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FanX's 'Doctor Who' panels features experiences of 3 Doctors

Matt Smith, Sylvester McCoy and Peter Davison all played the Doctor in "Doctor Who," a television series that began in 1963.

“The thing is, we’re all the same man,” Smith said.

Smith, McCoy and Davison, the 11th, seventh and fifth Doctors, respectively, and Alex Kingston, who plays the Doctor’s wife in the 2005 reboot of the series, shared entertaining stories from their experiences on the show during Salt Lake Comic Con’s “The Doctor Who Ultimate FanXperience” on March 25.

The show revolves around the premise that the Doctor is “from a race called the Time Lords” and he “travels through time and space” in the Time and Relative Dimension in Space spacecraft, or TARDIS, according to the “Doctor Who (2005)” plot summary on imdb.com. If the Doctor is mortally wounded, he regenerates as the same man with a different physical appearance and varying personality traits.

The actors shared how each man tends to add his quirky spin to the madness that is the Doctor, mainly concentrating on the recent contributions from Smith. For example, Smith said he was known for eating fish fingers and custard together as the Doctor.

Another one of Smith’s contributions was creating a dance move for the Doctor that resembles a giraffe. Smith said that while he was contemplating the Doctor dancing before the scene, he thought, “Oh, how does he dance? Like a lunatic!”

He said he put his arms on the sides of his head and wiggled his arms back and forth, which he demonstrated during the panel upon a request from the audience.

Smith also said he picked his tweed blazer and bow tie combination because he wanted to offset his age by appearing professorial. Smith campaigned for a signature hat like many other Doctors before him, he said. He said one of his producers picked out a fez because they thought he wouldn’t like it, but Smith said he loved it.

McCoy said he liked the fez because he had worn it 25 years earlier, so it reinforced that they were “the same doctor, with the same tastes.”

The show went through myriad phases, including a variety of doctors and hats, during its original run from 1963 to 1989. The show’s reboot, which began in 2005, continues the legacy, and a dozen different actors have portrayed the Doctor.

Davison said he visited the set of the reboot to compare its atmosphere with that of the set he’d experienced.

“It was so slick when the series came back, but when you actually got to the set it was, ‘C’mon, we’ve got three minutes to shoot this!’” Davison said. “I was very pleased to see that the show was still made with the same amount of blind panic that it had been made with in my time. Nothing had changed at all.”

Kingston jumped in, explaining that the show runs under incredible time constraints that place pressure on the cast and crew.

McCoy said the set is just as haphazard as the time limitations. He recounted a story in which the Doctor was supposed to be facing villainous cat people, which was filmed in Dorset, England. He said he felt bad for the cat people in fur, makeup and fake ears since they were filming during a heat wave.

“There was no shade. There was no water. There was no nothing,” McCoy said, to which Kingston retorted, “It’s the same.”

Kingston and Smith then reminisced about Smith’s first day on set, when they were filming on a beach in Wales in the pouring rain, trying to shoot everything they needed before the tide came in.

“We had no cover,” Kingston said. “All we had was one pathetic tent — not even a proper tent because it didn’t have sides. It was just sort of this vinyl little roof for us and the entire crew to stand under in the pouring rain.”

At the end of the panel, after discussing the novelty of the show, the participants were asked what keeps people coming back.

“It’s the endless possibilities, I suppose,” Davison said.

Missy Page, a panel attendee from Provo, said she had been worried the actors might not be similar to the character they portrayed — and that she was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case.

“The actors were actually similar to the characters,” Page said. “They start talking, and you’re like, ‘No, they had a lot of influence on their characters because that’s them right there.’”

Attendee Randy Rainsdon of Burley, Idaho, liked hearing all the perspectives.

“I just thought it was really fun to see the different points of view from all the different doctors and how things have changed over the years, how their costumes and their personalities shined through while they still keep the generic baseline Doctor the same, so the fan base can still latch on to it,” Rainsdon said.

Benni Alvarez of Salem, Utah, said it was Smith’s dancing that he’ll remember.

“One of my favorite moments was when Matt Smith went and did the giraffe onstage,” Alvarez said. “I’m a huge fan, and it was amazing. It’s my favorite panel I’ve ever been to.”

Email: aramirez@deseretnews.com