am, it was almost a full house.  Impressive, considering a panel in the similar sized Ballroom 20 at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con, which boasted Russel T. Davies, Julie Gardner, Euros Lynn, and the Tenth Doctor himself, David Tennant, didn’t quite fill up (though the line did start at 8 pm the previous day, so there is that).  BBCAmerica’s publicity push is admirable and deserves a lot of praise, especially their move to air the episodes the same night as they’ll premiere in the UK; it appears all their work is paying off.

This year’s panel may not have had the current show runner or The Doctor himself, but was no less exciting for the Who fan.  It boasted the only Who director to ever helm three stories in a row, Toby Haynes (director of the “The Pandorica Opens”/”Big Bang Pt. 2”, “A Christmas Carol”, and the first two episodes of the upcoming series “The Impossible Astronaut”/”The Day of the Moon”), Mark Sheppard (nerd actor extraordinaire boasting credits like Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural, Firefly, and Chuck, who will be appearing in the first two episodes), and author Neil Gaiman (who penned episode 4 of the upcoming series, “The Doctor’s Wife”).  Moderating the panel was Nerd favorite, and self professed Doctor Who fanatic, Chris Hardwick.

One of the best parts of a show like Doctor Who is that often the people who are privileged enough to work on it are huge fans themselves.  Our panel was no exception, which meant the audience was in store for a real treat.  Haynes, Sheppard and Gaiman are all self professed Who fans, and their joy at their good fortune of getting to work on this show they all grew up watching was infectious.  When asked about his use of Mythology in his own work, and what he felt about the Mythology of Doctor Who, Gaiman answered that before he knew Greek or Norse or Roman Mythology he knew what a Dalek was.  Haynes confessed that when Steven Moffat recently gave him a copy of the latest Doctor Who annual he immediately handed it right back to Moffat and asked if he would sign it.  Sheppard revealed he was never really scared of the Daleks, and actually wished as a child that he could be either a Dalek or Davros himself.  Instead his greatest fear was the faceless Cybermen.

The panel felt more like a bunch of friends hanging out than the rather more formal “here’s what we made and here’s why you should see it” that you usually get at these things.  The guests were giddy, and at times it almost felt like they forgot they were putting on a panel.  A prime example was when Hardwick asked who it was playing President Nixon in the series six 2-part premiere, and Sheppard answered simply with “Stuart” and never gave a last name, not thinking about those of us in the audience who might not know who they were talking about (Stuart Milligan, for those, like me, who can’t quite keep track of all the Who casting news).

All three of the panelists had nothing but glowing things to say about the Doctor Who team, and especially Matt Smith himself.  They talked about how the show is a “labor of love” and how Smith took time out of his schedule on three separate occasions to show them the TARDIS console and tell them what each and every lever, button, etc. did.  When scheduling conflicts with his appearances on Supernatural this year became an issue for Sheppard, the team apparently went above and beyond to ensure that he would be able to be take the part offered to him.   They flew him out the very next day and flipped around their entire schedule to accommodate him.

Of course, beyond the fun of just spending an hour with the panelists and over 3k of your closest friends, we got some good tidbits out of the panel.  A 4-minute clip showing scenes from the upcoming series and interviews with the cast has now been posted on youtube by BBCAmerica for your viewing pleasure.  I’m sure I’m not alone in being very intrigued about what this secret is that Amy’s hiding from The Doctor, and just what they mean by The Doctor having to face darkness.  When a fan asked about the appearance of The Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS interior appearing in the preview for the upcoming series,  Haynes answered that it wasn’t a clip from his episode and he was just as clueless as the rest of us.   On a sad note, Sheppard revealed that while he was filming, they were finally dismantling the former TARDIS interior.

As for future projects, Gaiman shared a storyboard for a November episode of The Simpsons, which showed an accurate portrayal of Gaiman being held with a knife to his throat by Moe.  Sheppard is hoping there will be a 7th season of Supernatural, and Haynes revealed that he’ll be directing Sherlock this summer; this prompted Sheppard to start begging for a role.

Beyond that, the rest of our recap of the panel contains spoilers for episode 4…so don’t click on the “Next” option if you don’t want to be spoiled!

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