THE end of an era for Doctor Who approached on a screen in central London today.
“It’s been something that I’ll be forever proud of,” David Tennant told us afterwards.
“Filming the very, very final scenes was very sad.”
The Waters Of Mars is as dark and as thrilling an episode of Doctor Who as any I’ve ever seen.
It’s the second of four farewell specials starring David as the tenth Time Lord.
And it foreshadows his departure in a final two-part story to be screened at Christmas.
The hour-long episode, premiered at the press launch today, will be broadcast on BBC1 at 7pm on Sunday Nov 15.
There’s a full transcript below of this morning’s post-screening Q&A with David and outgoing Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies.
But first a little background.
This remarkable film, written by Russell and Phil Ford, begins with the TARDIS landing on Mars on Nov 21 2059.
There the Doctor discovers Bowie Base One – the human race’s first off world colony, led by a mission commander called Adelaide (Lindsay Duncan).
The Doctor calls her “a woman with starlight in her soul”.
Some parts of The Waters Of Mars are seriously scary and will ensure children never shower again.
With one of the most intelligent and moving scripts in the long history of Doctor Who.
“I really should go,” insists the Doctor. Several times.
“What happens here must always happen,” explains the last of the Time Lords.
Before an ending which will disturb and disrupt what we all think of him.
It’s significant that this doom-laden story has the Doctor alone, without a companion, running from his own demise.
With the Ood appearing at the end to summon him.
BBC drama boss Ben Stephenson described it as “one of the most sophisticated pieces of writing I’ve seen in a long time”.
He’s also watched the final two episodes – The End Of Time.
“Stonking is probably the only word. They are full of the best twists and turns Doctor Who has ever done,” promised Ben.
“Some of the twists are really, really shocking. Some of them are hilarious. And a lot of them are incredibly moving.
“There really won’t be a dry eye in the house and your turkey will be quite wet by the end of it.”
We were also treated to short extracts from those last two films.
Featuring John Simm’s return as The Master, with what looked like blond hair.
Fans who want to read more, including why David has locked away his sonic screwdriver, should check out the transcript below.
As chance had it, I asked both the first and last questions at the post-screening press conference:
(Sat Oct 31 update – new pics added following the expiry of the BBC image embargo)
1. One of the darkest and scariest episodes that you’ve filmed?
David: “Probably, yeah, I think. It tells a different sort of story and it’s a long time into the episode before the Doctor takes control. I think that’s what’s unnerving about it. It’s not the standard kind of structure – we expect the Doctor to take control, we expect the Doctor to know how he’s going to do it and how he’s going to win through. And he sort of doesn’t. Even though he wins in the end, it’s a bittersweet victory and people die. And that’s part of the story we had to tell to go where we’re going.”
Russell: “It’s not so much scary as intense.”
2. Are you still getting ideas for Doctor Who and, if so, what are you doing with them?
Russell: “I don’t really, no. I knew I was finishing two years ago, so I stopped then, in a way. I think there’s a good Twitter Doctor Who story to be told, I’ve got to say…in 140 characters. No, to be honest – I’m old hat.”
3. Are you still aiming at children?
Russell: “Absolutely. Have you read a Harry Potter book?”
David: “Have you seen a Harry Potter film?”
Russell: “It’s his (Harry Potter’s) own mum and dad, let alone complete strangers on Mars. I think kids would laugh at your worries. What I love about that, it’s a complicated story. Frankly, it’s very intelligent. The Doctor’s moral choices there are caught up in a temporal conundrum – and six-year-olds could follow that. Absolutely easy…and I think that’s fantastic television for children. It’s the sort of challenge you should give them.”
4. Is this an indication of where things might be going in the future?
David: “Well, I think this gives you a bit of a hint, the fact that the Ood have come to summon the Doctor and the fact that the Doctor now knows incontrovertibly that he’s running from his own demise. At the very end he says, ‘No, I’m not going there, I’m going to rage against the dying of the light,’ which kind of beats at the final story, I suppose. All those chickens come home to roost.”
Russell: “At the end of the series with Catherine Tate, Davros told him he was responsible for many people’s deaths – and all these things are coming to an end. This shows why he travels with a human companion. That’s the point of this story – he would have had someone to talk to…and found a different way out of it. But because he’s alone, he’s lost in his own head and he goes too far. All these things are coming to an end. It’s time.”
5. Do you feel that you’ve wrapped it up satisfyingly for yourself?
David: “Yeah. It feels like we tell a big end of an era story and hand it on, which I think is important in this show, which has, let’s face it, been going a long time before we showed up and no doubt will carry on into the far distant future. So, yes, I think we tell a big old farewell story and then hand it over in rude health.”
Russell: “It’s nice knowing when you’re coming to an end so far in advance, you get a chance to do everything. It’s not like you’ve forgotten anything. We see the Ood summon the Doctor…for Children In Need in a few weeks’ time, you get the first scene of the Doctor arriving on the Planet of the Ood – Ood-Sphere, which was actually a hilarious scene. That scene is so funny. You shouldn’t think it’s going to be as dark and as doom-laden from now on.”
6. Did either of you take any souvenirs from the set?
David: “You’re not allowed. You really aren’t allowed. I think people think we just walk away with our pockets stuffed full of stuff. But, you know, the licence fee is very well protected and so it should be. I did get a little gift box at the end of stuff they didn’t need anymore.
“I do have my own sonic screwdriver and I put it in a secure location because I suddenly got worried my house would get burgled and I’d lose it. So I’ve locked it up somewhere.”
Russell: “No, I’ve got like an orb from the end of the world. I had to pay a thousand for it at a charity auction. I actually was very drunk and I thought I’d bought a weekend in Devon…then it turned out it was an orb.”
7. Photos have leaked out of the new Doctor Who series (starring Matt Smith) being filmed at the moment. Do either of you feel any regret?
David: “It’s weird, I remember before it was the case, thinking, ‘Oh that’ll probably happen, we’ll probably start seeing snaps of them on street corners and wearing anoraks and having cups of tea between takes.’ And I was nervous about how I’d feel about that. I’m thrilled that it’s carrying on and I know that everyone who’s there is a great choice. Of course, you feel a little bit proprietorial. But I’ve been very cheered by the fact that I haven’t, actually. I’ve just been really excited to see that it’s going on, teased by what I’m seeing, and I just can’t wait to see it. I suppose because I remember what it felt like, as well, to be where Matt is now. I just was really excited and I’m really excited to be seeing somebody else starting out on that journey, I guess.”
Russell: “It’s funny because when you’re inside the programme and you see those things, you think, ‘Oh it’s spoiled and it’s ruined and it’s dreadful.’ But when you’re outside, you think, ‘Ooh, that’s exciting.’”
8. Are you currently putting together, conceiving, writing an American version of Doctor Who to pitch to American networks?
Russell: “Absolutely not. No. As you know, I lie my way through these things, but no, absolutely not. I bet you a hundred quid that I’m not. I’m developing things – but new things. And I’m not going to tell you what they are because they’ll probably never exist. There’s a recession out there as well. We’ll see.”
David: “I can do the accent…that was a joke.”
9. Do you feel you’ve done everything you wanted to do with this series?
Russell: “I do feel that. When I started, I could never imagine you could go so far with it, like to do episodes with Peter Kay or to do monsters that are statues…or to bring Davros back…you never would have thought it would go that far. So I feel more than happy and vindicated, actually, that all these things worked.”
David: “I got to do so many more things than I ever imagined I would, just playing the part itself, let alone working with all the incredible actors who came through – all the things I got to do, hanging off things, being blown up and wearing make-up of myself as a nine-million-year-old-man. All these things that I would never have dreamed of. So, no, I didn’t have a checklist, thinking, ‘When am I going to get to ride on a unicycle, it’s just not fair.’ No, it was just an incredible, continually surprising trip. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
Russell: “You got to ride on a robot with Lindsay Duncan. Hilarious. All those posh things she’s done. We brought her down to this.”
10. We know some of the companions are returning for your final episodes?
David: “Well you saw Catherine Tate as Donna. You saw Bernard Cribbins as Wilf. John Simm as the Master…not a companion but he’s part of the gang.”
Russell: “Jacqueline King. who plays Donna’s mum Sylvia and The Master’s wife – she’s back. And The Ood. And the new Ood.”
11. David, how did you feel giving up the role?
“Like I just said, it was an incredible experience. It was something that I fantasised about as a child, so it was an incredible, slightly surreal thing to finally be up there and be part of that. It’s been something that I will be forever proud of.”
12. Elisabeth Sladen said recently that she was worried about you David, as to how you’re going to cope not being the Doctor and she thought you might end up in rehab?
David: “It’s not looking that likely at the moment but who knows. Never say never.”
13. What was your last day like?
David: “Actually my last day was on The Sarah Jane Adventures, which is on this afternoon. The last line I say as the Doctor is half way through the episode tonight, which is, ‘You two, with me, spit spot.’ They were the last words I uttered in this suit (though not his last words as seen on screen). So I guess it was robbed of any epic quality. But that was probably best. It was very emotional saying cheerio. Filming the very, very final scenes was very sad. There’s lots of scenes in the final, final episode that are very sad and were very sad to play. And I think if one of them had co-incided with the actual final day, I’d have been in trouble. I was a bit in trouble as it was, but I was alright.”
14. What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen your face on?
David: “Pants has got to be up there, certainly. Yoghurts for a while. Healthy yoghurts, obviously. I don’t know, it just keeps coming – bath bombs. I think pants are probably the oddest, just because they’re pants.”
David also said he had plastic Doctor Who figures, including one of himself. “It’s a very odd thing and I’m not sure if it is entirely healthy but it’s quite fun.”
15. The Waters Of Mars is dedicated to Barry Lettts, who died earlier this month.
Russell: “He was one of the finest producers of Doctor Who and many programmes, actually. He used to do the Sunday afternoon classic serials and he actually produced the Jon Pertwee years. And then he cast Tom Baker. He cast Lis Sladen as well. He was an extraordinary figure in Doctor Who history and in pop culture – and he passed away, sadly. So, of course, we wanted to have that tribute to him on screen.”
16. Does David see a future filled with Doctor Who conventions?
David: “Never say never. I don’t know. It would be fun to try. The three of us went to the San Diego Comic-Con, which wasn’t quite like a Doctor Who convention because it’s almost a media event really, as much as it’s a fan convention. Although it started as a fan convention and that’s still, at heart, what it is. I don’t know. I’ve got no immediate plans. But never say never.”
17. Which episodes or specials have you been most proud of?
David: “It’s hard to pick favourites because it feels unfair.”
Russell: “And also, there really are no episodes we don’t like. You feel if you did leave an episode out, you’re insulting all your friends and colleagues who worked on that episode.”
David: “And I haven’t seen the last two yet, so I can’t comment.”
Russell: “They will be up there…definitely.”
18. Can you ever wear a blue suit again?
David: “Do you know, the only thing…there is a certain brand of footwear…I used to wear quite a lot and I don’t any more because it feels a bit wrong. Maybe I’ll get over that.”
19. Are you able to share one of the more inspiring or moving things a child has said or written to you about Doctor Who?
Russell: “Drawings…we do get all sorts of lovely letters and things, from adults as well. Extraordinary letters, truly emotional letters about it sometimes. But kids’ drawings – we’ve filled that space in children’s imaginations and their joy when they’re writing…I’ve genuinely found that moving.”
David: “It’s funny. Quite often when I meet kids they don’t know what to say, they get a bit overwhelmed by it. I remember what it did to me, I suppose. I remember how enthused I got by this show, by the worlds that it took me to and how special it seemed. And when you feel like you’re creating a similar world for a child now and you can see it reflected back, because they don’t know how to express or how to say it to you, that’s very special.”