Steven Moffat Talks About Doctor Who

Matt Smith as The Doctor in The Eleventh Hour, written by Steven Moffat. Photo copyright of the BBC

THE Doctor has regenerated into a brand-new man, but danger strikes before he can even recover, as Doctor Who returns for a new rebooted series from the BAFTA-winning writer Steven Moffat (Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Tintin, Jekyll, Coupling). With his time machine, the TARDIS, wrecked and the sonic screwdriver, his most crucial device, destroyed, the new Doctor has just 20 minutes to save the whole world, and only Amy Pond to help him. The new season opener of Doctor Who, entitled The Eleventh Hour (written my Moffat), premieres Saturday, April 17th @ 9:00 p.m. EST/PST on BBC America. The opening episode will be an extended version with limited commercial interruption. 

This new era of the BAFTA-winning series, which delivered record ratings for BBC America earlier this year, continues the tradition of rebooting with new lead actors and creative team. Steven Moffat, creator of some of the most frightening and award-winning Doctor Who episodes to date – including the BAFTA-winning episode Blink, which starred Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan – takes over as lead writer and executive producer. 

For new audiences, Steven Moffat says, “Doctor Who is the adventures of an entirely mysterious stranger from outer space and with a time machine that can go absolutely anywhere. It’s literally a television show set in everyplace in the universe, every point in history and in every style and genre. It’s all the other shows in one. You don’t have to watch the rest of television – this is it.” 

The reboot series has the Doctor (Matt Smith) and his new travelling companion, the enigmatic Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), together exploring 16th century Venice, France during the 1890s and the United Kingdom in the far future, now an entire nation floating in space. But the Doctor’s enemies are never far behind, including old nemeses, the Daleks and Weeping Angels, along with new foes such as alien vampires, humanoid reptiles and a silent menace that follows the Doctor and Amy wherever they go. 

Fans will have a chance to see the premiere early as BBC America will present special screenings of the series at WonderCon in San Francisco on April 3rd, and C2E2 in Chicago on April 16th. Ahead of the U.S. premiere broadcast, the BBC America Original, Doctor Who: The Ultimate Guide, delivers an all-access look inside the universe of the hit drama series. It airs Saturday, April 17th @ 8:00 p.m. EST/PST. 

The following is a BBC America Q &A with Steven Moffat, the first of four behind-the-scenes chats that SciFiAndTvTalk will be running over the next three weeks as we count down to the new season of episodes. Enjoy! 

Steven Moffat is a BAFTA-award winning writer whose career in television has spanned more than 20 years and produced some of the UK’s best-loved television dramas in that time. But more than that, he is a Doctor Who fan who has just been handed his dream job – in charge of this iconic drama series. 

“I supposed I could say the reason I started working in TV is because I was such a huge fan of Doctor Who,” explains Moffat. “I was absolutely fascinated and thrilled by the new show. I wanted to know how the TARDIS disappeared, how all the special effects worked and why the Doctor changed. As a viewer, you want to know why he looks different; it’s a show that compels you to look behind the scenes. In fact, over the years I think I’ve bought every single issue of Doctor Who Magazine since it launched” 

But there was a long period when Doctor Who was not on the screen; did Moffat ever worry that he wouldn’t get the opportunity to achieve his lifelong ambition and write for the show? 

“I tumbled through the door of children’s TV, became quite a cool children’s TV writer for about 48 seconds in 1989 and they basically axed Doctor Who that day!” says Moffat with a chuckle. “After 26 years, just when I thought I’d finally get to write for the show, I missed out by an afternoon.” 

What was the transition like to lead writer and executive producer? 

However, fate was obviously on Moffat’s side and in 2005, Doctor Who was resurrected and has become one of the biggest shows on UK television under the guidance of Russell T. Davies. “The transition has been strange and has lasted a long time for me, since I first got an e-mail from Russell about the job, in fact,” explains the Paisley, Scotland-born writer. “We’ve been saying goodbye to each other for two-and-a-half years now – we’d really better stop before one of us drops dead in a desperate bid for closure. I hugely enjoyed working with Russell and every time I came back to Doctor Who during those years it was an absolute treat. I knew this job was going to be difficult; I was never under any illusion about it. I could see that Russell was getting tired and he has acknowledged that he is a workaholic. I’ve managed to become a workaholic, but it never sits quite easy for me.” 

The actual moment of regeneration was, of course, the pinnacle of that transition, and Moffat’s first chance to write for the new Doctor. 

“It was Russell’s courtesy to allow me to write Matt’s first scene when the regeneration happened and he was adamant about that. He’s a fan like I am and he’ll always be motivated by that. He wouldn’t like to think as a member of the audience that the old writer had written the new Doctor. In our heads, that’s where the new era begins. That’s what matters to us. 

Doctor Who has already had multiple incarnations on television, so casting the perfect actor for the lead role presented some interesting debates. 

“I had a clear idea, which actually turned out to be the absolute opposite of what we ended up doing – which always happens when you get the casting right,” reveals Moffat. “I actually remember at the beginning of the process when I got a little bit cross while looking at the list of actors as it was full of people in their twenties. I said to everyone that we couldn’t have a Doctor who is 27. My idea was that the person was going to be between 30 – 40 years old, young enough to run but old enough to look wise. Then, of course, Matt Smith comes through the door and he’s odd, angular and strange looking. He doesn’t come across as being youthful at all, but in the most wonderful way.” 

Alongside the new Doctor is a brand new companion, played by Scottish actress Karen Gillan. What was it about her that made her perfect for the role? 

“The challenge was casting the companion is that there are only so many people that would actually go through those blue doors. It has to be someone who loves adventure and doesn’t quite feel at home with where they are,” explains Moffat. “They have to be a feisty, fun-loving and gusty person – and now we’ve got Karen Gillan. She was just exactly right for the role, despite inhabiting Amy Pond in a way that was quite different from how I originally wrote the part.” 

An inevitable question that will be asked of the new series is how it differs from those that have gone before. 

“I’ve never done anything differently, at least not deliberately,” says Moffat. “I just try to think of all the best and maddest Doctor Who stories I want to watch, and get them made – there are worse ways to make a living. You could say that I’m more into the clever plots; I like the big twists and the sleight of hand. I like playing around with time travel, but I don’t think it should be at the front of Doctor Who in every episode. However, I do think it should happen more often and reinforce the fact that he has an odd relationship with time. For example, no one is ever dead to him. He can’t say, ‘I knew Winston Churchill.’ He’d say, ‘I know Winston Churchill.’ Everyone in the whole universe is still alive to him and he has no sense of time passing. I find that all fascinating. If you look at the stories I’ve written so far, I suppose I might be slightly more at the fairytale and Tim Burton end of Doctor Who, whereas Russell is probably more at the blockbuster and Superman end of the show.” 

Despite the lengthy transition, there finally came the day when all of the hard work was realized; the first day of filming for the new series. 

“By accident it was the most magical beginning. We went down onto this perfect, white beach,” reveals Moffat. “The TARDIS and our two main characters were there and we could just see that blue rectangle facing us. It was like a stamp stuck on a picture, it was so perfect! I remember walking down to the beach and thinking this is properly magical; we’re not starting with some secondary characters that end up getting killed by an electric slug or something. We’re actually starting with the Doctor and his companion stepping out of the TARDIS talking to River Song [Alex Kingston].” 

Moffat has, in the past, described the TARDIS as the best storytelling and plot device that there is, but if he had his own, where would he choose to go? 

“I have no real desire to go anywhere else because I’m genuinely happy with my life the way it is at the moment. I’d probably like to go to the future but stay away from libraries in case I found out when I died; that would be a bit miserable. I’d like to see what the toys and gadgets are in the future and all the fun I’m going to miss out on. But most of all, I’d like to know who’s playing the Doctor!” 

As a lifelong Doctor Who fan, who is Moffat’s favorite Doctor? 

“The one with two hearts who travels in the TARDIS…and word on the street is he’s never looked finer.” 

As noted above, photo is copyright of the BBC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

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One Response to “Steven Moffat Talks About Doctor Who”

  1. doctor – YouTube – ‘The Doctor and I’ – John Barrowman Says:

    […] Steven Moffat Talks About Doctor Who « SciFiAndTvTalk’s Blog […]

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