Piers Wenger on ‘Doctor Who’

One of the executive producers of "Doctor Who" gives us a glimpse of the Christmas special and the upcoming sixth season!

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Piers Wenger on 'Doctor Who'

Piers Wenger may not be a house hold name here in America, but as the current Head of Drama at BBC Wales, Wenger has an important role in shaping British television. Earlier this year, Wenger and fellow "Doctor Who" Executive Producer Steven Moffat successfully finished their first season together on the show while introducing a new Doctor (Matt Smith), new companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill).

With the fifth season of "Doctor Who" currently out on DVD and an all new Christmas special airing next month on BBC America, Wenger recently spoke with CraveOnline about his earliest experiences with "Doctor Who," his favorite moments of the fifth season and what's coming up in the "Who" Christmas special and the brand new season six starting next spring.

CraveOnline: What is your earliest "Doctor Who" memory?

Piers Wenger: My earliest "Doctor Who" memory was watching the show during the Tom Baker era. He was my first Doctor. I vividly remember being scared by the creatures.

CraveOnline: Do you have a favorite Doctor, a favorite companion or a favorite villain?

Piers Wenger: Well, when I was a kid - my favorite Doctor is Tom Baker - but when I was a kid it was still Tom Baker. I didn't really have a favorite companion. I wasn't as much into the companions as I was for the Doctor, but I did love K-9. And I was utterly terrified of The Master. I thought that the idea of this body-snatching [villain] after the Doctor was [frightening]. 

CraveOnline: You started working on "Doctor Who" back in 2009, right?

Piers Wenger: That's right, yeah. I actually started working on it during 2008. We started filming in 2009 but from September 2008 we were prepping the scripts.

CraveOnline: Why did you decide to work on "Doctor Who"?

Piers Wenger: I didn't pick it, it picked me. I was offered the job by Jane Tranter, who was the controller of BBC of fiction at that time. She knew I was an avid "Doctor Who" fan. And of course I completely jumped at it. 

CraveOnline: For season 5, what were your favorite moments?

Piers Wenger: Well, I guess "The Eleventh Hour," which I just love the first ten or fifteen minutes which [reintroduces] the Doctor. I love the scene where [Amy] saw the Tardis. There was a [Weeping Angels] two-parter that I just find so compelling and it takes "Doctor Who" to a new place. But my happiest moments were watching the finale, the final two-parter at Stonehenge and seeing the Doctor really drop his [defenses] and say goodbye to Amy. They both felt very connected and they were both the focus of the series up to that point.

CraveOnline: What can you tell us about the "Doctor Who" Christmas special coming out in December?

Piers Wenger: It's called "A Christmas Carol" and you know Steven [Moffat's] obsession with timelines to drive a story is very well documented. It's based on the iconic Christmas story that does that. It's very much a "Doctor Who" "Christmas Carol." He meets a character named Kazran Sardick played by Michael Gambon who is similar to Scrooge and the Doctor appears to him as the Ghost of Christmas Past and takes him back to his childhood and tries to show him the error of his ways while trying to save Amy and Rory who are trapped on a [space] train.

CraveOnline: After the Christmas special, what's coming up in season six?

Piers Wenger: Well, season six... you know we've got the pressure up after the success of the last season. We really have to raise the bar. Steven has written a two-parter, which will be the first season opening two-parter since the series came back in 2005 and it's all set in the [United States]. The [production] went to the states to film the American locations for that two-parter. I'm particularly dying to see that one. I think it's going to be the most ambitious season opener that "Doctor Who" has seen for the last five or six years.

CraveOnline: Are we finally going to learn who River Song is in that two-parter?

Piers Wenger: No. We're probably not finding that out quite yet, but stay tuned. I think you'll get really great clues in the coming season.

CraveOnline: Will "Doctor Who" be shooting anywhere else besides Britain and the U.S. in the upcoming season?

Piers Wenger: Not currently. Although, we are nothing if not opportunistic. If an opportunity to do so would arrive, we would probably take it. Or if it would bring something new to an episode and give it a completely new landscape. We're open to that because we're always pushing it.

CraveOnline: What was the rationale for splitting season six into two parts next year?

Piers Wenger: I think it was basically driven by the story that Steven had in his head. It had a big [story] in the middle of it and I think [Steven] spoke to the drama commissioner of the BBC about that where he figured "why not build a [structure] that really built to it?" It was an excellent opportunity to really get the audience hooked by making it an end of season cliffhanger. We get a three month hiatus between the first part and the second part in the U.K.

CraveOnline: So, it'll be seven episodes in the spring, with six episodes and the 2011 Christmas special in the fall, right?

Piers Wenger: That's right, yes. You're never more than three months away from the next "Doctor Who."

CraveOnline: Will that be the schedule going forward even beyond this year?

Piers Wenger: We don't know that yet. As I said, it was driven by a story thing, by a two-parter from Steven.

CraveOnline: Can you tell us about any guest stars coming up in season six?

Piers Wenger: Well, we tend to do it on a rolling basis when the scripts are ready. But we've got some really exciting negotiations going on at the moment. We've got Alex Kingston returning for several episodes this year. But at the moment, there's no one I can actually reveal other than Alex.



CraveOnline: What about the writers for season six? I know that Neil Gaiman has been announced.

Piers Wenger: That's right, Neil Gaiman, Mark Gatiss and Toby Whithouse, who did the vampire episode last year is back. Matthew Graham who has created "Life on Mars" is writing a very exciting two-parter which plays a pretty big part in the whole season arc.

CraveOnline: So, are there two two-parters in the first half of season six?

Piers Wenger: That's right. Steven's writing the first two-parter, then Matthew's writing the other. We're still working the rest of it out.

CraveOnline: How will the new season deal with Rory and Amy's marriage?

Piers Wenger: That's all part and parcel of the [storyarc] of season six. I don't want to say too much about that other than Steven's got more dastardly complications to throw at them than anyone else on the planet.

CraveOnline: When the season is split, will the second half be re-branded as season seven?

Piers Wenger: I think it will probably... we're thinking of them as two different seasons. But I think for the purpose of DVD box sets, it will be two parts of season six. But we're treating them as two separate seasons.

CraveOnline: Are there any classic "Doctor Who" creatures making their return in season six?

Piers Wenger: No, we're bigger fans of new monsters. That's where we are. I think Steven's written the best new "Doctor Who" monsters in a long time in the [season] opening two-parter. That's where our energies are focused, really.

CraveOnline: Any chance of the Weeping Angels showing up this year?

Piers Wenger: You'll have to wait and see.

CraveOnline: As a long time "Doctor Who," I want to ask: have you ever considered bringing Paul McGann back as the eighth Doctor, either as a one-off or to explore the Time War?

Piers Wenger: No, that's something that's never occurred to us and I think that's quite unlikely. As far as we're concerned, meetings of the Doctor's previous regenerations require very special circumstances indeed. That's not planned at the moment, but who knows what fate has in store? But the circumstances are not something we've discussed.

CraveOnline: Well, as fans, we love our multiple Doctor stories.

Piers Wenger: I'm not saying that would [never happen]. Steven's written "Time Crash." He has flirted with that idea before but I think he's yet to come out with plans for approving that idea yet.

CraveOnline: Do you have any closing thoughts on the upcoming season?

Piers Wenger: I think we've covered most of it. Of course, we're constantly trying to raise the bar on what's been there before. And I think we'll probably be scarier, especially as the relationships between the characters become darker and more complex. I think that will be the big difference between the two season. Season five was all about getting to know Amy and Rory and getting to understand their relationship and getting to know a little more about River.

I think season six will be more about testing those relationships, making them more complicated as the Doctor faces a particularly sadistic challenge.