'Doctor Who' returns: Steven Moffat talks new companion Clara and Jenna-Louise Coleman
The Doctor's already met her twice, or has he? It was definitely Coleman who played Oswin -- a space traveler trapped inside a Dalek -- in the Season 7 premiere "Asylum of the Daleks." And it was Coleman again as a Victorian era Governess named Clara Oswin Oswald in "Who" Christmas special "The Snowmen." But both of those characters perished.
Can the same woman die twice? And how is it that the Doctor ( Matt Smith) finds Clara living in the 21st Century in this week's midseason premiere, "The Bells of St. John"?
"Who" showrunner Steven Moffat will neither confirm or deny if all of Coleman's characters are truly the same person, but teases there are "significant resemblances" between them all. "You will uncover the mystery of Clara in the next eight episodes," he vows. "All will be made clear."
During a conference call to promote the new season, Moffat explained what he could about creating Clara, how she'll test the Doctor and why Coleman was right for the part. The highlights follow:
On the importance of the companion to "Doctor Who"...
Steven Moffat: "'Doctor Who' is always more the story of the companion. It's her take on the Doctor, her adventure that she goes on with the Doctor that's the story that we tell. The companion changes more than the Doctor ever does. What Jenna in particular brings [is] a tremendous speed and wit, a sort of unimpressed quality that makes the Doctor dance a bit harder I suppose. He works a bit harder with Clara. She's always a little bit out of reach, obviously secretly devoted to him, but hard to impress."
On what makes Clara different...
"You need someone who challenges the Doctor. You need someone to throw the Doctor into a new relief. The Doctor is always the remote inaccessible mysterious one and the companion is always the fluffy friendly one. Amy [Pond] tested that theory from time to time, but this time Clara is the slightly difficult to get to know one, who's probably going to be slightly difficult to hug. Because the Doctor is haunted by her and met her twice before, so he thinks, he's the slightly needy one. She's the unsolvable mystery and the enigma and he's the one chasing after her. It's a reverse of the normal Doctor/companion dynamic, which I've been rather enjoying."
On why Jenna-Louise Coleman is perfect for the role...
"She's a terribly, terribly good actress. I know that's a dull thing to say but it's true. You can be as beautiful and charming as you like but if you're not terrific at acting it means nothing on the screen. She's a terrific actress. In addition, she looks great, has great comic timing, she looks like she belongs somehow next to Matt Smith. When the two of them stand together it's like an instant team."
On the process of creating a new companion...
"When you start with the character you can't think of the word companion. You have to think this is somebody who, A) who would fly away in that TARDIS and B) The Doctor would want to fly away in the TARDIS. He's quite picky. He doesn't like everybody, he's a difficult man to deal with. So it's not just anybody he forms a proper friendship with. And also what sort of person would run through those blue doors? An awful lot of people would probably run the other direction, including me when I found out how dangerous it was.
"You have to imagine somebody who's ready to say yes to running away with a clearly insane man who has a time machine. That's the starting point. What point in their life are they? What decisions have they made? What worked out and what hasn't worked out that will lead them to respond positively to a travel request from a lunatic in a bow tie?"
On the Doctor's simultaneous need for but reluctance to seek out a new companion...
"If you were told that the way to heal yourself and to make yourself a better person and function better was to permanently endanger another human being you might be hesitant too. He is aware he can cause damage to the people who travel with him and he puts them in terrible danger. He's also aware that a relationship or friendship for him, like it or not, is postponed bereavement. He will outlive them. They will die and he will be roughly the same age. Those two factors make him very hesitant about taking someone on board."
On the prequel webisode that shows the Doctor meeting Clara as a child...
"[The Doctor] had such an odd introduction to Clara having met her twice and lost her twice in such exotic surroundings. I thought wouldn't it be nice if we did something quite sweet and ordinary. And something that specifically calls back to Amy and keys up the fact that that relationship, whether he likes it or not, is coming back -- there are resemblances.
"And I'm always interested, maybe too interested I'm sure some people would say, in the fact that the Doctor's lifespan and time traveling ways means when he knows somebody he probably knows them over a huge amount of their lifespan and a tiny span of his. I'm always quite interested in exploring that: he can know them as a child, he can know them as an adult and he can know them as an old person."
Watch "The Bells of St. John" prequel below and check out images from the new season of "Doctor Who":