Season 8 of the modern Doctor Who series was packed-full of change - both behind the scenes and on screen. In addition to an older, more alien, hero (via a biting performance from Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor), audiences also watched as season 7 companion Clara adjusted to the new iteration of her alien friend as well as the impact of adventures in time and space on her personal life. As the Doctor and Clara both explored who they are and what they each really want in a post-Eleventh Doctor world, viewers were confronted with a lot of heavy baggage to unpack: is the Twelfth Doctor a "good man" and would Clara ever give up adventuring in the TARDIS for a normal life with colleague-turned-boyfriend Danny Pink?
Season 8 provided an insightful look at how change on Doctor Who is received by its characters and its audience - summed up by Madame Vastra's season 8 premiere scolding of Clara: "He is the Doctor. He has walked this universe for centuries untold. He has seen stars fall to dust. You might as well flirt with a mountain range." Showrunner Steven Moffat reminded viewers that Doctor Who is about reinvention, about shaking things up, but a lot of viewers were not ready to let-go of the dashing young Doctor-type (portrayed by David Tennant and Matt Smith) and, as a result, much of season 8 was spent reeling from the introduction of Capaldi's Time Lord. However, following the events of the 2014 Christmas Special, Clara and the Twelfth Doctor are now free to adventure - and, according to new interviews with the cast and producers of Doctor Who, season 9 is a return to (adventurous) form for the series.
In addition to individual interviews with the Doctor Who crew, the BBC has also released a Season 9 preview video that sets the stage for The Doctor and Clara's next round of misadventures.
Before we unpack highlights from individual interviews with Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Michelle Gomez, and Steven Moffat, check out the behind-the-scenes teaser below.
As indicated, BBC spoke with key members of Doctor Who season 9. We've selected stand-out quotes from the interviews below - but fans who want to read each conversation, in full, can view transcripts at the following links:
While the actors each address their excitement for the coming run of episodes, Steven Moffat is once again tasked with trying to tease why fans should be excited - without providing specifics that might spoil the experience. The showrunner has never been willing to spill details of an upcoming season and Doctor Who series 9 is no exception; yet, the showrunner does his best to frame expectations, describing season 9 as The Doctor and Clara's "glory years":
They’ve been through the angst, the Doctor has been through his fear of not being a good man, and Clara has been through her fear that this might not be the Doctor. They’re on equal footing with a new dynamic between them and are relishing the Universe. They’re linking hands and running towards a brand new world of epic adventure on a cinematic scale. They are clearly heroes and loving every minute!
As for how the series will differ from the past season, Moffat indicates emphasizes that the upcoming episodes will recapture a sense of adventure that was, at times, sidelined in favor of season 8's more intimate and introspective character arcs:
I think it’s a big, mad and exciting series. You’ll be grinning a lot more, there’s more comedy mixed in with some of the darkest stuff we’ve done – the Doctor’s first big entrance kind of sets the tone.
Capaldi echoes Moffat's view of season 9, indicating that, after the initial shock of post-regeneration personal rediscovery, his iteration of the Doctor is ready for reckless adventuring with his best friend:
I think [the audience will] find a lot of thrills, lot of mystery, a reckless Doctor in pursuit of adventure. It’s… hopefully full of spectacle and adventure - it’s not a sitting back, domesticated, reflective series, it’s the Doctor and Clara roaring through time and space in search of thrills. So I think it’s great, it should be a fun watch for audiences at home.
Prior to season 8, Moffat and other Doctor Who writers made a point of emphasizing that the Twelfth Doctor was going to be cold and alien - in search of whether or not he was even capable of being a hero. Given Capaldi and Moffat's statements, it sounds as though the team has found a groove with their new Time Lord. Specifically, finding the right balance between quirky and rude for a star that is, instead, passionate and reckless. Specifically, Capaldi indicates that his Doctor has transcended self-doubt and, in keeping with the character's ongoing arc, is now living each day, each adventure, as though it might be his last:
I think the Doctor and Clara are really having a good time. They’ve had some conflicts and challenges, but generally if you can weather the storms, you often find that your relationship is much stronger. That’s certainly the case with the Doctor and Clara.
They’re very bonded, they’re like a little gang. The Doctor has realised that he’s 2,000 years old and life is short, he wants to enjoy himself and enjoy having Clara around. She’s very good at trying to help him. He’s still rather impatient with human beings, which some people take as being socially inept, but he just can’t be bothered with them, he has better things to do. But she helps him a lot more, she tries to improve his manners and social skills. But they are very deeply bonded, it’s a very curious relationship, it doesn’t really have an equivalent in television. It’s a non-romantic, but deeply bonded pairing which is strangely full of affection, it’s more deeply felt than simple romantic relationships.
While the Doctor struggled to determine the kind of man he was (and wanted to be) throughout season 8, Clara was faced with deciding whether or not there was enough of her Doctor inside Twelve to continue journeying in the TARDIS - especially with a handsome suitor waiting back on Earth. After all, Clara was introduced to Matt Smith's Doctor, forging a flirtatious and, from her perspective, hopeful bond with the Time Lord long before Danny Pink came into the picture - a dynamic that took an abrupt hit when the Doctor's latest regeneration altered his physical appearance and personality (drastically).
Nevertheless, the Doctor and Clara's relationship evolved and, looking ahead to season 9, Jenna Coleman promises that the pair will continue to mature - as a team.
There’s an ease between them, a shorthand, and she is becoming more and more like him. I think they’ve always been a lot more similar than perhaps other Doctors and companions have been. I think she quite wants to be like him, but the more time they spend together the more doctorly I suppose she’s getting and more independent of him. There are quite a few stories in this series where you see us parting ways, where we’re covering different bases and then you see us coming back together, they’re a proper team. I think they’ve been through so much together, they know each other so well that they’re entwined.
Coleman even suggests that as Clara has embraced life with the Doctor, the Impossible Girl is also becoming increasingly detached from life on Earth - to the extent that her travels might, eventually, have a negative impact on Clara. No doubt, this version of the Doctor, who can barely tell difference in age between humans, is a bit more detached and critical when it comes to Earthlings - so, as the Doctor's bravery and thirst for exploration rubs off on Clara, it's sounding as though some of his less desirable qualities might also be spilling over to his companion.
In a way she’s cutting ties with Earth more and more. Since losing Danny I think her perspective has changed on life and in a way she’s lost fear of her own mortality a bit. When that happens there’s a sense of freeness. She doesn’t fear her own mortality anymore going in to adventures, so there’s nothing holding her back. So when that happens it can be quite dangerous, as much fun as it is, but I think there’s definitely something in that for Clara, she’s losing herself in the position.
Given that season 9 will see a more reckless Doctor, it shouldn't come as a complete surprise that Clara might make a few reckless decisions of her own - especially if she truly is losing her ties to Earth. Of course, we already know one reckless decision that Clara will make in the season 9 premiere: reaching out to Michelle Gomez's Mistress for help - when the Doctor is nowhere to be found.
Speaking about the complicated relationship between Clara, The Doctor, and Mistress, Gomez hinted that this reckless version Clara might even come to respect Missy (and her twisted sense of dedication to the Doctor):
The dynamic between Missy and Clara takes on a whole new shape and not one I had imagined. There is something not quite right about it that makes for slightly unnerving viewing. Missy gets bored very easily. You can imagine her and the Doctor in the classroom. Missy using her intellect even then to cause mischief and disrupt. Our relationship shifts greatly from where we left off in the last series. Dare I say there might be a hint of respect there? Perhaps not quite respect. More a healthy dose of circumspect, from both I guess.
After setting up a new Doctor (and new Master) in season 8, it sounds as though season 9 will allow Moffat and his actors more room to play with the various pieces they have introduced - especially with a twisted character like Mistress available to pull the heroes into morally grey areas. Instead of laying a foundation, season 9 is poised to empower the cast and crew of Doctor Who through further opportunity to define their place in the larger canon - while also finding opportunities to tie-into core aspects of the long-running series.
After all, with the return of River Song, along with the ongoing mystery surrounding the identity of Maisie Williams' character, it appears as though season 9 will provide a solid mix of fan service - while forging a fresh new chapter for the Doctor and his companion.
That all said, while Danny Pink might have seemed like a ball-and-chain to Clara at the time, now caught up in the whirlwind of reckless heroism and insanity that will surely follow the Doctor and Missy, there's a real danger that the Impossible Girl might go too far - and, even in a season that is supposed to provide a fun ride, show there is still a price to be paid for blazing through time and space with reckless abandon.
NEXT PAGE: Read the full interview with Steven Moffat
Doctor Who season 9 premieres September 19th, 2015 on BBC America. New to the show? Check out our Doctor Who Viewing Guide: Tips & Complete Episode List.