David Tennant and Julie Gardner discuss final year on Doctor Who

This year at San Diego’s Comic-Con, fans of the BBC’s flagship Sci-Fi show, Doctor Who, were treated for the first time to an appearance by The Doctor himself, David Tennant.

This is not only Tennant’s first Comic-Con appearance, but also his first ever at a fan convention.  Adding to the excitement for fans is the fact that Tennant is leaving the show and has already finished filming his final three specials, which will air in the UK later this year.  (Air dates for the specials on BBC America have not been announced yet.)

Before their panel appearance, David Tennant and producer Julie Gardner (who has also just concluded her time working on Doctor Who) met with the press to discuss the final specials and to tantalize fans with a few glimpses of the specials.  Both also showed a fondness for each other, both professionally and personally, that set a refreshingly friendly, fun tone to the interview.

Remarking on how he had developed and changed his performance as The Doctor over the years, Tennant explained, “It evolves through the script I suppose.  It evolves through what the character is doing and where he’s going and inevitably things happen slightly more subconsciously than that as well.  But on a conscious level, (I) just take from the script, and the character probably develops from what I take off of the page and then what the writers bring in and what they’ve seen (in me).  It’s a kind of ongoing exchange.” 

Julie Gardner suggested that sometimes scripts will “bring to the fore” ideas that might “have been lying buried for there for ages” such as the idea in the new series that The Doctor is the last of his kind – the Last Time Lord in the Universe.  Tennant hinted, “That’s going to come back in the final stories – The Doctor being the last of his kind – or nearly the last of his kind.”

Tennant went on to comment on how emotional the final episodes have been and how, “the story takes you to places The Doctor can’t go to on a regular basis.  It affords an opportunity to confront this sort of immutable character with new challenges and things you can only do and places you can only (be taken) to when that man is going to die – when that version of that man is going to die.  That from a dramatic point of view is hugely challenging, liberating and exciting.” 

As to what sort of roles he was hoping to pursue in the future, Tennant answered, “I have no idea.  I’m sort of waiting to see what the next. There are some scripts around, some very exciting things, but whether they will come to anything or not you (will) have to wait and see.  I’m waiting for Julie to offer me a job, basically.” Gardner teased, “I play hard to get!”  When furthered queried about whether or not he would consider doing a play on Broadway, Tennant replied, “It’s a possibility.  It would depend on what it was and when it would be. I’m open to any possibility at the moment.”

When inquiries were made about any dream projects Tennant might have, he joked how in the past, “Whenever I was asked for parts I aspired to, I said, ‘Well, I’d like to be in Doctor Who and I’d like to play Hamlet for the RSC’ so I should probably retire now.”

When asked about what had been a few of favorite lines from the show over the years, both Tennant and Gardner responded together, “Raxacoricofallapatorius!!!”  Tennant went on to say that he also enjoyed “learning the square root of Pi” or the episode “Midnight”, even though when he first read the script, he had a choice expletive for Russell T. Davies for writing such a difficult scene. “On the read through the next day, I thought I’m going to show him I stayed up all night and learned it and went to the read through and went ‘1.3247…. ahhh…. shove that up your ass!’ ” Tennant also alluded to the “hermit” line from “Utopia” as being another one of his favorites. “One great thing about playing The Doctor is that you get all of the best lines.  Until Catherine Tate shows up, then she gets some of the punch lines. But she was very good at them so I couldn’t really feel too slighted.”  Tennant added, “She was brilliant.  She’s just a great actress and a great human being, really.”

On what were some of the highlights of filming, especially off camera, Tennant observed that it was really hard to pick one, but that the “filming Journey’s End, when everyone was there and you literally had a Tardis full of your mates. They were the hard days to get through because they were so funny, there was so much fun and everyone was quite naughty.  (But) it feels almost disloyal to start picking moments out because its been the most extraordinary time filled with high points really, and very, very few low points, I’d say.” Gardner said she couldn’t help teasing a bit that there “are such high points to come” in Tennant’s final episodes and that they contain “some of our strongest work.”

Tennant also revealed that Bernard Cribbins will be playing, “a huge and fundamental part in this final story” and officially spoke about Catherine Tate and John Simm being be back as well.  “Having John back was great.” He excitedly said, “And Timothy Dalton!  Bloody hell, Timothy Dalton!”  Tennant referred to Dalton having “such enthusiasm” at being on The Doctor Who set.  Tennant added, “That’s been one of the eternal joys is been how excited the guest cast have been to come and join us.”

Tennant and Gardner were questioned about the speculations that they were both at Comic-Con to announce that there would Doctor Who feature film. Tennant answered, “We have to do some expectation limitation, because there are all sorts of things people think we are going to talk about at this panel tomorrow and weren’t not!  We’re just here to celebrate the specials and there is nothing else to say!”  He kidded that the reporters should “tweet” the news right away, “so we don’t have people hurling croissants at us tomorrow morning because they are expecting something thrilling” and one of the reporters happily complied.
 

As to whether or not he was looking forward to seeing the new series with Matt Smith as The Doctor, Tennant stated:

      David Tennant:  I really am!  We both are!

      Julie Gardner:  Really!  I’ve deliberately not read scripts and kept away from it.  Because I want to be a viewer! 

      DT:  (dejected) I haven’t been offered scripts!

      JG:  I think Russell said to Steven, “Come on, hurry up with filming!  I’ve been waiting for twenty years!  I want to see something I haven’t written or been involved in.”  We all want to be, literally on a Saturday night, on the sofa, watching it with the UK.

      DT:  It’s so exciting!

      JG:  It really is.. 

Questioned on whether or not he had been able to “spirit away” one of the sonic screwdrivers from the set, Tennant announced, “I got presented with one actually!  I was very touched to get given one as I left.  I don’t know if this means they bought new ones, but I’ve got one now in my house, which I’m very proud of.”

In honor of Comic-Con, Tennant was asked if he had read any of The Doctor Who comics. Tennant knew about the ones published in Britain, but had no idea of the existence of the American Doctor Who comics, until he had been handed one that day.  Both he and Gardner expressed how thrilled and amazed they were to find this out there was an American comic and how they loved the artwork.

On whether or not he was looking forward to seeing how many people at the panel the next day would be dressed up as The Doctor, Tennant joked, “Of course! I shall be nude, just to balance out.” He jokingly added, “If everyone comes to the panel dressed as me, I’ll do the panel nude.”  When Gardner mentioned that she and Steven Moffat had done The Doctor Who panel at the previous years Comic-Con, Tennant teasingly asked if they had done the panel nude. Gardner laughingly responded, “NO! We were both fully clothed!”

On what she though made the return of Doctor Who even more successful than the original, Gardner gave a lot of credit to the appeal of the show to “great actors we’ve had led by David and Chris (Eccleston)” and to Russell T. Davies for creating the tone of the show and its “very optimistic, very romantic, very life affirming tone.”  She went on to add that she felt another appeal of the show is that it has a “format that can tell any story” and that it therefore is a format that can survive. Tennant interjected that it couldn’t be said enough times how Doctor Who’s successful return was due in large part to Gardner’s, “indefatigability and life and intelligence and brilliance and strength” and that it would not be “the sensation it is” without her.

Gardner finished by saying, “I think it is really a show made with absolute love. There will always be differences about choices made, particularly in a show that’s got such a big fan base. But I really think everyone one of the crew, every single member of that crew, and people coming in were so hopeful for it, and love it so much, I think that came through, as I think it sometimes does.”

If the response of the fans at The Doctor Who panel the next day indicated anything, it was that the love goes both ways and that audiences have responded to the love and care that the crew and cast have put into Doctor Who for the past five years and they are eagerly waiting to see David Tennant’s final work as The Doctor.

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