It was impossible to judge just how many were in line for the “Doctor Who” panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The queue stretched from the entrance of Ballroom 20, out a door, wrapped around under a tent, went down some stairs, and continued out of sight. There were even rumors of fans camping out overnight. Upon entrance, each attendee received issues of IDW Publishing’s reprinting of “Doctor Who Classic” comics.
Moderator Robert Lloyd of the “Los Angeles Times” opened the panel with words of immense praise. “It’s a show that can make me cry,” said Lloyd.
Lloyd then introduced the panelists one by one, starting with Julie Gardner, the Head of Drama at BBC Wales. She was followed by Euros Lyn, director of many episodes of “Who,” including fan-favorites “Silence in the Library” and “The Runaway Bride.” Next was executive producer Russell T. Davies who, in Lloyd’s words, “reconstructed and reinvigorated the show. The Davros, if you will-in a good way.” The crowd gave Davies thunderous applause.
Finally, David Tennant, the 10th Doctor himself, took the stage sporting the Doctor’s signature hairstyle. He was greeted by standing ovations and wave after wave of cheers.
“I’m going to start with the bad news,” said Gardner. “We are not making any announcement about a ‘Doctor Who’ movie. I’m really sorry. I don’t know where that rumor started. But it has made us think that this might be a good idea. Is this something you’d like?”
The crowd responded with deafening cheers.
Gardner then introduced a teaser trailer of the final episode starring Tennant’s Doctor. The lights dimmed, and many familiar faces flashed across the ballroom’s screens. The Ood, an alien race featured in several episodes of the show, will make a return, as will Catherine Tate as Donna Noble and Bernard Cribbins as Donna’s grandfather, Wilfred Mott.
A hooded figure also appeared throughout the teaser. In the final seconds, a familiar voice echoed throughout the room. “My name is the Master,” said the voice.
The crowd exploded as the hood was thrown off to reveal that a bleached haired John Simm will reprise his role as the Doctor’s arch-nemesis.
Once the noise quieted down, Tennant demanded to see the trailer again, and the audience cheered even louder. Shouts of “one more time!” were heard at the end, but the panel had to move on.
Lloyd asked the panelists about how they felt the cultural impact of “Doctor Who”.
“It’s something I grew up obsessed with, really,” said Tennant. “So it’s very strange to be up here and be part of it. When you go to a supermarket and your face is on a cake and children’s pants, it’s something they don’t really prepare you for in drama school.”
“Working on the show has been the most beautiful time of my life,” said Davies.
“I’m playing the same man that William Hartnell was playing,” said Tennant, referring to the actor who portrayed the Doctor’s first incarnation. “I just have a different wig.”
Lloyd asked how the panelists manage to make the show look good on such a “tiny little budget.” “We go over budget,” said Gardner with a grin. “We make hard choices about how may special effects we have, how many stunts we have. Sometimes after a big show we do a really small show, and that helps pay for the Christmas special. We also call in a lot of favors.”
When asked about how he personally loved the show, Tennant started stroking Davies hair, and Davies in turn stroked Lyn. Tennant then switched to Gardner.
“I thought we’d have a very big one year and then collapse and be taken off screen,” said Davies. “We never imagined it would be so successful. It was mystifying, gob smacking and brilliant.”
Lloyd then introduced Craig Glenday, the Editor-in-Chief of the “Guinness Book of World Records.” Glenday said that in addition to holding the record of the longest running sci-fi television show, “Who” easily took a new record for the most successful sci-fi show of all time.
“I accept this not as an executive producer, but for a woman named Verity Lambert,” said Davies, referring to one of the original producers of “Who” who passed away in 2007.
In the question-and-answer period, a fan asked what Tennant’s favorite part of working on the show was. “It genuinely feels wrong to choose. Each individual episode is it’s own thing,” he said. “It genuinely feels like choosing between your children. It feels wrong.”
Another fan asked Tennant how he dealt with the death and regeneration of the Doctors he liked as a younger viewer. “I remember being a kid when Tom Baker left, who I grew up with an idolized” said Tennant, referring to the actor who portrayed the Doctor’s fourth incarnation. “But then Peter Davison cam along and after a few weeks I thought he was the best. And that’s how I think it’s going be with you. When Matt Smith comes around, in a few weeks you’ll love him to.”
Another favorite memory of Tennant’s happened during a script read-through. “Suddenly, a voice from my childhood started calling me ‘Doctor,’ and the eight-year-old boy in me was being called the Doctor by Sarah Jane,” Tennant said, referring to actress Elisabeth Sladen. “That was something special.”
Gardner took the moment to announce that Tennant will appear in an upcoming episode of “The Sara Jane Chronicles” entitled “The Wedding of Sara Jane Smith.”
Tennant’s attention was brought to Matt Smith, who will succeed him has the 11th incarnation of the Doctor. “He’s very enthused and will be brilliant. Which is annoying,” he laughed.
At this point, Gardner pulled out a video camera and started filming Tennant’s responses. Davies took the opportunity to announce that the panel itself will be on an upcoming episode of “Doctor Who Confidential.”
The final question came from an 11-year-old girl, who asked Tennant what subject he would teach if he ever became a schoolteacher. After suggestions from the crowd ranging from physics to sex education, Tennant had this to say:
“The only subject I was every any good at at school, that I ever had any passion for was English, and my set text would be anything by Russell T. Davies.”