Why Doctor Who's opening two-parter will be bigger than ever before

Doctor Who comes back on Easter, and the opening two-parter sounds like one of the most ambitious things the show's ever done — including the first ever proper filming in the United States.

We had the opportunity to talk to director Toby Haynes about how these first two episodes are different than "The Pandorica Opens"/"The Big Bang" and "A Christmas Carol," his previous outings. And he gave us a few hints about what to expect. We also chatted with guest star Mark Sheppard.

We got up early on Sunday morning to do some exclusive interviews at Wondercon with some of the Doctor Who creative team. (We'll post our exclusive interview with Neil Gaiman later on.) We were excited to talk to Toby Haynes about directing a slew of Doctor Who episodes in a row, and here's the transcript:

So according to one site I read, you've directed more consecutive episodes of Doctor Who than any other director. Are you proud?

I feel deeply proud. It was my first go at Doctor Who when I did "The Pandorica Opens," and I've gone all the way through. So I didn't know that was going to happen, but they've just sort of kept me on and didn't let me leave the building.

It's been great, they're all great stories. And also, they're all Steven Moffat scripts. He's the greatest writer of Doctor Who they've ever had. To have done his scripts, to have worked on the show. It's a lot of big moments for me.

Can you talk a bit about the tonal shifts, from "The Pandorica Opens"/"The Big Bang" through the Christmas episode and into the season-opener?

Why Doctor Who's opening two-parter will be bigger than ever before

Sure. "The Big Bang" and "The Pandorica Opens" were sort of the action climax of the series, so it was like it was proper action-adventure film-making. The Christmas special was one of my favorite things I got to do, very much its own movie, its own thing, extremely cinematic style. Trying to make it fairy-tale-like and dark in tone, but very dark and considered.

And these new ones, it's very much the beginning of a series, we're hitting the ground running. There's a lot to get across. There's a lot of action and sort of edginess to it and just sort of looser and energized, I would say. But also, tonally, within these episodes we go to lots of different places. You've got to be flexible with Doctor Who because it's mad. He can go anywhere, because he's got a TARDIS.

And did you enjoy actually shooting in the U.S.?

Why Doctor Who's opening two-parter will be bigger than ever before

Absolutely loved it. Everything's a different scale here. It suddenly makes sense of wide lenses. You've got to show these landscapes. When I did the recce for it, I went to Monument Valley, and the first time, it took my breath away. You can see these huge landscapes, and these structures. It just is a different scale. We just don't have anything like that in the U.K. or in Europe. Things are beautiful and historic, but it's compact and kind of crowded... This dense population and idyllic farmland. But here, it's scale. Everything is scale. Look at the bridges in [San Francisco]. You have to build big here.

You also worked on Being Human. How would you compare the two shows in terms of their approach to the fantastical?

Why Doctor Who's opening two-parter will be bigger than ever before

Well, Being Human, I suppose, is an epic quality that's inside the characters. So it's not epic in scale because of the look of the show or anything like that. It's epic about kind of making people's real issues into great big fantasy archetypes. So you know, it's making the small, the personal epic. So Doctor Who is making sure the epicness stays epic, during production, making sure it feels big and exciting.

We also got to chat with Mark Sheppard, who plays Canton Everett Delaware in the opening two-parter. Unfortunately, he was determined not to reveal any spoilers, and stayed maddeningly vague about what his character is up to in the episode. (If we'd talked to him after the panel, when we'd seen that clip, we could have asked him more specifics about it.) We got to interview Sheppard once before, at Comic Con, and we knew that he was happy to answer silly questions. (His explanation of how Romo Lampkin's dog is the ancestor of all present-day dogs is priceless.) Bear in mind, though, that this was first thing Sunday morning, and nobody had slept in a couple days.

Most notably, Sheppard said he could well be back on both Warehouse 13 and Supernatural, and nobody really ever dies in scifi. So give him a call, Jack Kenny and Sera Gamble!