Jenna Coleman’s surprise Doctor Who cameo almost played out differently

Contributed by
Jan 19, 2018

Last month’s Doctor Who Christmas special “Twice Upon a Time” brought back a lot of previous characters from the BBC series including the First Doctor (played by David Bradley), Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie – who wasn't originally meant to be in the episode), Nardole (Matt Lucas) and a surprise appearance by Jenna Coleman as the 12th Doctor’s (Peter Capaldi) beloved companion, Clara.

Thanks to The Testimony (the glass lady played by Mackie), the Yuletide special also brought back the Doctor’s memories of Clara that had been erased in the Season 9 finale, “Hellbent.” This allowed the Doctor to have a proper (and very emotional) goodbye with Clara before regenerating into his 13th incarnation, played by Jodie Whittaker.

However, what we saw onscreen was originally meant to play out differently, but Coleman’s busy schedule with her ITV drama Victoria meant the scene had to be rewritten. In the recent issue of Doctor Who Magazine (issue #421), it was revealed that Clara was meant to appear alongside Bill and Nardole on the WWI battlefield and that it would have ended with Capaldi’s Time Lord teasing his three companions:

Doctor: “I’ll tell you something, though. You were always my favourite.”
Clara: “Who was?”
Bill: “Which one?”
Nardole: “I know.”

The Doctor would have then stepped into his TARDIS with an “evil chuckle,” on his way to his long-delayed regeneration. But instead, the scene played out like this (be prepared to get those tissues out again):

 

Former showrunner Steven Moffat explained how he had to rewrite Coleman’s cameo several times. “I rewrote, and rewrote, and rewrote for everything we could do with Jenna’s schedule,” he explains, adding they could not get her on set. “We couldn’t have the three companions there together. But she does make a magical appearance on the battlefield, which we had to shoot separately a few days after the rest of the episode had wrapped.”

Her surprise appearance ended up being shot five days after filming in Cardiff had wrapped and it was actually done in the Top Gear office in London (now the BBC Worldwide offices) with a skeleton crew, director Rachel Talalay and Coleman. “So my real last moment of production wasn’t any of the ones anyone thinks it was,” Moffat revealed. “That was my very final moment on Doctor Who. At the old TV Centre. As it should be.”

Talalay went on to describe how filming was done with the two actors shooting their scenes apart. “Peter had to play to a tennis ball. And so did Jenna, on green screen later, in the Top Gear office in the middle of London, with fire engines going by. Both of them had to find that whole history together, their two years together, with neither of them being together. It’s incredibly hard making those things match up so that it really felt like they were in the same space. But I think we pulled it off,” she concluded.

What did you think of the emotional final goodbye between Peter Capaldi's Doctor and Clara? Do you believe that they did indeed pull it off?