An email from BBC Worldwide inviting me to a screening of Deep Breath
and press conference with Peter Capaldi
and Jenna Coleman
as part of the Australian leg of the Doctor Who World Tour is hard to refuse – even if it is in Sydney. I’m a Melbourne boy, about 900kms (and an hour and a half flight or 12-hour train trip away – further than the 240kms Cardiff is from London) south of Sydney, but how could I say no? So I booked a cheap flight to Sydney, arranged to stay with an old friend the night before, and I was set.
I’ve met, and done an interview in person with one other Doctor, Peter Davison
, when he was here hosting the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular earlier this year, and I’ve done phone interviews with previous Doctors David Tennant
and Matt Smith
(as well as quite a few companion actors), but this was going to be the first time I would be in the same space as a current Doctor and companion. Capaldi and Coleman are the first 21st century TARDIS team to visit Australia, so of course, there was lots of excitement and anticipation.
I wasn’t the only one travelling to Sydney for this event; a fellow Melbourne journalist was also flying up, Doctor Who news contributor Adam Kirk was travelling across from Canberra, and on my flight was a couple, one dressed in an outfit resembling the Seventh Doctor’s TV Movie ensemble, and one wearing a Tom Baker scarf. Now that’s showing your true colours.
The press screening and Q&A were taking place at a cinema on Circular Quay, not far from the Sydney Opera House and across from the Harbour Bridge. Kick-off time was 9.15am, but I arrived early to catch up with Adam for a coffee and a chat. The café we chose had a great view of the Harbour, and as a result the price of the coffee was inflated, and the coffee not that great – very Parisian. But I’m a true Melbourne boy, and we take our coffee seriously.
Once coffee was done, we headed into the cinema foyer, and were greeted with the TARDIS – or at least a travelling TARDIS prop. After signing a confidentiality agreement (so no spoilers, I’m afraid Sweetie), we were given a press kit, complete with a press-out mini TARDIS to assemble at home, and then ushered into the cinema.
Local ABC Radio presenter Adam Spencer
introduced the screening, and then it was time for a ‘Deep Breath’. It’s always fun watching a brand new episode with an audience; observing their reactions, laughing along with them, feeling the anticipation and sharing in the joy. And of course I won’t be giving anything away, but it does involve a dinosaur in Victorian London, the Paternoster Gang and a newspaper.
The episode was well received – of course, and as Adam returned to the stage and asked for comments from the crowd, it was like everyone was still processing it and not yet ready to articulate their thoughts. Then Peter and Jenna arrived, and soon they settled in for a chat with Adam. They covered a lot of ground, from casting to their first day filming together.
Q&A press conferences can be curious beasts. It’s kicking it off that’s always awkward and Adam did a good job launching straight into the questions, but when it was time for questions from the audience, everyone was a bit hesitant – no one likes to be the first, and there’s always the fear that you’ll ask a stupid question and make a dick of yourself. Once the audience got going though, there was a sudden flood of questions, mostly intelligent and thoughtful. There’s always one out of left field though, and someone asked Peter if he was going to follow in Christopher Eccleston’s steps and just do one season. Peter, Jenna and Adam looked a little taken aback, and you could feel the rest of the audience shift uncomfortably. Peter confirmed he was doing the Christmas Special, of course, and remained enigmatic beyond that, if a little mystified by the question himself.
Then it was time for Peter and Jenna to head out for the photo shoot. The TARDIS had been moved outside, and with the Harbour Bridge as a backdrop, Peter and Jenna posed for a tight and demanding group of photographers, a mix of professional paparazzi and amateur snappers. They were of course accommodating and graceful, responding to calls to turn this way or that, to go inside the TARDIS, outside the TARDIS, you get the idea. And of course, the commotion attracted a lot of passers-by and tourists all wondering what was going on. Some recognised Peter and the TARDIS; others had no idea. But the iPhones and cameras clicked away.
Adam and I managed to squeeze in for some good shots, but couldn’t get close enough to actually talk to Peter or Jenna. And then they were whisked away by a phalanx of publicists and minders, leaving the TARDIS available for a few selfies. We also managed to get interviewed ourselves about our thoughts on ‘Deep Breath’ and the Twelfth Doctor. And then the TARDIS disappeared and it was all over – as if if had never been there. But we will always remember that it was.