In a warehouse at Cardiff’s Roath Lock studios, someone is sitting in the darkness, gurgling into a microphone. You don’t have to be a die-hard Whovian to recognise the strangulated vocals. It’s a Dalek in full, throaty extermination mode. And not just one of them, either. Left, right, centre – the whole studio is crawling with them.
Welcome to the first episode of Doctor Who, back on our screens this week for a very eventful ninth series. Virtually everything on a new Who series comes pre-loaded with Top Secret status, and this one is no exception.
What can we expect from the start of the series?
Peter: “Steven Moffat has delivered an unusually far-reaching and ambitious story, with a plot that features the return of Missy, and rips into some of the show’s most iconic mythology.”
What are you enjoying most about being back filming?
Peter: “It’s good to have the Daleks back, and so many of them too!
“I don’t know if you saw those sets? They had a lovely 1960s feel about them. It reminded me of the Doctor Who movies. And to have a whole pile of Daleks in a room, not just created by computer graphics. It was very exciting.”
Where does the series start?
Peter: “It picks up some time after the events of last year’s Christmas special.”
Can fans expect more trademark seriousness from the Doctor this series?
Peter: “The somewhat grumpy Doctor is in a lighter frame of mind than before, but serious problems are around the corner. I think the Doctor’s moving on a bit, he’s embracing the present. Of course he knows that things can often end in great distress, but rather than focusing on that I think he has decided to have a good time.”
So he’ll be wandering around humming happy tunes?
“That doesn’t mean he’s not aware that darkness will fall – or whatever phrase I can think of that you can print and sounds good! You can’t have a good time on Doctor Who for too long...”
Ah, so something will be eating at him…
Peter: “A flashback at the start of the first episode soon reveals what might be preoccupying him. Many hundreds of years ago, he came face to face with a mysterious young boy on a war-torn planet.”
Who’s the boy?
Peter: “His identity will be revealed during the episode – and it’s connected to a very sinister figure who is hunting the Doctor in the opening scenes.”
The first episode is quite frightening in places, are we going to be seeing a series that’s darker than before?
Steven: “I suppose in some ways it is. I mean I’ve always felt that our darkness is a bit Scooby Doo. But Doctor Who is supposed to be scary. It does high comedy. It does low comedy. It does romance. And it does scary. And when we do scary, we really go for it.”
Speculation about plot twists is one of the perennial pleasures of Doctor Who; the internet is always awash with fan rumours about what will happen next. Do you know what’s going on?
Peter: “This year in particular they have kept me in the dark. Some of it comes up through gossip, or because people have to put costumes together and so on. The crew generally walk around with scripts, which I don’t see.”
So you normally have some idea of what’s going to happen then?
Peter: “In the two years that I’ve been doing the show, Steven has given me an evening where he takes me through the whole series. But in this instance I don’t know what’s happening at the end.”
Do you prefer that?
Peter: “I actually quite like it. I’m not sure I would be able to act better if I knew more. I mean, if the Doctor doesn’t know what’s going to happen to him, how am I supposed to know? Or what would I do differently if I knew?”
You’ve made it no secret that you’ve always been a Doctor Who fan, do you ever chip in with ideas?
Peter: “I do when it comes to resurrecting old monsters.”
“I usually like to pick the most obscure ones – like the Chumbleys, I’d also like to see the Demons because they were a little bit black magicky, a bit supernatural. I like monsters that have a horror movie element to them, not just a sci-fi one.”
Blimey! Any more for any more?
Peter: “I’m also on a crusade for the Mondassian Cybermen, which had human hands and balaclavas. I think we could render them with clear masks to hold their flesh in place. I think they’d be quite terrifying.”
The novelty of filming with monsters hasn’t worn off after two years in the Tardis then?
Peter: “There’s a very warm, honeyish feeling you get when you walk into a room full of Daleks, or when you see the Zygons.
“I’m always excited to see the new storyline, because there’s always something fun in it that I really, really like. And it’s very, very good, and particularly strong this year.”
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