With the fourth (or 30th, depending on how you look at it) season of “Doctor Who” complete, the series is set to go on a one-year semi-hiatus during which a number of specials will air instead of regular, weekly installments. One major change when the series comes back in 2010 will be the departure of showrunner Russell T. Davies, whose shoes will be filled by fan-favorite writer Steven Moffat.
Moffat joined Executive Producer Julie Gardner for a panel discussion with the many fans attending the San Diego Comic-Con, evoking quite a bit of laughter with their responses and tons of applause with an extended teaser for the upcoming 200 Christmas special, featuring the Cybermen. I sat down with Moffat just prior to the panel and talked with him one on one about the series and where he plans to take it when he steps in as showrunner.
ComingSoon.net: You’re moving in as the new showrunner. I’m guessing that’s a mixture of daunting and a dream come true.
Steven Moffat: Well, I suppose it’s daunting, but I’ve run television show before so that’s alright. I always say I’m daunted but I’m not really. I’m just terribly excited. It’s just such a fantastic job to have. It’s a very exciting job so what’s the point in wasting time stressing about it? Of course it’ll be stressful! Whatever I do next will be stressful. “Doctor Who” will probably be more stressful than anything else but it’ll be more fun. And it’s probably the biggest job in, certainly, British television. I think it is. It really is. So why waste time being frightened of it?
CS: You grew up with the show; If you take out the two Doctors that you’ve worked with, which one was your favorite?
Moffat: Oh, it was always my favorite show. All my life, it was my favorite show. You know, I just talked to someone who showed me an old article I wrote 13 years ago where I was snagging them off. Oh God, I’m so embarrassed. You know what? I think there were some pretty extraordinary actors in that role. There are moments where the series goes up and down. I think the ones I watched the most carefully were probably Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker and Peter Davidson. I really, hugely enjoyed that run. But I still watched before and after and loved it. But they’re brilliant. All of them, in a way, are better than I even give them credit for. I was watching — I wasn’t as much into at the time, the Sylvester McCoy stuff when it was on — but I was watching it, showing one to my kids and they loved it. And I started loving it because they were loving it. I saw it better. You watch “Doctor Who” with an eight year old and you finally understand it. Oh, he’s actually quite funny! And he’s got a funny umbrella! This works. Yeah, let’s go. So I wished I hadn’t said stupid things about him because I thought he was a good Doctor. So there you go. Never express an opinion ever.
CS: You’re moving into the next season but taking a sort of break over the next year. What can fans expect from the upcoming episodes?
Moffat Well, you’ll have to wait and find out. I’m sorry if I’m going to be reticent on that. The fact is, though it’s not a state secret, it’s going to be two years before my series of “Doctor Who” comes on the air and I don’t want people to be bored thinking about it before they get there. But it’ll be great “Doctor Who.”
CS: Well, I still have to ask about two specific rumors. The first, will there be a Tom Baker cameo?
Moffat: No comment.
CS: And Neil Gaiman’s rumored to write an episode. Any truth to that?
Moffat: No comment. (laughs) I mean, literally, I don’t talk about it. You can’t even read something into “no comment”. It’s really “no comment”.
CS: There’s so much that has been brought to the show from the old series. Do you have, in your mind, a sense of trying to balance the new ideas with the old throwbacks?
Moffat: I’m going to be honest and fans may hate me for it but they have to remember that I am a fan myself. A proper list-making-borderline-autistic fan. I am head mingmong. I’m King Ming. But I don’t do anything for the fans. I honestly don’t think that the fans want me to do anything for them. Except maybe for the odd little line now and then. Some little thing somewhere. Russell does that. I do that. We all do that. And only you will get it. But we don’t do anything for the fans. There aren’t enough fans. There’s the whole audience. There are fans but there’s millions of a audience.
CS: But do you find yourself re-watching the old episodes and thinking, “Maybe we could use that?”
Moffat: Oh sure, yeah! I think that when the show first came back, it was a question of raiding the old shows for the emblems or the icons. This really is Doctor Who! There’s a Dalek! There’s a TARDIS! There’s a sonic screwdriver! There’s the cybermen! But people no longer think of it as “New Doctor Who.” They just think of it as “Doctor Who.” Now it’s one big thing. Now we’re raiding the back catalogue not to validate ourselves but for really great ideas. There are some cracking ideas in “Doctor Who” through the course of the series. Brilliant monsters! Brilliant ideas! Sometimes thinking “it’s time we took that idea or that monster or that trick and gave it all the modern tech that we have now.” Give it another time around the block. That’s good. That’s right and proper but – at the same time — fundamentally, the absolute paradigm of “Doctor Who” stories is — right from the TARDIS — is that everything you see is brand new. I always think there should be more new stuff than old stuff in “Doctor Who”. You sit down to plan the series and think “I’m bringing back something new every single story.” What’s the use? You might as well call this “Doctor Who 2.” It’d be a sequel and “Doctor Who” shouldn’t be a sequel. Every year there are new eight-year olds watching it and those new eight year olds saw it at the most important age because they’re going to live a lot longer than the rest of you. I want them to have their monsters so that in 40 years time they can grump to their children, “Oh, it’s not as good as it used to be. I remember the episode. The very first time we saw the Weeping Angels. I remember the first time we saw that episode.” You’re not getting lost in nostalgia. You’re creating nostalgia.
CS: Now you chose “Doctor Who” over working with Steven Spielberg on “Tintin.” Do you have an idea in the back of your head of working on “Doctor Who” for a certain time and then moving on?
Moffat: Well, when I was offered the job, I was a long time in accepting it. It was a long time for me to realize that I was going to do it. You think you’ve got all your life for it and then you wonder, “Is that really the right thing to do?” But of course I was going to take it. A friend of mine said you can never think of any job you take as the destination. You’ve gotta think of it as the next step. I’m not going to die when I finish the show. I’m going to have a life afterwards. At some point, “Doctor Who” will be going back to being — and at that point, I’ll be very happy on that day — a show that I just watch. I know that Russell is sorely looking forward to that. He refuses to give anything of the series. He walks out the door and he’s done. He’s such a “Who” fan. The only fan for whom the show has not yet come back. He’s never sat there and just watched it and he’s looking forward to that. One day, I’ll have that, too and I’ll look forward to it. I have blocked anything specific out. I have a few ideas in my head. Or I’ll get sacked. The world might end. Who knows?
CS: So we’re getting four specials before the next full season?
Moffat: The actual figure of it is five. You’re gonna get five specials. People are forgetting that one has already been made. That’s what the confusion is. There are five specials. It’s hardly a gap then, is it? Five specials? That’s longer than “Doctor Who” series were back in Sylvester McCoy’s time. I’m not involved in the specials, though. Except I’m there, looking at script and making sure they’re not clashing.
CS: Have you been impressed by how popular the show is now here in America?
Moffat: I’m not really aware of the what the status is over here. It’s not the show it is here in England. It’s nothing like that so it’s hard to be impressed. You can’t walk down the streets in Britain at the moment without finding some piece of “Doctor Who.” A toy in shop window or a poster. In Britain it’s just ridiculous. If I was in England, I’d think I’d died and gone to heaven.
CS: How involved are you with the extra-continuity merchandise like novels and comic books?
Moffat: Oh, I’ll be overseeing everything like that. Because you’ve got to make sure that the world ties together. You can never make the spinoff material necessary to the understanding of the show, but I want the kids to know that if they buy a “Doctor Who” book or a “Doctor Who” comic, they’re getting a proper story. I used to hate the “Doctor Who” annuals when I was a kid because I thought they got everything wrong. So we understand that there are brilliant people who work on those things. We all want everything you can get with “Doctor Who” on it to be good. You’ve got great books, great toys and great everything. And all proper “Doctor Who”.
CS: There’s a lot of spinoffs going on now and always the potential for me. How does that affect you?
Moffat: Well, I’m only working on “Doctor Who.” “The Sarah Jane Adventures” and “Torchwood” are brilliant shows.
CS: But there are obviously big crossovers like at the end of last season.
Moffat: “Doctor Who” will always be the big show among those three. If we want to bring Sarah Jane into “Doctor Who,” we just do. If we want to bring Captain Jack in, we just do. “Doctor Who” is the one that funds the others. It’s the mothership.
CS: How does it work the other way?
Moffat: I’m not really sure. We’d have to go on a case by case.
CS: When you’re creating episodes, do you think, “Well, this could be a new series.”
Moffat: I haven’t myself bumped into that feeling of “well, this could be another show like this.” Partly because we’ve got three shows like this already. We’ve got to think, “Do we want a fourth?” “Do we need a fourth?” It’s always possible. You think “Well, that worked really well.” We could spin that off. I haven’t got that yet. To be honest, my job and my duty is to “Doctor Who.”
CS: Would you ever want to turn “Doctor Who” into a feature film?
Moffat: Really, honestly and truly, I haven’t given it a second’s thought. And I’m unlikely to. I’ve got fourteen episodes of “Doctor Who” to do!
CS: Do you know at this point how many of those you’re going to be writing?
Moffat: I’ve got notions of how many I’m going to write. But I don’t think Russell ever managed to predict how many episodes he wrote. I think it always ended up being more or less or something. That’ll be the same for me. I’ve got notions. But I’m not going to say what they are! Because, truly, my notions would be rubbish. The first casualty of conflict is the plan.