Steven Moffat - In-Depth With the New Keeper of the Tardis
In-Depth W/ Steven Moffat & DOCTOR WHO
Steven Moffat is far from an unknown quantity. With previous Doctor Who episodes and the dark single season show Jekyll, he showed he knows his intricate plotlines, deep characters, and how to throw a lot of horror, a dash of mystery, a slow build, a lot of tension, and even a little comedy together as a finished project that is nearly universally enjoyed.
Now as the new Executive Producer and Writer of Doctor Who, he has high expectations to meet. So far, the critics have been kind to the new steward of the TARDIS, from his casting choices to the style of stories he is seeking to tell with the last of the Timelords.
Newsarama sat down with Moffat and talked about casting, the possibilities of a female Doctor, and the sexiness of the new season.
Newsarama: Can you talk about casting Matt Smith as the Doctor? He's such an interesting choice, considering some of the names that were being tossed around.
Steven Moffat: Why did we choose him? Well, you've seen him! It was a no brainer. We chose him because he came in and gave an absolutely stellar rendition. Because he has that sort of alien quality about him. He's very handsome in kind of an odd way, in an exaggerated way. He's got cartoon hair [laughs] and the mannerisms of a history professor in the body of a hot young guy. So that sort of contradiction is just so irresistible for the Doctor. And really, he was charismatic and you couldn't take your eyes off him. As I say, it was one of the easiest decisions I've ever taken.
Nrama: He really made the role his own very quickly. But some of those names...there was a lot of speculation about a female Doctor. Do you think that is something that could ever happen?
Moffat: Well, never say never. I'd never rule anything out. I didn't contemplate it this time. I'd have my worries about it, only from the point of view that, would you still believe it was the same person? Is that taking it that one step too far? What is River Song (Alex Kingston) going to think? [laughs] I would worry, but maybe someone with a bigger imagination than me will prove me wrong on that score. You can get carried away with the idea of the regenerating Doctor. What I mean by that is, there aren't eleven Doctors. There is one Doctor with eleven faces. The primary idea is that you have to show the audience that this is fundamentally the same person with a makeover. I think I would worry that the makeover, turning him into a woman would just take that one step too far. That's not me saying I don't think a woman is good enough to be the Doctor by the way. [laughs] At all. It's just that I'd worry that you'd lose the sense. You might just fragment the sense that it's still him.
Nrama: You were a lifelong fan before you wrote for the show. Generations have loved it. I'll stop everything to watch it live. What do you think it is about Doctor Who that is so appealing?
Moffat: Well, if we really, really truly knew the answer to that, we'd make all television shows as extraordinary as this one. [laughs] But I think there are things that are significant. It's a show whose precinct is every moment in history and every place in the universe. That makes for a lot of variety! [laughs] This is a huge scale for a show. And every so often, it just completely changes. It's incredibly seductive too. That Doctor Who is suddenly brand new again. A brand new Doctor. A brand new TARDIS...you feel as though it's starting again. It's an ancient show that doesn't feel or show it's age. I think because the Doctor and everything changes, people like to sort of play along with it. Like, 'I have an idea who should play the next Doctor,' and that sort of thing. In a way, it's similar to the James Bond films. Always speculating who the next Bond...it's engaging in that way. It has such a huge relationship, particularly in Britain, with children. Which means that the entire family watches it. And the entire family watches and each member of that family, the child, the parents, the grandparents...they all think it's really their show and that the others don't really understand it. The grandparents, they watched William Hartnell (First Doctor). The kids own it because it's definitely a kid's show, and the parents think ah, those kids think it's a children's show, but it's really for us. So that's an immensely seductive aspect to it.
Nrama: That brings up something that was just in the news. Seems strange to me, but some people said the new season was “too sexy.”
Moffat: Too sexy? [laughs] Well, I think they need to get out more! I mean, really? Okay. The Internet is going to be a huge shock to those people! [laughs]
Nrama: Some of them say it's Karen Gillan and the kiss-o-gram thing. I know you've said that she plays this differently than the way you wrote it. How so?
Moffat: Well, I mean, every good actor does that. They grab it and run with it. I think a lot of the sort of kooky energy that Karen has, has come into Amy now. I think Amy was probably routinely feisty when I wrote her. And Karen made her just a little bit madder. Which, that's the thing about Amy. She's properly mad! [laughs] Which is more exciting.
Nrama: In doing research, I found a pretty major spoiler for Amy's character later in the season...I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.
Moffat: [laughs] They think they know something. I mean, there were photographs of Amy, and they were in the press, pregnant...but I'm not telling you why or how. [laughs] But that was the case. That's all I'm saying.
Nrama: The really big news, of course, is that River Song is back this season. Can you give us any hints about her return or how we're going to see her?
Moffat: Well, there is a lot to come with River Song. But what can I say? The tease continues in that you might start to wonder who she is to the Doctor. And maybe at first, you might start to doubt your first guess. At the same time, that first guess will sort of seem to be confirmed in a way because, although the Doctor is quite resistant to her in a way, primarily because he knows how she's going to die, which is a bit haunting for him...they're like a bickering couple, so, you know...there is quite a lot of story to come with that, and darker hints about who she is and who she might be.
Nrama: I know we've seen the return of past companions, particularly at the end of last season. Is that something that we'll see this season or that you'll do in the future?
Moffat: Bring back former companions? I hadn't thought about it, to be honest. I seem to field that question a lot, but the truth is I spend my time just trying to think of really, really cool stories for the Doctor. I'm not really worried about bringing back old companions. If I thought of a great story about bringing back Rose (Billie Piper) or something, I wouldn't have any objection to doing it, but that's not my driving force on the show.
Nrama: One of the things everyone loves about the show is the array of different characters and effects. Was there anything that you went to them with where they said, there is no way we can do that?
Moffat: It's never “can't.” It's always, “Do you know how much that's going to cost?” [laughs] You know, Doctor Who is not made on a huge budget and we try to conceal that. And I think we conceal that rather well. It's always...mentally a game of, “Well, you can have that big money shot there, but you'll have to drop this one,” or “That's too difficult,” or “Too expensive.” But we're just trying to target those moments where you give the show scale and excitement. It's not about “can't.” It's “can't afford.” But then we just go in and think of a better idea that we can afford.
Nrama: Starting with a whole new Doctor, how do you make the decision on how many little nods to the past and all the different Doctors versus completely moving forward?
Moffat: Well, nods to the past don't bother me, really. I don't think we hugely need them. I know we had all the Doctors in that moment when he steps through the hologram, but I think that was more about, he's finally got his mojo back. He's finally the Doctor again. I was trying to think of a really cool way of how we first see him in his costume. It would be so fantastic if he's just finally completing himself. Getting the bow tie on and we do the role call of all the great old heroes. That's not so much a nod to the past. It's just exciting. Even people who haven't seen most of those Doctors find that moment terribly exciting. Cause it's legendary. There they all are. And here's this new one. And really what this is saying is, “The regeneration is over and here I am. I'm done now and I'm ready to go off and protect the entire universe.”
Nrama: Are there particular times in history that you haven't gotten to yet that you really want to do?
Moffat: I never really worry about that or think about that. I mean, I mostly think about what would be a really cool thing to happen...so really, I tend to be driven by what would be a cool story or a cool monster. If I were eight-years-old, what would get me impossibly excited?
Nrama: One of the draws is the tension between the Doctor and his companion. Will there or could there be a romantic relationship between them? So what sort of relationship will the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond have this season?
Moffat: You know, that really is very central to the story of the season. In a way, Doctor Who is always more the story of the companion than it is of the Doctor himself...it unfolds at times in unexpected ways. The relationship between the Doctor and Amy is off to a very unusual start and for that reason, remains unusual, because he feels partly responsible for the way she turns out. Because she's the girl who waited. She waited all that time and he didn't turn up. And he changed everything because of his mistake. So he's aware of that. But how it works out, and if they fall in love or whatever...I think the Doctor really falls in love with all of them in his strange, lovely way. But wait and see. That really is the story of the season.