Comic-Con 2011: 'Doctor Who' panel live-blog

Matt Smith and Karen Gillan invade Hall H.

<p>Karen Gillan and Matt Smith from &quot;Doctor Who&quot;&nbsp;came to Comic-Con.</p>

Karen Gillan and Matt Smith from "Doctor Who" came to Comic-Con.

Credit: BBC

Seated in a packed Hall H on the last day of Comic-Con for the "Doctor Whopanel, which will feature Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and writer Toby Whithouse. Wifi permitting, I'll try to live-blog as much as I can.

12:35: The crowd goes nuts for clips from the first half of this season, particularly when River tells Amy, "I'm Melody. I'm your daughter."

12:36: The panelists, including producers Piers Wenger and Beth Willis, writer Toby Whithouse and Gillan and Smith come out to prolonged applause. Smith does an "I'm not worthy" bow for the crowd.

12:38: "It's just been completely overwhelming," Smith says about his first Con. Talks about the great costumes he's seen. "Look at all the fezes and stuff!"

12:39: "My mom's quite excited that she's Alex Kingston's grandmother," Gillan says about River being revealed as River's daughter. Moderator asks when the actors knew when they would find out. Gillan says there was a dummy ending on the script to "A Good Man Goes to War," and after the read-through, Steven Moffat told her, Smith and Arthur Darvill the real ending. "We just started running up and down the corridor!"

12:40: How do the actors usually react to getting a Moffat script? Smith: "It's like watching an episode." They're fans of the show so it's like watching on the telly. "We've got, coming up, some really huge cliffhangers."

12:42: "It's kind of wonderful to be part of a legacy in 'Doctor Who,'" Smith says. "It's remarkable." Willis: "It's just like being in a toy shop every day. Walking out on the set and saying hello to the Doctor in the TARDIS, it's just brilliant." Whithouse took his kids into the TARDIS, "And I was more excited than they were. Writing a scene that begins, 'Interior - TARDIS,' there is no greater thrill for a man of a certain age." Willis says Neil Gaiman's script actually had notation, "I've been waiting my whole life to write that" after that "Interior - TARDIS" line.

12:44: They're going to show a clip reel from Whithouse's upcoming episode, "The God Complex," which will be the fourth of the new batch. (Mild, context-free spoiler alert) The Doctor in a mysterious hotel room, various creepy camera angles, Rory wielding a mop as a weapon and, yup: a monster. Also, Amy doesn't have much use for clowns.

12:47: What does it take to write a good monster? Whithouse: "You have to find the humanity in it. There's nothing more boring than a straightforward villain who just wants to do evil." Whithouse wrote last season's "Vampires of Venice," said Rosanna in that episode was just trying to save her race, a complex motivation.

12:51: "The next episode airs the 27th of August on BBC America." -Smith

12:52: Clips of other upcoming stuff (even vaguer spoiler alert): various familiar faces and historical figures, Amy being particularly badass and, of course, more of the Impossible Astronaut. The Doctor, smugly: "Haven't you figured that one out yet?"

12:53: First questioner is a kid who arrives with his own red-colored Dalek. Page slips the microphone into the Dalek suit, guy has a voice scrambler. Kid even holds up an "I would be honored if you would sign my Dalek" sign. Producers won't answer whether Daleks will appear again soon. Smith is sure they can find a way to sign the Dalek later; crowd applauds its approval.

12:56: Russian fan wishes the TARDIS would land in her country more often. Is there anything that scares them as actors on the set? Gillan says Smith hides in her trailer "with a massive shoe-horn, and he jumps out shouting at me when I come in. That genuinely scares me." Smith: "It's a playful set."

12:57: Fans cheer mention of show's Cardiff filming location. "I love that Cardiff gets a whoop," says Smith.

12:58: Another Dalek! This one in silver and occupied by a guy doing the Dalek voice and sound effects on his own. "Will the Doctor's daughter be coming back so I can exterminate her?" Gillan loves the voice, cracking up. Piers: "We just had the Doctor's wife." Smith upset that the Dalek took its hat off, but ducks that one as "a Steven Moffat question."

1:00: Moderator asks if Smith knows what all the TARDIS switches do. "When I turned up my first day, they gave me a manual... I've taught Karen how to fly it. We spend hours just fiddling around. If you look at the takes on taking off and landing, it's always the same thing... The TARDIS just never gets boring ever."

1:03: Matt excluded, who's everyone's favorite Doctor? Piers and Beth both take Tom Baker. Toby: "Either Tom Baker or David Tennant." Karen: "I like Chris Eccleston." Smith: "I like Troughton... It's so hard, isn't it? What's so wonderful about this show is that everyone has their Doctor. In 20 years time, there'll be 25 year olds going, 'Matt Smith was my Doctor.' That's the beauty of the show, I think."

1:05: Little girl dressed as a Weeping Angel, complete with stone makeup asks the evergreen question about whether the Doctor can or will regenerate into a woman. Beth: "I think that's possible, but I think it's always led by the actor or actress who's right at the time. Every time the Doctor regenerates, of course a woman will cross the mind of whoever's making the show." Piers asks if there could ever be a female time-traveler to match River Song; "Maybe she's stolen the thunder of a female Doctor." Fans in audience not convinced by that logic.

1:07: How much of Matt Smith's personality is in the Doctor? Piers: "What you see on screen is pretty bloody close to real life. He's probably a little less competent in real life." Smith: "I'm not as cool as the Doctor."

1:10: Piers calls casting Matt easy because it was instantly obvious he was the right choice. Moffat sent him an e-mail: "It's him. Let's face it. It's always been him."  Beth says the same was true of casting Karen. "She walked out of the room and Steve Moffat just jumped in the air and said, 'We've found her.'"

1:13: Woman named Melody thanks them for giving Amy's baby her name. Does Toby do much research, and who does he consult? He says that "a childhood spent watching Hammer horror films" was his research. "If I understood science, I doubt I'd ever have become a writer," praises Moffat's "spacey-wacey, timey-wimey" anti-technobabble catchphrase as something that doesn't require writers or fans to think much about how it all works. "You research the tone of the show in a way more than the actual specifics."

1:14: Did Matt think the fez joke would be this huge thing sweeping fandom? Matt: "That's one of those things you have no idea about," he says, praising Moffat's ingenuity. "What's groovy about that is that's just me bleating on to him about wanting to wear a hat. So he gave me the most stupid hat, and he reinvented it." Karen notes the fez is only on screen for a short period of time.

1:18: Why do they keep killing Rory? Karen: "He dies really well." Matt: "We keep getting him back. That's what's great." Beth: "And he learns a lot everytime he dies. He was the guy that waited. Amy couldn't not marry him after he waited 2000 years." 

1:20: Karen has a secret about Amy that she's still keeping from Matt. "I feel so powerful right now!" she says. "Yeah! This never happens."

1:21: Woman in a River Song costume asks how many sonic screwdrivers and props Matt has broken. Matt praises Phil the props guy for saving him, because he breaks things all the time. "There's this great box, this sonic box. There's five sonic screwdrivers in it. And I break one a day... And the TARDIS, there's always bits of it coming off in my hands."

1:22: If they could cross "Doctor Who" over with any other show, what would it be? Gillan says "Star Trek: The Next Generation," gets giddy talking about meeting Brent Spiner the other day. ("I got a picture with him and everything!") Smith says "True Blood," then mentions that "Big Bang Theory" keeps referencing their show. "It would be quite cool if we just showed up in a shop or something."

1:25: Will we see more glimpses of the Doctor's dark side, like in "A Good Man Goes to War"? Matt: "I hope so. As I said earlier, I think there's a lot of blood on the Doctor's hand. I think that's why he's so bright and effervescent and mad... If he sat down, he'd have to contemplate losing the Roses, losing the Sarah Janes, losing all these people and letting them go. I think that's a very interesting area for him to explore, and I know Steven is interested in exploring that." Karen says episode 10 of this season features some more of that dark side.

1:26: Last questioner brings up Gaiman's episode and asks who they would choose to guest-write an episode. Matt would choose "JJ Abrahams" or Edgar Wright. Karen says Roald Dahl "would be so cool." Toby asks if they have to be living, also chooses Dahl. Beth can't trump Dahl. Piers says it's a cop-out, but he'd love to see Russell T. Davies come back and write for Eleven sometime.

1:27: Matt says Piers and Beth are leaving the show and wants them to get a group "woo-hoo" before they go. Crowd obliges.

1:28: The sizzle reel plays again, still makes the one-month wait for new episodes feel incredibly long. I'll embed it as soon as I have a moment. Matt has gone off-stage to sign the Dalek, returns to accept final applause.

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Alan Sepinwall
Sr. Editor, What's Alan Watching
Alan Sepinwall has been reviewing television since the mid-'90s, first for Tony Soprano's hometown paper, The Star-Ledger, and now for HitFix. His new book, "The Revolution Was Televised," about the last 15 years of TV drama, is for sale at Amazon. He can be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com
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