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Falling in love with Doctor Who

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The classic British sci-fi show about a 900-year-old alien is finally catching on in North America


For decades now, Doctor Who fans have argued that the beloved science-fiction series was anything but "a British thing." Sure, it's been available in other countries and enjoys a devoted fan base here, but Canadians and American have never quite taken to Doctor Who in the same way as their British counterparts. It's not woven into our DNA.

But as Doctor Who prepares for its season premiere tonight, something is different.

For the first time, it feels like a real event, as though North American audiences have finally begun to love and appreciate the sci-fi series on a new level Case in point: Last week's New York City screening of the premiere was attended by more than L000 dedicated fans, some of whom began lining up more than a day before.

"It's exciting that people seem to be getting the show more and more here," said the actor playing the current incarnation of the doctor, Matt Smith, the day after the New York screening.

Co-star Arthur Darvill added: "They're a lot more vocal here. There's a lot of whooping and shouting some of their costumes were amazing. Everyone thinks the show is great. An overwhelming enthusiasm which is very surreal for us, but very heartwarming?

Pied the timing is perfect for Doctor Who to become a legitimate North American phenomenon, considering this is the first time episodes were filmed in the United States, in the dramatic setting of Monument Valley.

When he first arrived, Darvill couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by the location's history.

"To be in a place where all the films I watched as a kid were made, all those westerns and Back to the Future III — you're just there," he said with awe in his voice. "You feel like you're in your own movie. It was such a privilege."

The setting helps the new season give Doctor Who a sense of scale that viewers haven't yet seen, Smith added. You have these wonderfully vast and sprawling locations, and it was very exciting. There's an energy and history to the place that's incredible?

Now into his second year of playing the Doctor, 28-year-old Smith has really settled into the role. While fans were initially nervous about such a young actor portraying the iconic character, he immediately earned praise for his ability to portray the mannerisms and spirit of a centuries-old alien. In fact, showrunner Steven Moffat and guest writer Neil Gaiman have pinked Smith for being the only actor make the Doctor feel old.

Smith has attempted to brush off sic compliments, as though it's the simplest thing in the world to act likes 900-year-old alien.

Well, he has seen all these wonderful things, but he's seen all these woeful things, as well," Smith said. "It's definitely something that one have to consider, but like with many acting choices, you have to consider them and then try to forget about them.

Darvill might not have to connect his performance with an ancient time traveller, but his character Rory has gone through a rather drastic transformation since he was introduced last year. His girlfriend, the adorably Scottish Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) was more than ready to travel through time with the Doctor, while Rory began as a nervous man who wanted nothing more than to settle down in a small village. But, after being dragged throughout the universe, getting erased from history, turned into a robot and finally brought back to life as a human, he's embraced the dangerous and thrilling life with the Doctor.

"I think Rory's surprised himself with what he's getting up to," said Darvill, 28.

"Obviously, never in his wildest dreams did he think he'd be running away from aliens or, sometimes, running toward them. But I think he has this sense of adventure within him, which I think is what attracted him to Amy: She has this incredible sense of adventure that's always there.

"I think the trips he's gone on and what he's been through and what he's sacrificed — for Amy, especially — I think that's awakened his sense of adventure and this joy of travelling around the universe and around different time zones."

And, Darvill continued, it probably helps that Rory and Amy tied the knot at the end of last season, making them the first pair of married Doctor Who companions.

"Last season, he was on the outside looking in, I think, getting married and everything he went through has made him properly on the inside," Darvill said.

"I think it was quite a welcome surprise that Amy actually married him; that was a big, big step in his life, as far as confidence goes. Amy and Rory's relationship is quite solid.

"Obviously, there will be paranoia that slips in. but that happens with every relationship. Their relationship with the Doctor is growing and getting more and more complicated as time goes on."

Despite Doctor Who's last mason ending with Rory and Amy leaving their wedding to go on their next adventure with the Doctor, Darvill didn't discover he'd been promoted to full-time status until well after filming had completed and he and Steven Moffat watched the show together.

"Steven doesn't like to give a lot away, so 1 didn't know how long I'd be on (the show). I could be killed off within seconds of the next series," Darvill said.

"But he just casually mentioned, Oh, yeah, so next year, you'll have your name in the credits: And I was like, 'Oh! Oh, right! Well ... that's good! That's lovely!'"

When it came to details about the new season, Smith and Darvill were reluctant to reveal too much, besides the facts that: one episode will feature pirates and the Neil Gaiman-written episode "really complements" the series; there is a new enemy called The Silence that is "absolutely terrifying:" and fans will learn much more about River Song, the mysterious woman who clearly plays a very important role in the Doctor's future.

It's a big season, they said, and they hope this will be the year North American audiences really let Doctor Who into their hearts.

"The scale of it has gone up and the ambition of the show has gone up," Darvill teased. "It gets quite dark at times, but I think that's good.

Matt Smith, centre, as The Doctor, Karen Gillan as Amy Pond and Arthur Darvill as Rory Williams.

I think it has to be scary, and to balance that, they've also made it a lot more funny. Even if it looks dark, there's still going to be two English boys jumping around, trying to save the day."

As for Smith, he welcomes anything that keeps Doctor Who fresh and exciting.

"I think Doctor Who has always been quite dark, but we certainly explore the darker side of the character," he said. Were really proud of this series."


Doctor Who

When: The season premiere of the classic British sci-fi series is tonight at 8 p.m. on SPACE.

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  • Title: Falling in love with Doctor Who
  • Publication: Ottawa Citizen
  • Date: 2011-04-23