Tomorrow marks the return of the Amy Pond's raggedy man with the Doctor Who Christmas Special, albeit without Amy and her husband Rory. But that doesn't mean he's alone! As we've already seen in the Christmas Special minisode, The Doctor is being shadowed by fan favorites Vastra, Jenny and Strax. But is this the last time we'll be seeing this trio? Will Vastra, Strax and Jenny return? Will they have a bigger role in the new season? How is hhis new companion Clara different from all the others? Is River Song going to get jealous? We took our questions to Executive Producer Caroline Skinner, and tried to pry up a handful of new details about tomorrow's Christmas special and the second half of series seven in this exclusive interview.
How is this new companion able to get the Doctor to open up?
Caroline Skinner: I think that's one of the really exciting things about this Christmas episode. Is seeing Matt's Doctor in a very, very different place at the beginning. Different from where we've seen him before. He's lonely, and he's taken himself out of the fight. He's almost Scrooge-like, really. He's off on his box, on a cloud. I think it's a really beautiful, sort of romantic story, to a certain extent. But a really magical story about destiny and meeting the right person.
There is a lot of flirting going on between Clara and the Doctor. Isn't he married? Are we going to address this married Doctor and this hot companion?
Well, I think a lot of the flirting is certainly [in the vein of] a lot of Christmas-y, Victorian romance. But yeah, there's an awful lot of places in the Spring series that we'll be taking the Doctor and his relationship with Jenna [Louise-Coleman], who plays the new companion. Rest assured there will be more where that came from.
Is River the jealous type?
You'll have to see what happens when they meet.
In the Christmas special you guys talk a lot about "Victorian Values." Why? Why were those themes in the episode?
I think that Richard E. Grant's character is just a fantastic Doctor Who villain and I think that him and Matt (as the Doctor) just bring the screen to life. It's this heightened but fun, fun stand-off. It was really important to all of us on the team to try and find that very Christmas-y, very Victorian feeling. And I think there are certain elements of Richard E. Grant's character as a Victorian entrepreneur who really wants to, not only to take over Victorian London, but the world, with snow. It's got that real kind of heightened Dickensian quality to it.
We loved Vastra, Jenny and Strax in the prequel and they're great in the Christmas special. Why did you choose these three characters to be the Doctor's guardians in this dark period of his life?
I think it just felt right. Ever since "A Good Man Goes to War," they had such an amazing dynamic between the three of them and the Doctor. I think there's something touching and very fitting to the fact that when he is completely alone in the world, and he's missing his longest companions for a long time, he's hanging out with Vastra, Jenny and Strax who themselves are slightly out of place and out of time, and aliens, for a better expression. It feels as if they're kind of fitting companions for him. The Doctor is always a Time Lord, he's always slightly out time and place that he's in. But particularly at the moment you'll find him at his lowest point, his most alienated. I think that he's most comfortable with those friends around him who, to a certain extent, although in a much more jovial way share a lot of those boundaries.
It feels like you're setting these three characters up for more time this season, or perhaps their own web series. Are we going to see more of these three?
We will certainly see more of these three. Absolutely. In this series they are really key to who the Doctor is and to some of the serial plots in the Spring run. I'm not going to say anymore than that. I genuinely could watch Vastra, Jenny and Strax reading a telephone directory. I just love the dynamic that they've got between them. It's always so warm and so funny. The more the better, really.
How complicated is this new companion's backstory in comparison to other complicated characters from the past such as The Last Centurion?
Clara's back story is something that, I'm hoping, everyone who watches this series will be able to work out how on Earth she was once a Dalek, and now she's the Doctor's new companion. How does that work? That will form a huge part of the Christmas episode. That mystery is part of the dynamic between the two of them, the Doctor and Clara. It's big. I think it's really unusual to see the Doctor with his new companion, finding her something to wonder in terms of who she is and where does she come from. As opposed to the same way every new companion thinks about the Doctor, when he turns up in his mad blue box. It's a fun twist.
With the Ponds, Matt Smith had a familial sense to him, he was like the wacky Uncle. With the Ponds gone, are we going to see a different kind of Doctor? Can we expect a tonal shift?
It's very interesting, when you bring a new companion into the show everything inevitably changes… I'm very comfortable with that dynamic. I loved "The Power of Three" where you got to see the Doctor from Amy and Rory's point of view, jumping in and out like a madcap relative. And I think the moment that we get to Christmas and Clara walks into the Doctor's life, it's almost like everything is reset to a slightly more classic Doctor Who format. Yes there's only one of her, but she doesn't know what a Time Lord means, and the TARDIS is bigger on the inside, or that he's got a sonic screwdriver and two hearts and all that. And this all happens before she's taken to space for the first time. I think there's a real joy to that. We've all been having a great time just spending a bit of time with those classic Doctor Who tropes. He's Doctor Who! I think there's a real joy for her and for the audience rediscovering all of that. And of course with a new companion he will inevitably become a bit of a different Doctor with Clara than he was with Amy and Rory.
Are we ever going to see any of the unhinged-ness that we saw in the 10th Doctor again?
You're going to have to wait to see, I'm not going to tell you!
You've mentioned that this is a return to the "classic" Doctor Who, and called each episode a mini-blockbuster. Is there an overarching, larger story? The last few seasons have had larger plots about something trying to destroy the world or change the human race. Are we still going to have that in the background this season?
You're just going to have to watch the episodes. It's far too early for me to give. They are absolutely huge.
Is there a monster that you think can compete with the Weeping Angels in the new season?
The new is particularly [full of] hostile monsters. We've got some very cool new ones and some classics. I'm excited because Neil Gaiman's done a new Cyberman episode. There's lots and lots of new monsters. There's a monster we've invented for the final episode which I think is probably one of the scariest things I've seen set.
Are we going to see any more women writing for Doctor Who?
I certainly hope so. Absolutely, it's very much my intention to see that. We're actually just looking forward to the next thing at the moment. We just called wrap on series seven. It's very much in my mind.