My close encounter with Doctor Who in NYC

Doctor Who's Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Matt Smith
Doctor Who's Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Matt Smith walk by me en route to a filming location in NYC's Central Park.

Note: This was originally published earlier on my podcast blog, Tandem With The Random.

When I heard my favorite television show of all time, “Doctor Who”—the greatest sci-fi series in television history (this is fact…deal with it, Trekkies)—was coming to New York City to film part of the episode that would serve as the finale for the characters of Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), I immediately planned to take the train up to NYC and try to catch some of the filming.

In my younger days, I always dreamed about one day living in London and possibly catching some “Doctor Who” filming. Of course, the show went on a 16-year hiatus starting in 1989 (aside from the 1996 FOX/BBC television movie), so I thought that dream was dead. When the BBC finally brought the show back in 2005, I didn’t think it would ever achieve the kind of hip/cool status and worldwide popularity—particularly now in the United States—that would warrant filming in the U.S. But, amazingly, “Doctor Who” is more popular than it has ever been in its nearly 50-year history. And, after coming over to “this side of the pond” in November 2010 to shoot part of series six, the “Doctor Who” cast and crew returned to the U.S.—this time to a city just about 90 minutes away from me by train—for more filming.

I used Twitter and the fantastic (albeit “stalker-ish”) web site, (OLV) to track when and where they would be filming. After reports of “Doctor Who” stars Matt Smith (The Doctor) and Darvill being seen in NYC earlier this week, the OLV community worked its magic and reported that filming had started near the ice rink in Central Park yesterday morning. I immediately grabbed my work laptop (to continue working on the train) and my camera and rushed to the train station. While I was on the train, I kept thinking it was going to be a complete waste of time, money and energy…that it would be a big, ol’ wild goose chase.

And that’s the way it felt when I arrived at the filming location to find just a handful of crew members and equipment covered in tarps and plastic. I immediately went to OLV on my iPhone and saw that the cast and crew had broken for lunch and would be filming a few more hours in the park.

About 30-40 minutes after I arrived, the cast that was still at the filming location began moving to another area of the park. I, along with a small group of fellow Whovians, followed them. We were about to cross Terrace Drive as we approached Bethesda Fountain from the south, when I looked to my left…coming up the road from that direction were Gillan, Darvill and Smith—Amy, Rory and The Doctor! I said, “Look to your left*,” to the small group that was with me while I frantically searched my bag for my camera (my iPhone was at the ready, but I wanted a true camera for this shot). Fortunately, I found my camera and took a shot of them walking toward me.

*Only true “Doctor Who” fans will get this…but, when it comes to The Doctor, it is always wise to turn left.

But it was the picture above, the second photo I took, that is the real “money” shot for me…I totally lucked into it, but the current stars of my favorite show of all time walked right by me! It made the big, ol’ goose chase totally worth it. A childhood dream had been fulfilled…although I was hoping to see the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space), the blue phone box that traverses through time and space. But I can always go use the restroom at the Who-themed Way Station bar in Brooklyn for that (time constraints prevented me from getting there yesterday).

Obviously, I then followed them to the new shooting location on Central Park’s Bow Bridge and watched with several other onlookers as Smith and Gillan filmed a conversation on the bridge, with The Doctor reading out of a book to Amy Pond. It appeared they were trying to find something the book was telling them should be there. Following that, the crew filmed a scene of The Doctor running across the bridge (see video below). Actually, the video seen here is of the second take of the run…Smith had a bit of difficulty stopping on the first take and seemed to be limping slightly after running into some of the crew and onlookers. But he looked OK enough on the second take.

That’s all I’ll say about the shoot. There was something else that took place during filming that may or may not play a crucial part in the final story of Amy and Rory—something I didn’t even think of until one of the girls next to me said she had a theory about what we were seeing. She didn’t expound on that theory, but I immediately came up with some of my own so I am purposely not posting those photos. I will add this, though…from the presence of the book The Doctor was reading and the way Amy was interacting with what he was saying, I think the prevailing storyline of “Amy’s life being a fairy tale” is coming full circle…but will it be a happy ending?

Video: The Doctor runs across Bow Bridge in NYC’s Central Park, 4/11/2012


The Doctor’s new assistant is…Karen Gillan

Karen Gillan will play the companion to Matt Smiths 11th Doctor in Doctor Who.
Karen Gillan will play the companion to Matt Smith's 11th Doctor in "Doctor Who."

The BBC has announced that 21-year-old relatively unknown actress Karen Gillan will step into the TARDIS as the companion in “Doctor Who” when Matt Smith takes over as the 11th Doctor in 2010.

Gillan has already appeared in “Doctor Who,” portraying a soothsayer in the season four episode, “The Fires of Pompeii.”

Executive Producer and Head of Drama BBC Wales Piers Wenger said, ‘We knew Karen was perfect for the role the moment we saw her. She brought an energy and excitement to the part that was just fantastic. And when she auditioned alongside Matt we knew we had something special.’

Meanwhile, current Doctor, David Tennant, will star in three more “Doctor Who” specials to air later this year before Smith takes over the role.

Tennant will be the new host of PBS’ “Masterpiece Contemporary” series when it returns in October.

New “Who” announced: Matt Smith is the 11th Doctor!

Matt Smith takes control of the TARDIS in 2010 as the 11th Doctor. (BBC Photo)
Matt Smith takes control of the TARDIS in 2010 as the 11th Doctor. (BBC Photo)

Matt Smith, a 26-year-old actor whose name had not even been mentioned for the role until the last couple of days, has been cast as the 11th incarnation of the Doctor in BBC’s long-running sci-fi series, “Doctor Who.”

Smith will officially take over the role when the fifth series of the show debuts in 2010. Until then, popular David Tennant will continue to star in the title role in a series of specials through 2009 and early 2010. It is expected that the famous “regeneration scene” — in which Tennant’s 10th Doctor will “die” and transform into Smith’s 11th Doctor — will take place in the conclusion of a two-part special that will be broadcast in the UK for the Easter holiday in 2010.

The announcement of Smith’s casting was made during a special episode of “Doctor Who Confidential” on BBC 1 on Saturday.

Smith, who will be the youngest actor to ever play the approximately 1,000-year-old Time Lord, has coincidentally appeared in three series opposite former “Doctor Who” companion Billie Piper (Rose Tyler) — “Ruby in the Smoke”, “The Shadow in the North”, and “Secret Diary of a Call Girl”.

Following Tennant into the Doctor’s TARDIS will be no easy task for Smith. Tennant, who has starred in the titular role since a 2005 Christmas special (“The Christmas Invasion”) has become arguably the most popular actor to ever play the character, even surpassing perennial favorite Tom Baker, who starred as the floppy hat/long scarf-wearing Fourth Doctor from 1974-1981.

Watch an extended interview with Matt Smith below:


Britney goes for alien look

OK…this is scary.

And I don’t mean that picture of the newly bald Britney Spears…although that is pretty scary looking.

What I find scary is that a few weeks back, there were all sorts of media reports going around that Russell T. Davies, the executive producer of my favorite TV show, “Doctor Who,” wanted Spears to appear in “Doctor Who” as a group of sex-crazed aliens cloned to look like her.

I dismissed the stories as, what the Brits would say, rubbish. However, looking at these pics of a bald Britney Spears, I am scared that she might be getting ready for that “Doctor Who” role after all.

Now, THAT would be scary.

I usually love all episodes of “Doctor Who,” no matter how weak they might be. But I would have to say any “Doctor Who” story featuring Britney would be, as The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy would say:

Worst. Episode. Ever.