It’s Peter Capaldi’s first time at Comic-Con, and he was humble — but not rattled — at the outpouring of love from Hall H. “I’ve never been in front of 7,000 people before in my life,” he said to the cheering crowd who came for the Doctor Who panel. “I can’t hear them all, probably,” he added, which elicited louder cheers. “I can’t hear you at the back,” he continued, prompting yet more raucousness. Accompanying the Twelfth Doctor were Jenna Coleman, Michelle Gomez, and showrunner Steven Moffat.
A trailer for Season 9, which premieres Sept. 19 on BBC America, showed not only the return of Gomez’s Missy, aka The Master, but also Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones. “You!” says an astonished Doctor, to which Williams’s character coolly replies, “What took you so long, old man?” It’s not much, but clearly she won’t have to give up any of the cheekiness we’ve come to expect from Arya Stark.
On what makes The Doctor different from any other role, Capaldi said, “It’s the only show that is in my bones very deeply. It’s the only show that I’ve followed since I was six years old.” He said when he came to the Doctor Who set for the first time — when he played a role during David Tennant’s run as The Doctor in 2008 — he asked Tennant, “‘Where’s the TARDIS?’ And he took me over to the police box and I got quite teary!”
Coleman describes Clara’s relationship with The Doctor last season as “working each other out.” But now, she said, “We’re mid-shooting at the moment and — in a way — we’ve found our groove together. We really are on equal terms.”
That dynamic has irked some, who would rather the companion be a sidekick than a partner. But Moffat has a habit of defying the will of fans, and usually, as in the case of The Master — who was traditionally a man, but resurfaced last season as a woman — the fans come around to his way of thinking.
One of the things that this most recent iteration of The Master (usually just referred to as Missy) has made more clear about her relationship with The Doctor is that, despite the numerous times she has tried to kill him, they’re actually friends. Moffat says that aspect of their connection is nothing new, and he looked to The Third Doctor and his Master. “One of the first things I did when I started writing this is go back and look at the John Pertwee/Roger Delgado version,” he said.
“If you really break it down, it’s this great friendship that just went wrong. We’ve all had them. It seems to be her life’s purpose to chase after The Doctor and make him understand, 'No, you started it — I’m right!’”
But, of course, there’s a core difference in their philosophies, which Gomez sums up like this: “We both do the same thing: We both kill a lot of people. He feels bad about it; I don’t.” Capaldi said The Doctor is always pleased to see her, but his heart sinks immediately after because he remembers what he’ll have to deal with. He summed up his emotions with, “Oh well. Life is s–t. Business as usual.” Then, with a quick aside, “Scottish philosophy.”
“She’s kind of like the best friend that you love to hate,” Gomez explained. When asked how Missy will be after her defeat last season, she said that something will be different, but she’s not sure what. Perhaps it has something to do with what Missy’s been doing in the interim, but she wouldn’t give any details. “Probably taking tea with the Queen,” she joked off-handedly.
As for those persistent demands that the next Doctor be a woman? Moffat said that his subtext that The Doctor could be a woman is very clear, but fans would at least have to wait for Capaldi to be done with his run. For his part, Capaldi is definitely game: “We should do a drag episode just to try it out!”
And what about another wish on many fans’ list, the possibility of The Doctor and Sherlock ever meeting? “For the record — no one ever believes me — I have no problem with the idea of them meeting,” Moffat said. “It’s all the rest of them that have got a problem with it. I’ll do anything for a laugh. I’m a tart!”
Season 9 of Doctor Who premieres September 19 on BBC America.