For die-hard Doctor Who fans, it can seem like a very long wait for new episodes, especially for those without a time-traveling police box at their disposal. But with the ninth season premiering this Saturday, the Doctor is nearly in. We sat down with the show’s stars Peter Capaldi (going into his second season) and Jenna Coleman (going into her third — and last) to discuss their experience scampering around the universe for another year.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You are filming your second season together. How’s the working relationship now?
PETER CAPALDI: Us personally? [Sighs and rolls eyes] I can barely stand to be here with her.
JENNA COLEMAN: I knew it!
CAPALDI: Jenna’s fabulous. I always like when we get back to the TARDIS and it’s just us. We have huge adventures where gigantic things have happened, but personally I’m always most pleased when we are doing our stuff in the TARDIS.
So at this point have you fiddled with all the various buttons and levers?
COLEMAN: I have. Peter has a system and a method. I like to press things, and Peter looks very disapprovingly at me.
CAPALDI: I’m like, “Get your hand off of that! That’s not what that one does!” I thought it was important to have a logic to the switches, so I worked out a rough geography of what each one does. The thing about the TARDIS is that it has a telepathic and organic quality about it as well as a mechanical one.
Sure, like a Prius.
CAPALDI: Exactly. So it has a relationship with each individual Doctor. So one can alter the purpose of a specific switch.
Would you ever ask Jenna, “How did the last guy do it?” Or is that like asking about an ex?
CAPALDI: Pshaw! I’d never ask how to work the TARDIS. Ever. Never need to. When I first arrived, the props man very kindly showed me around the TARDIS and showed me how to operate it and I didn’t want to say, “You don’t have to show me any of this stuff, I know exactly how to drive this beast.”
What does season 9 look like for Clara and the Doctor?
COLEMAN: They’ve become adrenaline junkies. Especially Clara. She doesn’t fear her own mortality in the same way anymore, so with that reckless abandon comes quite a lot of danger. Especially when you have two similar minds without the person to say, “You guys…”
CAPALDI: I think they’re very bonded. The Doctor’s quite a tricky part to play because, if you go back to Chris Eccleston’s first episode, he says that he could see all that ever was and all that ever is and all that ever will be and that drove him mad. I took that to mean that he could see the future and the past, so he knows the fate of his companions, and that’s quite a difficult knowledge to have. So this season especially, he’s decided to enjoy what good times are available to him. You only live once, even if you’re 2,500 years old. So grab it and embrace it and hold it tight, because it’s dark outside.
COLEMAN: Scottish doom!
CAPALDI: She says I’m full of Scottish doom.
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You two have run afoul of a number of intergalactic nasties. Any favorites from last season or this?
CAPALDI: I think Daleks are still great. But when you see them actually come together — I hope I won’t destroy any of your illusions but there’s a man inside the Dalek, and there’s another man doing the voice, and another operating the lights and stuff. So when you meet them, you kind of wish they hadn’t introduced themselves. It breaks the spell. But then the first time they all worked together, I was like, “Wow. I’m actually talking to a Dalek.” And then it bashes into a wall when it tries to go through a door.
COLEMAN: I tend to like the slow-boil ones, like the Whisper Men or the Silence. The scarier ones don’t need to go fast because they know they’ll get you eventually.
CAPALDI: There’s one in this new season that’s very good. Very scary.
COLEMAN: We also have Vikings this year.
CAPALDI: I came into work one day on my day off …
COLEMAN: He does that a lot.
CAPALDI: … and she was in a space suit standing on a spaceship with a bunch of confused-looking Vikings. I had no idea what was going on.
COLEMAN: I had it under control.
Your Doctor’s costume has fewer accoutrements than previous incarnations. Does your look stay the same this season?
CAPALDI: It softens up a bit because he’s having a bit more fun. Sometimes he’s very buttoned-up, then in other episodes he’s really louche and loose, so I try to fit the costume to the tone of the episodes. But I wanted it stark. I like the man in black. I’m always classically drawn to, you know, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison … Count Dracula. There was a little bit of pressure at the start to find a costume that had a merchandising element and I didn’t want to do that.
So no ascot or face tattoo?
CAPALDI: What about a Doctor Who cummerbund?
What about personality quirks?
CAPALDI: It’s not a thing that you consciously do, but the audience itself decides that there are things they like about you. Also the writers get to know you more and then they start to use little bits of yourself. Of course, Steven [Moffat] always likes to write physical insults.
COLEMAN: He does! You see him with his head firmly down when we do the table reads at those points.
CAPALDI: He always picks on my eyebrows, obviously. Or my hair.
Any time periods you’re dying to visit?
CAPALDI: I’d like the Doctor to meet Jimi Hendrix. Or have some sort of rock episode. Maybe a monster arrives on Earth in the Reeperbahn with the Beatles, and the Doctor has to track it through different musical periods. Obviously Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars could be on the forefront of an alien invasion.
COLEMAN: They’re actual spiders from Mars.
CAPALDI: I’ve had enough space opera, let’s get some rock opera in there.
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Season 9 of Doctor Who premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.