If you were able to check out this weekend's premiere of the new "Doctor Who" season on BBC One, you received your first look at Matt Smith, the new face of everyone's favorite Timelord. With the beloved science-fiction series bidding adieu to former star David Tennant last season and welcoming Smith as the new time-and-space-traveling adventurer, all eyes are on the new Doctor as he picks up where his celebrated predecessor left off.
Of course, the new Doctor won't be going it alone. Along with getting a new face and a new showrunner (award-winning lead writer Steven Moffat takes over the series this season), Smith will be joined by actress Karen Gillan as the Doctor's new companion, Amy Pond.
I caught up with Moffat last week to talk "Doctor Who," and the new showrunner offered up some thoughts on the themes, characters and cameos likely (and unlikely) to play a role in the upcoming season. We also spent some time chatting about the series' new stars, the casting process, and whether timelord-companion romance has a place in "Doctor Who" history.
MTV NEWS: Well, here we are with a new Doctor and some big shoes to fill! When it comes time to cast a new Doctor, how do you approach the task? Do you find the actor first and write to his strengths, or cast an actor into the Doctor you've envisioned?
STEVEN MOFFAT: One of the things that's very easy about that is that they're all playing the same man. There aren't 11 doctors — they're all just the same fellow with a new face. The way you write him doesn't change much, you just let the actor embody it differently.
MTV: When I spoke with David Tennant during last year's Comic-Con in San Diego, he told me about some elements of previous iterations of The Doctor he drew upon for his version of the character — specifically, the fifth Doctor, Peter Davison. Are there elements of Matt Smith's performance that harken back to earlier Timelords?
MOFFAT: He brings back the idea of The Doctor being a bit mad. He's a madder Doctor. The initial press we've had is that he's a return to the Tom Baker-ish, Patrick Troughton-ish Doctor in that he's a bit more visibly bonkers than Chris [Ecceleston] and David [Tennant] were. He's a bit less in control, a bit nuttier. He's a genius, but he might forget to tie his shoelaces.
MTV: What about those inevitable comparisons to David Tennant? There was a lot of buzz early on that the series was playing it safe with Smith and casting someone who was similar in looks and mannerisms to the previous Doctor...
MOFFAT: He so doesn't look like David Tennant! That is absolute rubbish! I know them both very, very well. They don't look anything like each other. They both have brown hair and are roughly the same height, but that's about it. David has these fine little features and big spaniel eyes, and Matt is this big, shambling thing with a long chin and weird, angular face.
You couldn't even count them as brothers. It would be preposterous! People will say anything, but that's rubbish!
MTV: As is the case any time a new Doctor is being cast, there were so many rumors flying around ahead of Smith landing the role. When it comes to race or gender or other factors, is there a rough mold for a proper Doctor?
MOFFAT: Again, it's one of those things with a very very simple rule: you audition for the part and the person who does the audition best gets it. There's a very wide range of age and size and style that could fit in "Doctor Who." It's just a matter of finding that person who gets it — who gets it tonally, who understands how to play that part and how to tackle it. That's the critical thing.
It's funny to think this, but the oldest The Doctor has ever been is 55 — so he could be played by a 55-year-old and a 26-year-old. So that 30-year age gap is impressive.
MTV: Well, what about Karen? what appealed to you about her and her audition? What makes a good companion?
MOFFAT: Well, you're about to find out — and it's absolutely, bloody astonishing. She's our secret weapon, actually, because people know less about her. We were looking for a young Amy [Pond]. In the story, Amy has to be very young — in her early 20s, really. Once you've got that as a given, you're probably not talking about someone who's very well known.
She was, as was Matt, very much an ascending star — someone who was very talented. She just came into the audition, and we had auditioned a great many brilliant girls for the part, but Karen just knocked it out of the park.
MTV: One aspect of the modern "Doctor Who" series that didn't seem nearly as evident in the earlier iterations is a romantic element to the Doctor/companion relationship. We saw it with David Tennant and Billie Piper, and it played an indirect role with Tennant and Freema Agyeman, too. Is this something that we're going to see more of in the new season with Smith and Gillan? Does romance have a place in "Doctor Who" stories?
MOFFAT: The truth is, old "Doctor Who" was an entirely sexless series. The Doctor wasn't the only sexless character among a whole lot of sexually motivated ones. The Brigadier never got a date either, and no one bothered to mention it — neither did Sarah Jane Smith. It was that kind of show, as a lot of shows were in those days.
When "Doctor Who" came back, it had to fit into modern television. The question is: would a young girl hanging out with this older, dangerously attractive, mad, charming, brilliant man, maybe now and then notice? She would. That's human nature.
Are we really supposed to be believe back in the day that Tegan never had a look at The Doctor, even when he was Peter Davison? That Sarah Jane Smith never thought about that charismatic, older Tom Baker as being really not bad? It would happen. You have to address it, and you can't ignore it.
I would say of the old show that there's always that sort of latent romance going on. It's never expressed, but when Jon Pertwee says goodbye to Jo Grant, he doesn't look too pleased about it. He doesn't look too pleased that she's run off with someone she haplessly describes as a "younger version" of him. He's clearly cheesed off and it's not the reaction of a proud parent.
So the element is there, but as to how we do it this time, that is really centrally and importantly part of the story of this series — so it's unwise to tell a story before you start.
The new season of "Doctor Who" premiered this Saturday, April 3, on BBC One. The series premieres on BBC America in a few weeks on Saturday, April 17.
Make sure to check the first half of my interview with "Doctor Who" showrunner Steven Moffat last week. And be sure to check out the ongoing adventures of Doctor Who in comics form from IDW Publishing.