This afternoon’s Doctor Who panel at San Diego Comic-Con was punctuated by a brand new clip from Toby Whithouse’s episode, A Town Called Mercy. Introduced by Steven Moffat as a British take on the US staple, not to mention “cultural heartland”, of the Wild West.
We open in a saloon, and the Doctor and the Ponds come striding in, step up to the bar where the Doctor pops a cocktail stick into his mouth and starts to order. He orders tea.
“Strong. Leave the bag in.”
But after the trio are asked who they are and once The Doctor introduces himself, everybody in the saloon jumps to their feet and pulls their guns. An undertaker rushes in and starts to measure him up. Things are going to get rough…
And that’s more or less it, but it was a brisk, funny scene and it felt just like Doctor Who.
Afterwards, the panel was opened to audience questions. Pretty much right off the bat somebody wanted to know if Moffat is planning a multiple doctor episode.
I’m not going to tell you.
There was another mystery left open pretty much straight away. Moffat was drawn on the question of The Question. THE QUESTION. “Doctor who?”
The question is tremendously important and I’m not telling you why.
And Moffat added that he knows the Doctor’s real name, but Matt Smith doesn’t have a clue. Smith cried out:
He knows! And he won’t tell me.
The panel ended with a rather more extended clip. Moffat introduced it by explaining the secret of success.
It’s easy. You put dinosaurs… on a spaceship.
And that was the episode title. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.
We start in Egypt, 1334BC, as an amorous Queen Nefertiti, young and striking looking but just four years before her death, is pinning the Doctor to the door of the TARDIS.
QUickly he’s got her inside and they’re on their way… to the future. They’re observing a mysterious spaceship, “the size of Canada” heading towards Earth. The Doctor pings off to look for more help.
And he finds it in 1902, rounding up an Edwardian explorer played by Rupert Graves called something like Rydell, if my hearing serves.
They then head off to pick up the Ponds by materialising around them in their living room. Amy and Rory are in the middle of helping Rory’s Dad fit a lightbulb (how many Ponds… or Williams…) and he too ends up being pulled off on the adventure.
Not that The Doctor has noticed.
They all spill out of The TARDIS onto the deck of the spaceship. The Doctor refers to them as “gang” and realises what he’s just said. “I have a gang!” He’s certainly please about it.
This is when he sees Rory’s dad, considers him a threat and has to have his mistake explained. At which time he’s apologetic and reveals that, somehow, he knows Rory’s dad’s name and is immediately ready to welcome him into the fold.
And so were the fans, whooping with recognition at Mark Williams, who they know as Ron’s Dad from Harry Potter. Ron. Rory. Odd kind of typecasting. Sort of.
And before you know it, the gang have found their way through cobwebby corridors – prompting The Doctor to note “There aren’t normally spiders in space” – to a large elevator. Which is on its way.
And when it opens, out come two ankylosaurs.
The clip ends how you’d expect. Everybody gapes at the off-screen ankylosaurs a moment, The Doctor up front. A beat. And then he gives them the instruction he’s rehearsed best of all.
As I sit in Hall H now, after the panel is done, I can tell you that the overwhelming majority of people are gone, leaving plenty of space for fresh blood to pour in. But Doctor Who pulled in a full house of 6,500 and there was still a line outside.
I feel like I’ve just been at a gig by the nerd Beatles.