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'Doctor Who' previews the Ponds' exit and dinosaurs in space at Comic-Con

The Weeping Angels will return and 'more Daleks than you've ever seen in one place'

Karen Gillan, Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill in 'Doctor Who'

Karen Gillan, Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill traveled across the pond to panel "Doctor Who" at Comic-Con

Credit: BBC America

SAN DIEGO - If you were able to travel anywhere in the entirety of space and time, would you go to Comic-Con? Thankfully, the stars and producers of "Doctor Who" don't actually have a TARDIS, and they happily made their latest trek to San Diego to thrill another capacity crowd in Hall H.

Mr. Nerdist himself Chris Hardwick moderated a panel with stars Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, showrunner Steven Moffat and executive producer Caroline Skinner, who dropped a few hints about the upcoming season -- including the highly emotional departure of Gillan and Darvill's characters Amy and Rory (a.k.a. "The Ponds") -- and celebrated their love of Comic-Con.

"I met Peter Jackson last night!" Smith exclaimed as one reason why he loves making the trip. "You get to meet your heroes, whether you're a fan or director or actor." Adding that he also geeked out over Bryan Cranston and Seth MacFarlane.

"I've had the best time just seeing everyone dressed up in capes and stuff," Gillan added. "I was coming down the lift this morning with a girl in a Dalek costume. It took us a second to register each other and we were both like 'Ahhhhh!'" She also appreciates the many instances of Amy Pond cosplay, "I'm loving all the ginger hair."

"We're all losing our voice," noted Darvill. "We had to have throat sweets earlier to soothe our voices. There's so much screaming."

For Moffat, Comic-Con is a welcome break from working on the new season. Although he told Hardwick he's nevertheless spent most of his time in San Diego cooped up in his hotel room, writing. "That's more or less my entire life actually," Moffat said. "It's very nice to meet 6,000 new people, because I'm very lonely."

"I try not to have any kind of a life, which as a 'Doctor Who' fan I find came naturally," Moffat joked about the time it takes to run a show as complex as "Doctor Who." "I've been thinking about 'Doctor Who' since I first saw it, so it's not difficult. I bet everyone in this room has 'Doctor Who' ideas all the time." When that drew a round of cheers and applause, he quickly added, "That wasn't an invitation!"

But the elephant in the room was the Ponds' imminent exit, and Hardwick pressed for all the information he could get. "That episode was a tough one to write," Moffat allowed. "I was relieved when I finished it and it actually made sense. It's not just fiction, it's real life that's finished. I was writing the last scenes I'd write for Karen and Arthur." But before anyone jumped to the conclusion that the end of the Ponds also means the death of the Ponds, Moffat quickly added, "Of course I hadn't, there's always something else..."

"I didn't stop crying for two weeks," Gillan said about hearing the news. "In between takes. Anything set me off."

"It was so exciting to film those final moments because they are gripping," Darvill said. Smith added, "And to film them with the Weeping Angels as well. [Steven] has done a great job. It's very climactic and a brilliant ending to what's been -- I'm a bit biased -- my two favorite companions."

When Hardwick asked what the actors would miss about the Who-verse, Gillan was quick to answer. "I'm gonna miss getting to run down corridors from imaginary monsters. That's really fun instead of doing a show where you're standing in a room talking all the time."

Smith noted all the actors realize it's important to keep perspective on how "Doctor Who" works. "The show will continue without us, dare I say without Steven. That's how it works. It is about regeneration, it's about welcoming in Jenna [Louise-Coleman, who has already been announced as the Doctor's post-Ponds companion] and a new time."

A few more details about the new season:

— In last season's finale, the Doctor finally discovered the universe's oldest question, the one hidden in plain sight. (Right in the show's title in fact, cheeky Moffat.) Doctor Who? "To be honest it's been there from the start," Moffat said to explain his inspiration for the idea. "He never gives his name, other Time Lords do. Clearly the question is tremendously important and only I know why."

"Welcome to our life," Smith butted in. "Steven knowing information, having the power to withhold it and smiling at us."

— The primary talking points in discussing the new season were epic and eclectic. Moffat promises every episode will be completely different. "We've had Daleks, Weeping Angels, shot an episode in New York, an episode in Spain," Skinner revealed.

— And yes, Doctor Who heads West. "We're doing a Western!" Moffat exclaimed. "And we did the one thing you always must do when you're shooting an iconic piece of American culture, we went to Spain!"

That episode, titled "A Town Called Mercy" and written by "Who" veteran Toby Whithouse, provided the first exclusive clip screened for the audience. In the brief scene shown, the Doctor and the Ponds enter an old west bar with the Doctor moseying on up to a saloon bar before the customers accuse him of being an alien and surround him.

— Moffat also teased the return of a certain indestructible race: "[We'll have] more Daleks than you've ever seen in one place and every generation of Dalek. It's exactly what we see when we close our eyes in our TARDIS-wallpapered bedroom."

— But not even an audience member in a fully mobile Dalek costume could get Moffat to answer one pressing question. Will we ever see another episode with multiple Doctors joining forces? "I'm not going to tell you," Moffat said. "Not even for the Daleks, sorry."

— The session closed with an extended clip from upcoming episode "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship." (Take that "Snaked on a Plane"!) The scenes showed the Doctor traveling through time, from 1334 B.C. Egypt to intergalactic 2367 A.D. to the African planes of 1902 (A.D.), accumulating travel companions as he goes, and finally to the Ponds' apartment where Rory's dad Brian (Mark Williams) is changing a light bulb. When Amy asks the Doctor if he's found his new companions he responds, "They're just people. They're not Ponds. I thought we might need a gang. I've never had that before. It's new!"

And then... well the episode isn't called "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" for nothing.

"Doctor Who" returns later this summer on BBC America

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Geoff Berkshire
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Geoff Berkshire lives in Los Angeles and writes about film and television. His work has appeared in Variety, the L.A. Times, and Premiere, among other publications. He is the former national entertainment editor and film critic for Metromix.com.
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