Doctor Who has been a British staple, nay, a way of life for almost 50 years. There's no real comparison to anything like it here in the states but it's as much a part of their culture as baseball is to Americans. Last year, the newly cast stars of the fifth season of the show traveled to the United States to promote Doctor Who. They had such a great response that this year, they decided to invade America, Beatles style.
BBC America once again, hosted a premiere screening of Doctor Who at The Village East Cinema in New York City. The event, open to anyone, was a preview screening of the first two episodes of the sixth season, the two-parter "The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon." As if that wasn't enough pull for fans to show up (the season doesn't start until April 23), BBC America also threw in a Q&A moderated by Chris Hardwick, with the stars of the episodes, Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy), Arthur Darvill (Rory) and Alex Kingston (River Song) as well as showrunner Steven Moffat, director Toby Haynes and executive producers Piers Wenger and Beth Willis.
Although the day started out fairly overcast, by early afternoon the sun was shining and it turned out to be one of the nicest days in NYC so far this year. A good thing when you consider the first fans on line got there at 4 p.m. the day BEFORE the event. Besides getting prime seats in the theater, the first few people got a surprise that morning. The cast showed up to deliver donuts to them.
For being on the streets of NYC for 24 hours, they were in cheerful spirits.
By 2 p.m. the line was wrapped around almost three sides of the square block. (Check out a sped-up view in this video from OMFGeek. I'm also in there!) A hashtag began on twitter called #DWLineCon, suggesting that the line itself was an event in and of itself. And truly, it was. No one knew whether or not they'd actually make it in but were still hopeful, sporting reading material, umbrellas to keep the sun off and costumes. Oh yes, there was cosplay.
I donned my Amy costume from WonderCon once again but oddly enough, even here I was glossed over as just a girl in a mini skirt. There were tons of Amys though, and as you can see here, a few Donnas, plenty of 11s, a few 10s and a couple of River Songs. And where there wasn't cosplay, there was Doctor Who t-shirts, buttons or toys to be had.
I took a spin up and down the line a few times before the show began and from what I saw, everyone was having a great time. You'd randomly find things like "Bad Wolf" or "Vote Saxon" written on the sidewalks in chalk. There was even a wall that got a few larger pieces scribbled on them, though seeing as how it was on an NYU building, was not appreciated. Fans were taking turns to find bathrooms or forage for food while others had coolers they brought with to keep themselves fed.
When showtime approached fans began to spazz out a bit. And with reason. The cast arrived at the front of the theater in a classic blue convertible to sign a few autographs. I noticed some fans becoming annoyed at line-cutters and perhaps even a few strangers who showed up just because they thought they'd meet someone famous. I'm sure being on the street for as long as they were and lack of sleep played a role in their frustrations but it's a hard thing to control once the crowd-beast rises. I'm not sure there's ever an easy way to deal with that type of behavior.
As I mentioned earlier, no one knew how many people would make it in for the screening. The theater wound up opening two additional theaters to accommodate fans. They weren't able to see the Q&A in person but it was telecast live. After being let out of the event I realized the theater was letting in even more left-out fans in for another showing of the two episodes. It's good to know no one (hopefully) walked away unhappy. Entering through a special handicapped entrance allowed me to scoot right by the cast and creators and give a big hello to Matt Smith. Definitely a highlight. Oh, and we got cool DW baseball caps!
So, how about those episodes...well, I'm not telling. I wouldn't have anyway but Moffat specifically asked all the press in the audience not to reveal what we saw so that fans could go in fresh. And believe me, you want to go in fresh. What I can say is these two episodes are among the best I've seen. I was blown away by them, finding myself practically speechless when I met up with friends afterward to discuss it. The scale is epic and back-to-back, the episodes really felt like a movie. If you can resist, I highly suggest recording the first episode and watching it with the second. There is a cliffhanger such that even though we in the audience knew we were getting the second episode right away, gasped and clutched our chairs in eagerness to see more. Then again, we also want BBC America to have huge numbers for the premiere, so go ahead and watch it on April 23. And thank them once again for airing it the same day as in the UK.
The cast turned in some of their best performances to date and Moffat has proved once again he is the master of making us laugh, cry and scream. The new villains, The Silence, are truly frightening and the story is tremendous. The actual look of the episodes are quite different from usual Doctor Who episodes as well. Whether director Toby Haynes has access to different equipment than usual or the sweeping landscapes really made that much difference I'm not sure. Either way, it looks fantastic. The episodes will give you a lot of information but leave you with so many more questions than you can possible imagine. A gif I found on Tumblr today sums it up nicely.
At the Q&A, Darvill was the surprise hit of the evening, receiving bigger cheers than even Smith. There were a lot of Rory lovers in the audience apparently. The entire cast was excited about shooting in America and blown away that fans tracked them down in Utah to watch them work. When a fan asked if Moffat loved his cliffhangers he replied with a yes but said, "Just wait until episode six. It's going to be a long summer." That is of course when the series goes on hiatus. The second half of the season won't be aired until later. Smith said our jaws would be on the floor at the end of episode six. If it's as bad as the cliffhanger in the second episode, I'm not sure I'll survive it. Seriously. It's huge.
Some great moments of the event included just before the episodes when the Master's tapping was started somewhere in the audience until everyone joined in. It was almost as if we were hoping for him to show up, like clapping for Tinkerbell to keep her alive. Moffat told the crowd his dream crossover would be to have the Doctor meet Mr. Spock from Star Trek. Kingston told us she loves getting to kick ass as River (just wait until you see here in these episodes). Another great moment was a fan praising both Gillan and Kingston for playing some of the strongest female characters in sci-fi.
Once again, I have to thank BBC America for hosting an event like this and Village East Cinema for holding it. I think they did a great job trying to keep fans happy and make sure everyone got what they came for. While waiting on one of the street corners with a friend, passersby kept asking what we were waiting for. When we replied "Doctor Who," most had no idea what we were talking about. Doctor Who is becoming more popular in the U.S. with each passing day but we aren't quite to the point of sitting around our televisions watching it together on Christmas Day yet. Well, I am, but I've still got to work on some of you.