Aaron Sagers is a con man and mod man, and he lives a good portion of his professional life on stage at comic conventions. As a hired host and moderator, he attends dozens of cons each year and has led hundreds of panels. These are the highlights from some of his appearances:
The Big Apple was bigger on the inside last Saturday as New York City became Who York City when Matt Smith and David Tennant took the stage for the one-day Wizard World The Doctors event. Along with signing autographs and posing for photo opportunities, the two former Time Lords of Doctor Who joined yours truly on stage for an hourlong chat about their career, fandom and time on the TARDIS.
I am rather fortunate to have been able to talk with Tennant and Smith – the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, respectively — along with other Who cast, multiple times throughout the years, but I’m always learning new things.
For instance, Smith and Karen Gillan first met at an audition for the show Merlin.
“The first time we ever met was in an audition for something else,” said Smith in response to a question about roles he missed out on. “And we got down to the last two for a show, and then we got Doctor Who, and that show was Merlin.”
“At the time I remember thinking ‘ah damn, that would have been good’, and then I got The Doctor role,” he added. “Merlin’s fantastic and Colin is a brilliant, brilliant actor. That’s not to diminish the quality of Merlin, but it’s just funny.”
Aside from that mind-blowing nerd revelation, what else did I pick up from the rare panel that had both these fan favorites on stage?
Let’s break it down with 12 things — as a nod to current Doctor Peter Capaldi — I learned from the duo at the NYC event.
Between the two iconic teams of NYC, Ghostbusters or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which do they prefer?
Both men opted for TMNT.
“I used to love that cartoon,” said Smith.
What about Star Wars vs. Star Trek (a question from a young fan that made the crowd go nuts)?
Both said Star Wars, but Tennant added, “I don’t want the people at Star Trek to feel they can’t offer me a job. I’d love to appear in them both…but I grew up with a plastic box full of little Star Wars figures, which were my favorite.”
On the experience of filming in New York City
Tennant said he was jealous of Smith filming in the city for “The Angels Take Manhattan,” an experience the latter called “one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever experienced.”
Meanwhile, Tennant — humorously bitter he wasn’t flown out for his Big Apple ep — said his New York City scenes were just a wall and greenscreen built in a park, meant to look like the city. “Post-production wise, it was very magical,” he joked.
Since Tennant is currently appearing as the lead in Richard II at the BAM Theater in Brooklyn, and also filmed Marvel’s Jessica Jones for Netflix in the city, I was curious what fanbase he’s is approached the most about on the subway:
“It’s a bit of both [Doctor Who and Jessica Jones], and a bit of Broadchurch seems to be quite a big deal. You can’t quite tell when someone approaches you, ‘Is this Jessica Jones or Doctor Who or this a Broadchurch fan?’ It’s a nice mix of fandoms”
Explain the experience of stepping on the TARDIS the first time for a regeneration scene.
“It is weird energy-wise,” said Smith, because it’s a departure of one actor, Tennant, and an intimidating entrance for the “other guy coming in.”
Tennant noted it was also a changing of the guard from producers and crew, and, “People came out of the woodwork in Cardiff” in Wales, where the show is filmed.
“And everyone had come over from The Sarah Jane Adventures; it was the busiest I’d ever seen that studio,” said Smith.
“It did feel like a bit of an event, which isn’t really the easiest thing for you, although you did it magnificently, unknowingly,” said Tennant. “I had completely the opposite experience because they filmed my bit [regenerating from Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor to Tennant’s Tenth] before they were announcing the Doctor was changing.”
“So, I got smuggled into Cardiff months after they wrapped on the first series. The studio was all locked up, and they had to take the dust sheets off, and there was a tiny little crew. There was nobody else there, Billie Piper was a cross of gaffer tape on the wall across from me. We had very different first experiences.”
How did Smith feel about the gravity of taking over for such a popular actor as Tennant?
“I would walk down the street, and people would be like, ‘Don’t break Doctor Who’,” he said. “People would go, ‘Matt, they’re big…’” before he’d interrupt, “I know their big shoes to fill!”
“But he was really nice,” Smith added about talking to Tennant. “I used to ring him up and go, what about this, what about that. Weirdly. Peter Capaldi does a similar thing, and gives us a call every now and again.”
“It is great having Matt and Peter to talk to,” said Tennant. “It’s a weird, very small little self-help group. It is such an odd, wonderful thing to be a part of, but it is quite unique. And unique in TV; there is nothing quite like it. Maybe the captains of the Starship Enterprise have the same thing – I don’t think they do.”
“Weirdly, with David now, every time I see him, I go, ‘Oh god, there’s Doctor Who.’ I was just so nervous.”
Will the two ever return to the role of The Doctor?
“I don’t think you could ever go back to it full time, but there is a built-in, almost expectation, that you might one day get an invitation back,” said Tennant.
Smith replied, after the pair filmed The Day of the Doctor reunion special, “Didn’t we go, ‘This is quite fun; why don’t we just film six episodes each?’ But then Peter would be like, ‘Hey, it’s mine!’”
Who would Matt Smith like to portray in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
“If they ever bother to ring me?!” Smith joked. He later joked he’s been second choice for everything ever made, including everything Marvel has ever made.
How do they describe one another’s Doctor contributions?
Said Smith about Tennant, “The thing with Number 10 is, he’s a swashbuckler, a real hero. He brought hair…”
“I brought hair?!” interjected Tennant. “There’s something I think you brought to it, which encapsulates my favorite bit.”
“My favorite moment you did, have I ever told you this?” he directed to Smith. “It’s in the one with James Corden, where you get given a glass of wine, then just kind of sip and immediately ‘blehhh’ [at which point Tennant mimes spitting it out]. It’s pin sharp comic timing, but it just sort of has this kind of bewildered innocence which I just thought was absolutely fantastic.”
What other actor would make a good Doctor?
After I brought up that I always thought David Bowie could have been a Doctor, Tennant added his own suggestion from his favorite show of all time, The West Wing.
“Do you know Bradley Whitford? He’s my American Doctor.”
“I would say Peter Sellers would have made quite a cool Doctor,” said Smith.
Which companion’s departure impacted them the most?
Tennant: “For me, as a fan, rather than someone in the show, it was probably when I was a kid and Sarah Jane left. I didn’t understand how that was possible, and it was very sad, and a very beautifully played scene. I remember I hadn’t know that that happened when I was that age. I remember her leaving and being fairly distraught about that.”
“As a character, probably Amy Pond,” said Smith. “Not to diminish Clara Oswald, but I don’t know, it was such a parting of ways for me and Karen.”
What about Rory? “Ah no, come one! He died every day!”
If they were to write an adventure for their Doctor, where would he go?
“Maybe there is a story in the early days of The Beatles; maybe there is a good story there,” said Tennant. “That’s what I’d do, he’d go to The Cavern to see The Beatles before they got famous.”
“Maybe he wrote all of their songs,” suggested Smith. “He just picks some random guy walking down the street and goes, ‘Hey man, you want to be in a band?’”
Smith also added he has always been fascinated by the lost city of Atlantis, and “always wanted to do an underwater episode.” Tennant assisted by pointing out the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, did just that.
“I always used to ask [executive producer] Steven Moffat about it, but he just said it’s too expensive.”
“Yeah, ’cause they couldn’t fly you somewhere posh for that, could they,” joked Tennant. “You’d have to stay in Cardiff with the green screen. Boo hoo.”
What message would their version of the Doctor share with humanity?
“Wear a fez,” said Smith, because it’s difficult to put on a fez and not be in a better mood.
“What I always used to love about the Doctor when I played him was moments where he’d stop and go, ‘This is brilliant,’” Said Tennant. “There was a sort of joy for little unexplored corners of existence.”
“Like the fact that he could stop and celebrate the extraordinariness of a werewolf before it bit his head off; those moments where he would catch himself and be overcome by the marvelous stuff — there is something in that.”