DOCTOR WHO: Arthur Darvill Shares The Challenges of Being The Doctor’s Companion (2011)

The beloved sci-fi series DOCTOR WHO offers a wondrous world where anything is possible and every now and then a select few are chosen to travel with The Doctor for a while.  For both the chosen fictional companions and the actors who portray them, it is a glorious journey.  To share a bit about his featured episode in “The Girl Who Waits,” Arthur Darvill took time to chat with press in a recent conference call about his take and reactions what his character Rory Williams (a.k.a. Mr. Pond) has gone through and has yet to still experience, including the reveal that his character of the now-infamous River Song.

What can you tease about the upcoming episode “The Girl Who Waited”?

ARTHUR: It’s a real one that tests Rory and Amy’s relationship, actually.  It’s quite brilliant. I don’t know.  Every time we get a script we always kind of anticipate: ‘Are they going to be good?’ But this one, we got and we were like, ‘Wow! This is really good, but really hard.’ And Karen’s really brilliant in it. I can’t give too much away, but she has to play something very different to what she normally plays in DOCTOR WHO and that was a real challenge for her, and she really pulls it off. She’s great. It’s called, “The Girl Who Waited.” So she’s waiting for something and Rory basically has to go in and kind of find her and save her, but something’s coming for us strictly wrong, which really tests them and tests their emotions to the limits really.

In the upcoming episode, it is considered Doctor-light.  So how does Rory fare without The Doctor’s input sort of on his own devices?

ARTHUR: He does all right. I think he’s gotten to a point now where he’s so within this kind of world, within the the fact that he can go and travel through time, and comes face to face with really horrific things. It’s just become almost normal for him. And yes, I was really pleased with the script because he really steps up to the plate and proves himself even more than he has in the past. So yes, he does all right without The Doctor. I mean, The Doctor is still lending a helping hand but – in a good way, it kind of test Rory and Amy’s relationship. It tests The Doctor and Rory’s relationship quite a bit as well, because The Doctor can’t actually do anything and is just constantly putting Amy in danger. So Rory does all right. He kind of mans-up a bit.

Could you sort of address how Rory’s grown and changed over the seasons?

ARTHUR: Yes, well, I think this wasn’t anything that he really expected. It just happened in his life and I think when he started traveling with The Doctor he didn’t think he’d be there very long. And so much of what he’s about has to do with making sure everyone’s safe — and just for a while he wanted to get back home and get married and not kind of travel in the TARDIS for the rest of his life. But now, I don’t know.  Because Amy’s got such a bond with The Doctor and now obviously kind of fathering River Song, he’s completely in this world and he’s had to kind of prove himself and had to man-up a bit so many times now. I think that has really affected him kind of waiting for 2,000 years and obviously having a strange Alex Kingston-shaped child. It’s completely changed him, I think. And whether it’s actually worse, it’s made him more assertive and slightly more heroic, I would say. But also I think he has matured a lot and it’s proved to him that even though all of these incredible things have happened and these horrible things have happened, that his relationship with Amy is still the strongest thing in the world. And that is very real and very, very good — and he’s still completely wildly in love with her.

Are you happy with the direction Rory’s going?

ARTHUR: Yes, completely. I mean, you always worry about what’s going to happen.  What I need is obviously going to be kind of permanently in the show. You kind of think: Why is Rory just going to be like this spare-wheel?  But it never is that and the writers are so good at kind of forging Rory’s kind of journey through it. It’s actually a pleasure to play.

Can you just talk a little bit about your doing the action sequences and what that involves on the show?

ARTHUR: Yes, it was a lot.  It’s kind of funny.  It’s not really anything that I’d considered before I got this job. I’d be kind of running around and flying through the air and doing fighting sequences. But it has been a quite a joy to do.  And they’re great — the stunt guys on DOCTOR WHO are brilliant. They let us do as many of our own stunts as possible. I mean, this one, in terms of kind of carrying the action, The Doctor is kind of less on [screen] as Rory’s kind of sent off to go and help Amy on his own, which I think is quite a big responsibility for him. But he really jumps in. Actually it’s kind of funny.  It’s funny the way Rory deals with things because he’s quite nervous and doesn’t really want to put himself in danger.  But as soon as it has anything to do with Amy being in danger, he will just throw himself in straightaway.

A lot of Rory’s character has been defined in relation to Amy Pond. How would you differentiate him as a character, if say Amy ever disappeared from the show? What would Rory be like?

ARTHUR: Well, you know he’s going to be very sad and I think they do so much come as a package. But if she did disappear, I think it would be kind of strange. I think Rory and The Doctor’s relationship has grown so much over the last season. And it’s not as simple as because before, when he was obviously kind of quite jealous of The Doctor. But I think that’s gone now and they’ve got a real bond. They’ve got a real kind of true friendship. I think most of us kind of want that. I don’t know, I just find in a lot of my friendships I can only be really, really good friends with someone if I’ve had a massive falling out with them at some point or a big argument. And I think that kind of makes all relationships stronger. And I think Rory and The Doctor’s falling out is the same. I don’t know, they still need each other and they still are great, great friends. So I think they’ve got a very, very strong relationship and as much as Rory can be a bumbling-idiot at times, I think he’s proved to The Doctor and to to everyone else around that when everything starts kicking off [Rory] can really step up to the plate and deliver and and be of use.  Because I think fundamentally, he’s a good person and The Doctor kind of constantly seeks good people — and Rory’s up there with the best of those.

When Karen first got her role, she was asked by the director to fill out a questionnaire to sort of help her understand her role. Were you given any kind of similar questionnaire?

ARTHUR: No, I didn’t get a questionnaire, but we talked. Me and Karen talked quite in depth about what Rory and Amy’s relationship was and who they were. But it was quite scary coming into something like this where we’re up first, because you got to make such kind of bold decisions so quickly — and we definitely did that. And we didn’t know where the characters were going when we first got the job.  I don’t know how much of that has been kind of influenced by what we’ve done or how set in stone that has been. But yes, we obviously discussed a lot and in great detail who they were and what they were about. But then as you go on, you get to know the characters so well that it just becomes almost second nature to you. And I don’t know, it’s really good.  Like I think at the beginning of the second half of the season, it was really nice to go back and see some of Rory and Amy’s past and see them when they were children and stuff. I think the stories that we’ve been given and the exploration into the character that we’ve had through the show is kind of informed our choices even more.

Recently BBC America actually ran a DOCTOR WHO monsters episode. Is there a particular favorite monster you have?

ARTHUR: I’m a big fan of The Silence. I think they’re a brilliant creation from Steven [Moffat] because there’s something [creepy about them], as well as they look absolutely horrible when we’re working with them. We do kind of look at them and get really freaked out. I think the psychological element of what they can do and how they affect people is brilliant. You can’t remember their names but they could even be walking around around our cities at the moment, but we’d never know. And I just think that’s a really brilliant, scary idea.

The thing that has been frustrating a lot of other viewers is the fact that Rory and Amy really haven’t reacted to the fact that they didn’t get to raise their own daughter and The Doctor sort of lied to them when he said, ‘I will find your child because he really didn’t. He failed them. Yet there hasn’t been that much fall out from that. Do you think there will be more fall out? Do you think there should be?

ARTHUR: Yes, it’s kind of strange.  We questioned this when we got the script. Actually I think it’s there was time in between those two episodes in the summer break for them to sit down and talk about it, but they’re so affected by what’s happened to them and by everything they go through every day, that this can happen and it to be not as freaky as it would be for your average person. And they’ve completely been sucked into The Doctor’s world. To return to real life now and to react kind of like how normal people would react to things  – they can’t really do it. They would just kind of now go home and just sit and talk about what happened. I don’t think they will quite compute it. But yes, I mean, obviously they are freaked out.  But then I don’t think you want to see an episode where they just kind of sit and chat about it. There’s more stuff to be getting on with.

How do you think Rory feels about his time-challenged daughter, Melody, who he barely knew as a baby and who ended up growing up to be the outrageous Mels, and then finally regenerated as a wild River Song?

ARTHUR: I think he’s a bit freaked out about all the things that have happened. But the thing is with everything that happens in [DOCTOR WHO], there’s never really time to sit back and kind of consider anything because everything moves at such a pace. You can find out one big bit of information but then you run off and face someone else or run off and get yourself in danger. So I don’t think he’s really had that much time to sit back and go, ‘Oh my God what has happened to my life?’ But it’s kind of funny because I think Rory and River’s relationship has been quite strange. I think Rory’s been quite nervous of her and now I think, obviously, their relationship is going to change because Rory is her dad. So I know I’m quite intrigued to see how that develops. But he’s ultimately completely freaked out about it — but just doesn’t have time to think about it.

Do you think there will come a time when Rory maybe the thrill wears away, the danger becomes too much and he’ll make Amy kind of choose between him and The Doctor?

ARTHUR: I don’t know. I mean I’ve always kind of thought about this really. Because I think there’s there will definitely come a time when Rory just kind of stands back and go, ‘What are we doing here? Why are we doing this still?’ But I don’t know.  I think it has become so complicated for him and I think he’s always kind of on the edge of saying that really because they keep getting put into more and more dangerous situations. But saying that, he’s also needs The Doctor as well now. He needs to be there and couldn’t really do without it. So it’s kind of that he’s got a strange pull in both worlds really.

On Twitter fans have said ‘Does Rory die? Tell him to stop dying.’

ARTHUR: Yes, I think it’s got a bit much for him, all the dying. He’s bit sick of that, to be perfectly honest. I think I kept seeing it as a bit of a running-joke and I’ll ask Steven [Moffat] if there’s any kind of big reason for that constantly happening and he’s as bad with us as he is with all you guys, with the press and with the public. He won’t tell us anything.  So I have no idea if this is going to keep happening. I don’t know if he’s got a big plan for it. But I personally hope that Rory just stops dying.

Do you think it has something to do with Rory sort of being an ‘every man’ and it’s a way for the viewers to connect to him?

ARTHUR: Yes, it could be and also being such a good person.  A lot of times this happens because he’s put himself in the way of danger for other people, and I think it’s because he’s such a good person and he’s a hero.  He’s a bumbling hero coming out.

At the end of last season Rory ended up waiting for 2,000 years, which is twice as old as The Doctor technically. But at the beginning of the season we saw that he retained all those memories. What effect did that have on the way you portrayed Rory in this season?  Will we be seeing any effects of having those memories on Rory coming up?

ARTHUR: Yes, I think you do. I think it’s kind had a few different effects on him. I think, in a way, it’s made him know himself a bit more. And, well, the biggest thing is he’s gotten to prove his love for Amy.  His relationship with Amy is the most important thing in his life, and he’ll do he will do anything for her. I think it’s also kind of made him know that he can do things like that and kind of be a bit more of a hero. So it’s kind of given him the confidence.  I think it’s also kind of been wearing him down slightly. I think as well it has made him  — as kind of inspiring him and making him more confident, but I think in a way it’s kind of tired him out.  Not in a way that he’s now kind of sluggish or lazy, but just the weariness that that does to you has kind of made him kind of a bit wiser. But also, even more, he wants to kind of stay out of danger because he doesn’t want anything like that to happen again.

Alex Kingston talked about how when she first came on she was sort of a bit motherly towards you and Karen.  Now in the show you and Karen are her parents, has anything changed as a result of that?

ARTHUR: It’s been kind of funny. I shouldn’t speak for all of us on this, but my favorite time is when all four of us are together, working together. And I suppose, at first, Alex was kind of a little bit.  But she’s got sort of a naughty side — she’s just as kind of disruptive and playful as the rest of us, if not more so. So it’s been great actually and because we’ve all had so much to do together, we’ve all formed such a good bond. I don’t know, but I think we’re all going to be friends for life out of it. And yes, she’s hilarious.  She can be quite motherly at times, but also can really mess around and tease us all quite considerably.

Will we ever see you sort of teaming up with some of the past companions?

ARTHUR: No, I mean Steven [Moffat] is very good at keeping it really quite separate.  But I wouldn’t put it past him to put us all together. I mean, maybe it would be some kind of strange self-help group to get over and everything The Doctor.  Yes, maybe that would be a good episode, just all of the past companions in therapy.

Is that something you would like to see?

ARTHUR: Yes, I mean I suppose I’ve got enough working with Karen Gillan to be perfectly honest. But, yes, why not? I think that would be quite a fun thing to do.

Can you tease a bit of what we can expect for the rest of the season after the events of “The Girl Who Waited”?

ARTHUR: Yes.  I think this half of the season is the strongest stuff that we’ve done. Me, Matt and Karen all got given all the episodes from this half of the season. So a few months ago, we just watched them all back-to-back – and they’re brilliant. They’re all so different and each one is like a different movie.  The way that they are directed and the way that they are written is just great.  So after this episode, there’s an episode that’s called, “The God Complex,” which is kind of set in this creepy hotel where this a minotaur and kind of lost and each room is kind of a different freaky thing. If anyone’s kind of scared of clowns or ventriloquists, it’s definitely going to make you want to hide behind the sofa. And David Williams — he is brilliant.  It’s kind of like almost like “The Shining” or something. It’s great. And then James Corden is in one of the episodes which is coming up and that’s got some Cybermen in it as well, which is quite exciting. And then the finale just blew my mind. I can’t say too much about it, but it’s about as epic as DOCTOR WHO has ever got.  And it answers some more questions, which I think everyone’s dying to hear the answers to.

To see what comes next and how Rory deals with the impossible choice he is given in the new episode, “The Girl Who Waited,” be sure to tune in to watch DOCTOR WHO on Saturday, September 10th at 9:00 p.m. on BBC America.

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