[Author’s Note: There are spoilers ahead if you haven’t already seen last season’s Doctor Who finale. If you are a Doctor Who fan, though, spoilers are expected, given the timey-wimeiness of the timestream.]
On Wednesday night Sept. 17, I attended a screening of last season’s Doctor Who two-part finale Dark Water and Death in Heaven at the Regal Cinema in Redmond, Wash. I wore a white button down shirt with a blue “police box” tie. In my pocket was the fourth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. The second I entered my chosen row, a young lady a row ahead said, “look, he’s wearing a Tardis tie.” I answered with the buzzing whir of the screwdriver. A couple of other sonic screwdrivers were immediately invoked. Someone down the row yelled, “4th Doctor, cool.”
Fathom Events holds these screenings because they know the stalwart fans will attend, not because they haven’t seen the main feature, but because most of them haven’t seen the main feature as a community—and for early access to some hints about what’s coming in the next season.
The only real difference between the television version and the big screen version of Steven Moffat’s heartrending tale of Clara Oswald’s lost love Danny Pink (and the saving of the world from Cybermen), was the size of the screen and the introduction of 3D. The size of the screen, especially during closeups of Clara’s grief-stricken face, was much more impactful than the 3D transformation. And of course, a big screen helps make space feel, well, more like space.
No matter how big our television screens, we rarely think of episodic television, replete with ever-lengthening commercial breaks, as engaging art. This BBC and Fathom collaboration transformed a “small screen” experience into a cinematic one—communicating the true scale of Moffat and director Rachel Talalay’s vision with devastating emotional effect. While the 3D was subtle, it added to the overall impact. As a long-time fan introduced to Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor through local Los Angeles public television station KCET, the moment where Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, converted into a Cyberman, receives a salute from The Doctor, had me reaching into a pocket for some psychic tissue.
The experience of seeing a television episode on a big screen in 3D wasn’t the only draw for this event though. The audience was also privy to a sneak peak into the next season which starts Saturday, Sept 19 on BBC America (the show’s website and trailer can be found here).
The “prequel” as it is being billed, begins in a medieval castle with Capaldi’s Doctor in deep meditation. We find out pretty quickly that his meditation is more procrastination than preparation. Something big, it appears to be a major battle, his last battle, is about to take place some time some where.
For Whovians that can only mean one thing, at least with the dots we have to connect today: a return to Trenzalore. Trenzalore is the site of the Doctor’s tomb and the place where Clara Oswald fragmented her future to save the Doctor from his erasure by the Great Intelligence (In the episode titled: The Name of the Doctor).
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Much of the other new bits about the show came in the form of character traits discussed during an exclusive Wil Wheaton interview with Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. We learned that Jenna’s Clara Oswald will deal with grief by throwing herself fully into her adventures with the Doctor. We know that Capaldi gets to play electric guitar more than once, and that he does so on what he described as a homemade Fender Stratocaster purchased in a SOHO shop—a guitar built more from a description of a Stratocaster than from any image or specifications. He said buying the Doctor’s guitar was the second best day of his life (the first the day he was asked to be the Doctor). In other words, Capaldi is bringing rock-and-roll to the Tardis. Wheaton suggested it would be cool to see the Tardis spinning in space, with the door open, blasting Smoke on the Water into the cosmos. I concur, though I doubt the younger fans would have any idea why that would be so epic.
And oh, I think I forgot to mention that Michel Gomez returns as The Master, with her bat-shit crazy tight-walk performance that sits on the fine edge between high-functioning sociopath and and full-tilt psychopath. Season 9 will also see the entry of a new character played by Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams, who, Capaldi shared, upstaged his acting with industry professionalism gained from 6 years on the Thrones set. We do get a sense that her character and the Doctor have met before.
In the interview we were also told to brush-up on the Dalek origin story, and to expand our concepts of regeneration. No answers, but plenty of blind alley’s to run down before the premiere.
My biggest takeaway was that it appears Season 9 will deliver a Doctor more finely tuned to Peter Capaldi, one more grown into his new skin. We will get the doctor we expected from Capaldi, or perhaps wished for, a Doctor full of rock ‘n’ roll, wearing Ray-bans and galavanting across all of space and time, shoulder-to-shoulder with the beautiful woman who is now Prince Harry’s girlfriend.
Unless you have your own Tardis or vortex manipulator, you’ll have to wait until Saturday like the rest of us to see how the Doctor’s future unfolds.