Doctor Who returns to UK screens later this month for a seven-episode run which opens with a spectacular two-parter set in the USA and penned by "Who supremo" Steven Moffat.
In the opening two episodes, co-produced with BBC America, key scenes have been filmed in Utah for a story set in the late Sixties in which the Doctor, Amy and Rory find themselves on a secret summons that takes them on an adventure from the desert in Utah – right to the Oval Office itself.
The new series follows on from the Doctor Who Christmas Special which featured guest stars Katherine Jenkins and Michael Gambon, and has been split into two blocks, with the second block to be shown in autumn 2011. By splitting the series Moffat plans to give viewers one of the most exciting Doctor Who cliff-hangers and plot twists ever, leaving them waiting, on the edge of their seats, until the autumn to find out what happens.
Matt Smith inhabited the role of the Doctor last year and instantly won a legion of fans with his kooky take on the iconic character. Here he reveals what lies in store for the Doctor and his fellow TARDIS travellers in 2011, and why the Fez is no longer his favourite hat.
"I think The Silence are one of the greatest monsters of recent years and certainly one of the scariest," reveals Matt Smith. "They're also very clever and I love the fact they've been silently working since the dawn of time to make The Doctor come unstuck."
Matt is talking about the new breed of monster which viewers will be introduced to in the opening two episodes of the series. He is remaining tight-lipped about what viewers can expect but he does offer some insights into the story arc for this series. "Steven [Moffat, writer] has a grand plan and some of the seeds he planted in the last series start coming to fruition and affecting the characters in drastic ways," explains Matt. "Every character is faced with the most seismic and high-stakes choices we've seen so far."
Opening the new series is a special two-part story penned by Steven Moffat and set in America, marking the first time in its history that an episode of Doctor Who has been filmed there. The cast spent three days in the desert in Utah but that didn't stop hardcore Doctor Who fans from tracking them down. "It was very strange," laughs Matt. "We were in the middle of the desert and suddenly there was a lady with a campervan and deck chair, holding an iPad up with a moving screen which read 'autograph please!'. I mean how on earth she knew we were in the middle of the desert I have no idea, but it certainly proved her dedication to the show!
"The landscape was incredible," continues Matt, "and I think being in America, filming in that terrain, has definitely added a sense of scale and a filmic quality to this series of Doctor Who. It was an amazing experience and a brilliant laugh. I have to confess that I think the Stetson has been my favourite hat for the Doctor so far, 100 per cent. Viewers may well see more of the Stetson later in the series but I couldn't possibly reveal when..."
Alex Kingston joined Matt, Karen and Arthur in Utah to reprise her role as River Song and Matt admits it was great to have her back. "I'm very fond of Alex and I simply love the part of River Song because it makes the Doctor come unstuck; she's the one person in the world who knows more than him. I think Steven has written some really revelatory stuff about the character and she's extremely important to this series," teases Matt.
"We've also been incredibly lucky to welcome a number of fantastic guest stars including Hugh Bonneville, Suranne Jones and Lily Cole. James Corden also returns later in the series," reveals Matt. "I've admired so many people who have been involved and all of them have brought a touch of quality."
Matt also has high praise for his fellow co stars, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill. "I think with Rory, Arthur has perfectly judged the humour and he's got some fantastic storylines with Karen. I do think that Amy and Rory now being married has changed the dynamic in the TARDIS and in many ways it's the Doctor who is perhaps the odd one out," explains Matt. "However, Karen and Arthur are hilarious and together we are always mucking around between takes and telling silly jokes to annoy each other!"
Matt also reveals that his clumsy reputation is still fully justified! "I was chatting away to someone the other day on set and I had my hand on a lamp stand. Little did I know that as I was leaning it was actually turning and suddenly it came crashing down on my head!"
Perhaps it was lucky for the rest of the cast then that Matt wasn't tasked with any sword fighting in episode three which is set on a pirate ship: "It was 4am and we had four huge rain machines making us soaking wet but we all loved it. Karen had to do the sword fighting though," chuckles Matt, "I just had to walk round and act clever in the background!"
Karen Gillan burst onto TV screens last year as feisty companion, Amy Pond, and immediately secured her place in Doctor Who broadcasting history which has been an integral part of British culture since the Sixties. Returning for her second series aboard the TARDIS, Karen reveals what lies in store for Amy, the naughty tricks her co-stars play on her and why she has a newfound passion for fencing.
"There were clues planted in the last series that are going to become major storylines in this one," divulges a conspiratorial Karen Gillan; a revelation which is bound to have all "Whovians" avidly watching Series Five to spot what the Inverness-born actress is referring to.
"There's a really interesting arc in this series that involves all of the major characters and it's evident from the first episode that everyone on the TARDIS is withholding secrets from one another," continues Karen. "It makes for a fascinating dynamic between the characters and it's incredibly important to the overall series."
Karen also believes that Amy has more respect for her new husband Rory after his recent adventures. "I think Rory has perhaps developed the most out of all the characters," explains Karen. "By the end of last series he became a Roman Centurion hero and he had changed a lot; it felt like he had earned his place in the TARDIS. In fact, it's hard for me to imagine the TARDIS without him now!"
But has married life changed Amy Pond? Karen quickly sweeps that concern out of the way exclaiming: "if anything she is even more Amy Pondish! I don't think it would work for Amy to completely change now that she's a married woman and I certainly don't think she should become a subdued version of herself. However, I do think being married has helped to define the Doctor and Amy's relationship and I can reveal that something takes place this series which makes Amy see Rory in a new light..." teases the actress.
While the majority of filming for Doctor Who usually takes place in Cardiff, the cast found themselves in the middle of the desert in Utah last November to film scenes for the opening two-parter. "The new series starts with a real bang," exclaims Karen. "Filming in Utah was so much fun and I spent a lot of time running around the desert; the scenery was amazing and simply wouldn't have looked the same if we had filmed it in Cardiff against a green screen. The desert backdrop really gives the opening two episodes an epic feel."
However, it wasn't all fun for the actors as temperatures plunged below freezing at night and then they had to battle searing temperatures during the day. "We were all 'thermaled' up and I had on two pairs of trousers and four tops! Then the sun would come up making it blistering hot and we'd all peel off the layers," laughs Karen.
But despite the elements, Karen enjoyed being reunited with Alex Kingston who plays enigma River Song. "Alex is so much fun to have around," reveals Karen. "She makes the TARDIS team feel complete."
But the question on viewers' lips is: "will we find out who River Song actually is?"
"The ending of this first set of episodes has been hidden from everyone!" laughs Karen. "Even I got given a dummy ending to episode seven and it was only at the read-through that Steven Moffat took me, Matt and Arthur into the corridor to read the proper version on his laptop. We then all paced around going, 'oh my God!'. It's brilliant and viewers will just have to tune in to find out more. It certainly provides a fantastic cliff-hanger to see us through until the autumn."
Karen also reveals that this series is set to be the scariest yet with the debut of a number of new monsters. "Ooh, in particular I think The Silence, which are the new monsters in the opening two episodes, actually rival the Weeping Angels in terms of scariness and they look disgusting!" says Karen, screwing up her face in revulsion. "The concept behind them is ingenious because it feels like they are undefeatable, and this series also sees the return of some of the Doctor's oldest foes, but with an interesting twist..."
A new series of Doctor Who wouldn't be complete without a number of well known guest stars; Hugh Bonneville, Lily Cole, Suranne Jones and Marshall Lancaster are all billed in upcoming episodes.
"The great thing about this show is that it attracts big names and everyone who comes on set is so excited to be part of the Doctor Who experience," explains Karen. "These actors could all be off doing other things but they choose to come on the show because they are either fans or their kids are, so it makes the whole experience enjoyable. For me, it's also a wonderful experience to watch these people at work – it's like an acting masterclass every episode."
With each story set at different points in time and occasionally on alien planets, Amy Pond has certainly experienced a lot in her relatively short time on the TARDIS. But for Karen the episode that really stands out for her this series features Hugh Bonneville as a Pirate Captain in the 1600s. "I had a brilliant time filming this episode," reveals Karen. "Swinging across a pirate ship was a particular highlight and I loved doing the sword fight. I'd never done anything like that before so I literally picked up the sword and started learning moves with a stunt guy – in fact I loved it so much that I actually want to take it up as a hobby! Luckily I caused no major injuries on set, although I did collide with Arthur at one point but that was his fault."
It is clear that Karen has become firm friends with her co stars Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill and their chemistry certainly translates on screen. "We genuinely mess around all day," confesses Karen, "but I think that works because as a viewer I'd like to see the Doctor, Amy and Rory having fun. Of course we are serious when we need to be, but in general we clown around between takes and I think that helps to create chemistry on screen.
"Matt has also taken to hiding in my trailer and I'll go in, humming to myself, and then he'll just jump out at me and shout", giggles Karen. "The first time he did it was hilarious because he scared me so much that I fell backwards against the wall and slid down it! He also has an annoying habit of filming me when I fall asleep, while in make-up in the mornings, and it's a hideous sight – I'm not going to lie!" continues Karen. "Arthur eggs him on and the pair of them gang up but don't worry, I give as good as I get. Although it's brilliant when Alex Kingston is around because she knows how to handle them!"
So with two mischievous lads and a number of monsters to deal with, both Karen and Amy Pond have a lot to contend with, but where would Karen go if she had sole control of the TARDIS? "The tundra," she says, "no reason why! Just go with it!"See Also: UK Students To Create New DOCTOR WHO Adventure / Doctor Who Flight Controlled TARDIS Vehicle / New DOCTOR WHO Online Fan Group Launches / Doctor Who - 10th Doctor (David Tennant) - Collage T-Shirt / The 100 Greatest Monsters From Movies And Television #21 - #30 / The 100 Greatest Monsters From Movies And Television #31 - #40 / The Next Season Of DOCTOR WHO Will Be Split In Two - Will Have A Mid-Season Cliffhanger / Daleks The Greatest Monsters Ever? Proof Positive That The Brits Don't Know Their Creatures / Doctor Who Visual Dictionary Updated 10th Edition Book / Johnny Depp Confirmed As The Big Screen Doctor? / Doctor Who vs The Yeti - Merry Christmas! / New Toy Wednesday! - 11 Doctors, Limited Edition Spock Kit, Gundam, Vampirella And Some Killer Anime Cleavage! / New Toy Tuesday! Classic Star Trek vs Classic Doctor Who, A Slave Girl & The Creature! / Karen Gillan Talks About Playing Amy Pond On Doctor Who / Doctor Who To Make A 'Whistle-Stop' Tour Of The UK / A New Doctor - A New Logo / John Simm Promises That Tennant's Doctor Will Get A 'Brilliant Send-Off' / A Sneak Peek At The The Ultimate Monster Guide And Other Doctor Who Tidbits / 'Four Weddings And A Funeral' Scribe Richard Curtis To Write For Doctor Who / The Name Is 'Who'......'Doctor Who' / Doctor Who Black And White Action Figures - Second Doctor & Cyberman / The First Look At The Animated Doctor Who From Dreamland / Doctor Who Star David Tennant Sends 'Postcard' From America / Doctor Who - Filming Begins For The 11th Doctor / Doctor Who: The Waters Of Mars - Sneak Preview / Euros Lyn To Helm Doctor Who Movie For 2011? /