‘Doctor Who’ Chat with writer and show runner Steven Moffat

“The Doctor is a fantastic man who travels in space and time with his mate and walks out and has adventures. “

On “preview night” at Comic-Con Steven Moffat, the writer of several of the most popular episodes of the BBC’s Doctor Who, and the new show runner, sat down to an roundtable interview with a handful of eager fans – I mean reporters – who were ready to hear any tidbits about the upcoming Season 5 that Mr. Moffat might be willing to dangle before them.

With his light Scottish accent, Mr. Moffat proved as sharp, witty and capricious as his teleplays and clearly enjoyed “holding court” and fending off all questions that tried to get him to reveal even the teensiest bit of information about upcoming plotlines. 

His stock answer was, “You’ll have to watch Doctor Who to find out!”  But reporters were so entertained and charmed by Mr. Moffat, they walked away satisfied, even though he refused to reveal any “spoilers”.  

In all seriousness, he did explain that he can’t talk about the fifth season, because not only is the show two years away from airing (2010) but also because Doctor Who has always been a show that thrives on surprise and that’s why they never give away major plot developments. 

He also feels that the two year wait will be good for the show and will keep it from becoming a habit people get too used to every Saturday night and will give the show an “event status”. 

On whether or not he feel it is a “clean slate” he is coming into as the new show runner of “Doctor Who”

SM: Clean slate?  Who wants it to be?  The thing with the Doctor is that you don’t have a clean slate.  He walks out of the Tardis and he sees something he’s never seen before or something he has seen before.  You’ve always got the option of bringing stuff (from past shows) back or not.  Now I would say that Doctor Who is at its most pure when what he meets and encounters is brand new.  That’s what the show fundamentally is.  Now it’s nice to bring back old things – but new things, new monsters, new threats, new allies, that’s the really exciting part.  

Again, remembering a very, very important fact (that) with each new series there are a whole bunch of new kids watching and they must think this is THEIR show, not the one that their parents watched , not the one their brother and sister watched, (but) theirs. 

So you don’t want them thinking, “Who’s that? What did he meant when he said that?”  It’s that simple.  He’s a fantastic man who travels in space and time with his mate and walks out and has adventures.  There. That’s the whole format and (we are) reducing it back to that all the time. 

On the Doctor Who tradition of interconnected stories that lead up to the season finale

SM: It’s interesting, I don’t think that was invented with Doctor Who, it’s the only way you can do a popular mainstream show.  If you do a show, like I did with Jekyll, where you have to watch every single episode or you won’t understand it …. that’s a stupid idea! 

What you do is you have stories which have hints and plants in them which you can pay off later, but you don’t need to.  The reality of a show like this one is that most people – the vast majority of people – only see occasional episodes and it has to work for them – that’s it. 

When you do a hit show you are actually romancing the casual viewer and the casual viewer is not going to know what the plots are. 

On the crossover between Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures in the Doctor Who finale of Season 4

SM:  It was very thrilling – I thought – exciting.  I just love all that.  It was a celebration of the mythology of the show – but actually the new mythology – not the old one.  The old show and the new show have become the same show with a gap in the middle towards the end.  

Regarding on how he feels about Doctor Who in American being played for adults not kids

SM: Well, you’re getting it wrong!  I’m vexed by it.  I don’t understand it!  The adults watch it because it’s a children show – the way you watched Star Wars or Toy Story – (I think) you never outgrow those values.

Whether or not he will write stories geared toward the American audience

SM: I don’t think you can. For starters, you never write to the audience. 

I write the kind of Doctor Who I’d like to have watched when I was a kid.   I think Doctor Who would be a bigger show here (in the US if people realized) it really is a show the entire family can set down and watch and have a really good chat afterwards.

It’s a really good bonding show.  If you’re in Britain on Saturday, when Doctor Who is on and you’re in some sort of play center, you hear, “If you’re not good you won’t get to watch Doctor Who!”    

On the continuation of the diversity and open-mindedness of Doctor Who

SM: I think there is a great, fantastic philosophy behind Doctor Who – he is open-minded – the Doctor is the ultimate liberal.  By which I mean, he tells everyone what to do and blows up the planet if they disobey!

What he finds most compelling about running the show

SM: I like the classic Doctor Who story, which is he walks out of the Tardis and he hasn’t a clue what’s going on and he says, “What’s that?  I don’t know. What are those monsters doing?”  

When asked when Doctor Who was going to go more into the history of the Time War, Mr. Moffat explained that he will never do a story on the Time War while he was in charge of Doctor Who. 

He explained that he feels that nothing could live up to the mythology or people’s imagination of what the Time War was.  He compared it to how exciting the Clone Wars sounded in Star Wars when Obi-Wan Kenobi talked about them, that they sounds so fabulous and mysterious and that his imagination was fired up as a child, but when it finally was portrayed in the later films, then “ it showed up and it was just a bunch of meetings!” 

The only comment Mr. Moffat would make on the new character he created (and fan favorite) River Song returning to the show was that in his mind, she knows several of the Doctor’s regenerations, not just the current one, and that she pops in and out of time to visit with each “Doctor”.

So he left the door wide open for River Song to come back, without saying whether she would or not, so that certainly can not count as a spoiler!

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