“Doctor Who” cast talks companions and kick ass moms

In the world of BBC America’s hit series Doctor Who, time travel is done on a regular basis, the lead character is 900 years old and new moms – in this case, Amy Pond, played by Karen Gillan – thankfully don’t have to spend their time burping babies and missing out on the action.

During the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills, cast members Gillan, Matt Smith (who plays the title character) as well as current writer Steven Moffat sat down to talk about the upcoming second half of the sixth series, which launches on BBC America on August 27th.

The biggest revelation that had everyone in the room buzzing was the mid-season finale’s bomb that Amy’s newborn daughter, Melody, is really the very adult River Song (Alex Kingston). In the science fiction world of Doctor Who this notion isn’t as improbable at might seem but it will definitely create complications with the upcoming new episodes. To sum it up, Moffat explained, “You know, that little girl the Doctor first met when she was seven and who, when she was a little bit older, snogged him against the TARDIS, turns out to be the mother, possibly, of the woman he’s possibly married to in the future. How terrifying. That’s not going to make your life simpler. ”

Gillan admitted she did not see the revelation of Amy’s baby really being River coming at all. In mock annoyance, Gillan ranted, “And Alex Kingston knew the whole time!” In showing that even the actors play the same guessing game with the show and its regular surprises as its loyal legion of viewers, she said, “We all had our own theories but, no, I did not see that coming.” In fact, the actors were even given a false ending to a script so as not to tip off too many people and hold the revelation as long as possible. “There was a dummy ending at the end of Episode 7,” Gillan revealed, “and then we didn’t know until after the read-through, and Steven took us into a corridor and showed us the real ending, and we all just ran up and down a corridor going, ‘Oh, my God!’” Smith said, tongue in cheek of Moffat’s twist in the plot. “I think it’s an abuse of power, frankly.” Gillan agreed.

And while Matt Smith is used to being asked who his favorite Doctor Who has been (the show first aired in 1963 and Smith is the 11th Doctor), Gillan was asked if she had a favorite companion from the years before she joined the series. The actress said that when she was a young girl in Inverness, “I remember watching Billie Piper play Rose, and she’s my favorite companion because I thought she was really brilliant with Chris Eccleston, but the chemistry she had with David Tennant I thought was brilliant, and it just make me realize how important it is in the show that chemistry between the Doctor and companion because it’s kind of at the heart of the show. So, yeah, it has to be Rose.” (Piper would, of course, go onto her own fame starring in the risqué series Secret Diary of a Call Girl.)

Is calling Amy a companion a bit dated and old-fashioned? Moffat spoke up and said, “We actually very rarely use it in the show. It’s actually people writing about the show that call them the companions. We almost never say it. Hilariously, there was a period during which they referred to the Doctor’s female friends as ‘his assistants.’ I think that’s probably quite politically incorrect. I think we shouldn’t say that. But companion, as I say, I’m not sure the word, until ‘Closing Time,’ had ever actually appeared in the show.” He added, eyeing the room of journalists, “It’s in the press. It’s all you lot. It’s all your fault.”

Regardless of what title you give Amy, Gillan is very pleased with the evolution of the character from the 7-year-old that first appeared on the series in 2010. “I think when she kind of came and burst on the scene, she was almost as mad as the Doctor, which was quite entertaining,” Gillan said. “And what I like about her is that you really sort of, I hope, as an audience invest in her because you meet her as a little girl. You see that relationship form, and then you see her as a young woman, and then you see her get married. And now she’s had a child. So we’re kind of getting, you know, quite a bit of her life, which I think is great. Maybe it will go full circle.”

Just like Torchwood, a Whoniverse a spin-off of Doctor Who – a woman having a baby does not mean that she is going to suddenly lose her ability to kick ass. While we’ve already seen Torchwood’s Gwen (Eve Myles) fire off a handgun in one arm while holding her baby in the other, will Amy lose her edge in being a bad ass? “Mothers are kick ass, aren’t they?” asked Moffat. “They’ve got the biggest kick ass job in the world, raising children. Of course [Amy will] just be as kick ass as ever. Look who her Doctor is!”

If there is one thing that Gillan promised during the TCA panel it is that the rest of the sixth series is going to be anything but boring. Of the coming episodes, she said “it’s going to take some twists and turns and all relationships and the whole dynamic is going to change after the big revelation at the end of the last half of the series.”

The cast also couldn’t help but recount that they had just experienced something that some might say is other-worldly – San Diego Comic Con – and the actors gushed about the love they received at the convention this past weekend. Smith grinned and said, “I want to go back… the spirit of the place and actually for us to come there and for the show to have such impact for us to fill Hall H was remarkable.” Gillan added in her own marveling way, “We did a panel to six and a half thousand people, all with sonic screw screwdrivers in the air.”

Doctor Who returns with new episodes on BBC America on August 27th.

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