“We’re not lying, we’re not cheating: one of those four people is going to die,” Steven Moffat, the Doctor Who series writer and “show-runner” told Doctor Who magazine.
But the Gallifrey guru was a little more coy at the official screening of the opening two-parter to the new series at the Olympia Centre in Kensington, currently home to the Doctor Who exhibition.
Moffat begged the assorted media not to reveal who has supposedly met their ultimate fate, inbetween delivering glib “you’ll have to wait and see” answers to questions about the new series.
Doctor Who addicts will have already seen enough spoilers on sites devoted to the show.
But it’s safe to say that any character essential to the BBC’s money-spinning hit who is terminated in the opening ten minutes of the season launch show will live to fight another day.
There’ll be enough fanboy sites singing hosannahs over the the opening episodes, The Impossible Astronaut and Day Of The Moon. Beehive’s take is that if the BBC is really making 20 % efficiency savings you won’t see it on Doctor Who.
The episodes, filmed in Utah and set in the US, have a cinematic sweep and scale beyond most UK drama. It could be a glorious coincidence that the series launches on BBC America on April 23 but the influence of BBC Worldwide, the corporation’s commercial wing which owns BBC America, is clearly visible.
Without alerting the spoiler police, the season opener pits the Doctor against an alien foe, the Silence, whose unique selling point is that the second you look away from their Ood-like appearance, you forget ever encountering them.
Students of Dr Who might consider this a simple reverse, or even a cover version, of Moffat’s greatest hit, the weeping stone Angels from the Blink episode, itself revived last season. Indeed a child invited to ask a question to the writer and cast after the screening inquired if the link was intentional.
The first episode of the two-parter locates the story in 1969, on the eve of the Moon landing and introduces the Doctor to President Richard Nixon, who is mightily surprised to find a Time Lord in the Oval Office. The Doctor insists he can solve those mysterious phone calls that the President is receiving from a small child in distress.
The first episode is much tighter than the second which gets bogged down in tedious Dr Who mythology over Alex Kingston’s River Song character and a pregnancy storyline involving Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond, which really belongs in EastEnders.
Doctor Who is surely beyond such “who is the father” cliched earthbound melodrama, which Moffat, to his credit, brings to a swift close.
But the good news is that Moffat has largely turfed over-board the bloated self-regard that Doctor Who had developed under Russell T Davies’ later reign.
The new series is split in to two halves of six and seven episodes, which according to Moffat, means that nearly every episode is straining for either series opener or cliffhanger status.
Whether for BBC America sensitivities or not, President Nixon is presented as a troubled President, yet trying to do good faced with an alien occupation. It’s a rehabilitation of sorts for America’s most reviled President. Would BBC America ever countenance a wholly negative US Presidential portrayal?
But even if Matt Smith’s Doctor and his team succeed in averting the present danger, in a smart piece of Moffat writing, he also reminds Nixon that there are a billion over threats out there in the Universe.
It’s the kind of warning that is sure to feed the paranoia that we know will drive Nixon to Watergate. And for good measure the Doctor advises Nixon to make recordings of all his Oval Office phone conversations from thereafter.
Moffat said afterwards, in one of his few expansive answers, that the scary stuff in Dr Who – and there’s plenty of that in the series openers – is for the kids and the jokey, sexual or slyly political references are for the adults. The series openers have plenty enough of both to make season six look like essential family viewing once again.