Published on June 12th, 2014 | by James Lomond

Here’s Paul McGann On The Comicpalooza Doctor Who Panel

It’s up! Witness, Kasterborites, the full 48 minutes of Paul McGann’s Q&A panel from Comicpalooza, Texas’s international comic convention that took place last month. It’s a warm and in-depth panel with the kind of BIG LOVE America does so well.

I recommend a listen, but for the hurried, time-starved Kasterborite here are some choice highlights:..

Before heading to the convention, Paul was accompanied by another member of the “Boy Band” of Classic Doctors (as he calls them), Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, on a trip to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Centre. He talks about the interest in science fiction and fantasy for children today and how he had something less fictional but just as thrilling just entering his teens at the time of the first manned Apollo space missions.

“my inner ten-year-old child will never ever forget this day – it was fantastic and particularly because we were those kids – we were the moon shot kids …I had to sit in the flight director’s seat, pick up the red phone… it took me straight back, for us kids growing up in the 60s, your imagination was infinite. It seemed to being sparked all the time by things, it was a rich, rich time.”

I’ve become a bit suspicious of the rosy picture that is often painted of the 60s and various earlier decades. The music, the counter cultures and intellectual challenges to the establishment – surely it can’t actually have all been pop music and paradigm shifts?! But it’s easy to forget that some really world-changing things happened in that decade (not least the birth of the best TV show in the world) and what it might feel like being a child when science fiction was becoming science fact.

They discuss Paul’s involvement with the 50th Anniversary celebrations, featuring in both the tongue-in-cheek The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot and the official minisode Night of the Doctor where fan-dreams of seeing the Eighth Doctor regenerate were realised. He notes that the call from The Moff asking him to appear as the Doctor in a one-off short, required him to say “yes” before it had been written and to keep it a secret from the other Doctors while on-set filming The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Do check out the spoof if you haven’t seen it – Paul McGann appears in it agreeing to side with the other Classic incarnations to crash the shoot of the anniversary special but can’t commit 100% because he’s off filming. It turns out the reason why he only appeared so briefly was because he was secretly off shooting in Cardiff. I think that’s life, imitating art, imitating life?… They also discuss his views on the costume, coming back to the on-screen version of his Doctor after over a decade of audios and name-checking the Big Finish companions.

In the Q&A section a fan asks about his “half-human” Doctor and whether that was intended to have been explored more if FOX had gone with a full series after the 1996 pilot he starred in. McGann reveals that he and Producer Philip Segal spent “weeks” discussing where the character could go and what they would do with the show. In fact he hints at wanting to take things in quite a different direction with the pilot being a compulsory name-check for some of the iconic elements of the show,

“it’s a little like a driving test, you know, you never drive like that again. …Let’s get this over with then we can get our teeth into these real elements of the character.”

Back in the late 90s there was the suggestion that he’d wanted to distance himself from the show a little. It was a failed revival of an otherwise dead British sci-fi show at a time when sci-fi wasn’t really made in the UK. Of course things changed when Big Finish got the license and carried the torch into the twenty-first century – the grin on McGann’s face (29:17 – we’re all obsessives here) when he talks about putting the Night of the Doctor costume leaves no doubt that he gets a huge amount of satisfaction and fun out of the role.

We discover that he’d like to see how the Eighth Doctor fared with none other than 80s kick-ass companion, Ace, by his side and that a female skinhead companion would be the ideal buddy for Capaldi’s Doctor.

At 39:10 there’s an interesting section where a young Houston drama student asks about McGann’s training and any method to his acting. He talks about being a drama student at RADA in the late 70s alongside big names like Kenneth Branagh. His training was in classical theatre – the stage. No television or film. But he notes that he, like many of his class mates didn’t come from a privileged background and hadn’t really gone to the theatre as children. In fact their desire to act and perform had come from sneaking into movie theatres – he talks about being captivated by independent Hollywood films, Jack Nicholson and films like Klute and The Last Picture Show (1971). RADA’s intake of would-be stage professionals all dreamt of being movie stars!

Also discussed is Paul McGann’s work on Hornblower and working with Idris Elba on BBC’s Luther. One fan successfully requests a hug, another hopes to show off their talent for catching blown kisses (nice try, there).

It’s remarked on by one attendee how courteous McGann is towards the fans and certainly there’s a great deal of respect on both sides. The experience of meeting one’s heroes at events like conventions is touched on and McGann gives a description of one of his musical heroes, John Lennon, that sounds curiously Doctor-like:

“He was flawed and weird and brilliant and human.”

And coming from Liverpool he notes that he and other Liverpudlians felt quite “possessive” of the Beatles. In fact it sounds as though he very much knows what it feels like to be a fan.

So what do you think, Kasterborites – reflections on the 1996 TV movie? Should the other Classics have had a role in the Day of the Doctor (other than the one we discover in the Five(ish) Doctors)? Have you met your heroes? Was it the joyous witty exchange you’d imagined or were you a stupefied star-struck wreck (like me, 10 years old, clutching Pyramids of Mars in front of Tom Baker). Tell us below!

(With thanks to Daren)

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