"Doctor Who" tells a good, old-fashioned ghost story this weekend.
"We are in a haunted house in the '70s with Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine," Jenna-Louise Coleman told me, then whispered. "And it's scaaary."
In "Hide," airing at 7 p.m. CT April 20 on BBC America, Clara (Coleman) and the Doctor (Matt Smith) pop up in 1974 outside a remote mansion called Caliburn House where paranormal researcher Alec Palmer (Scott) and psychic Emma Grayling (Raine) are trying to contact a ghost called the Witch of the Well that has appeared throughout the history of the building.
Is she really a ghost? Well, this is "Doctor Who," so ... spoilers!
A ghost isn't alone in throwing the Doctor off balance in "Hide." Clara continues to challenge the Time Lord. Example: When the Doctor suggests that a certain outfit brings out his eyes, she responds, "Makes my eyes hurt."
He looks a bit crushed, which is exactly what "Who" boss Steven Moffat was hoping for with Clara, and Coleman.
"What Jenna in particular brings is she has a tremendous speed and wit and sort of an unimpressed quality that makes the Doctor dance a bit harder, I suppose, he works a bit harder with Clara," Moffat said during a recent conference call. "[Clara] is secretly devoted to him but a little bit harder to impress. There's a real sense of toughness; [she's] someone who can be a real adversary if she wants to be.
"That's very much driven by Jenna's particular style," he said, "which is it's a very, very fast, snappy style."
Moffat said that in "Doctor Who," the companions generally are the ones who need the Doctor. But with Clara, he said, the Doctor is the needy one.
"She's the unsolvable mystery and the enigma and he's the one chasing after her," he said. "It's a reversal of the normal Doctor-companion dynamic, which I've been rather enjoying."
The Doctor is enjoying it, too, Moffat suggested, "He is absolutely devoted to her."
"Luther" creator Neil Cross wrote "Hide," his second episode this season after "The Rings of Akhaten." It was directed by Jamie Payne, who has directed Raine in her role as Jenny Lee in "Call the Midwife" (6 p.m. CT Sundays on PBS). Scott, by the way, can be seen starting Friday in Netflix's "Hemlock Grove" and this summer in Cinemax's "Strike Back."
Moffat had more to say about Coleman and Clara during the conference call. Find a few excerpts from the call below.
What is it about Jenna that makes you think, "Damn I really made the right decision in hiring her?"
She's terrific. ... She's a terribly, terribly good actress. I know that sounds like a terribly dull thing to say, but it's the truth. You can be as beautiful and charming as you like, but if you're not terrific at acting it will mean nothing on the screen. In addition, she looks great, she has great comic timing. She looks like she belongs somehow next to Matt Smith when the two stand together; it looks like an instant team.
Why do you think it is that the companion is such an important element of storytelling in "Doctor Who?"
It's the person to whom the story happens. A hero is somebody who saves the day and is extraordinary and you stand back and admire and that's the Doctor. But for the storytelling, the emotional connection has to happen to somebody. The Doctor himself has to happen to somebody. So very often in "Doctor Who," the companion is sort of the main character, not the hero, not the one with all the cool lines.
The companion is the person whose story it is and we see how this experience changed them. We never see how the Doctor began his journey; we will probably never see how he ends it. We'll probably never know why he embarked on it, but we know all those companions and who they were before they met the Doctor. We know why they ran away with him and we know roughly where they ended up. Those stories are complete and the Doctor is the enigma that enters their lives and changes them.
The story is always about the person who changes the most rather than about the person who does the most--who effects those changes.
How did you decide what Clara would be like and her dynamic with the Doctor?
You have to think this is somebody A, who would fly away in that TARDIS, and B, the Doctor would want to fly away with in the TARDIS. The Doctor is quite picky; he doesn't like everybody. He's a difficult man to deal with, so it's not anybody [with whom] he actually forms a proper friendship.
I don't know what sort of person would run through those blue doors. A lot of people would run the other direction probably, including me to be honest ... So you have to imagine somebody who's ready to say "yes" to running away with a clearly insane man and riding a time machine. That is your starting point with that character.
What point in their life are they at, what decisions have they made, what worked out and what hasn't worked out for them [are all things] that lead them to respond positively to a travel request from a lunatic in a bow tie.
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