It’s the end – and a new beginning – but the moment has been prepared for... Delivering three Doctors for Christmas Day, a departing Steven Moffat talks past, present and future with Nick Setchfield
After eight years at the helm, the Grand Moff is off. We give him a grilling in the exit interview.
WHErE ArE WE THIS TIME, DOCTOr?
It’s the classic question asked by anyone stepping from the blue doors of the TArDIS. As ever with Doctor Who, there’s no straight answer. Spatially we’re in Cardiff: Studio 1 of roath Lock, located at the far end of russell T Davies Alley ( just follow the framed pictures of Peter Capaldi, his hair shorn, his suit sharp, his time as the Doctor ahead of him). But we’re also among the mistshrouded ruins of an alien world, where ivy coils over toppled pillars and an uncanny light cuts through the dark.
What’s the source of that spectral blue glow? It’s Peter Capaldi – considerably wilder of hair and ragged of suit, his time as the Doctor almost done – tapping the screen of his phone. Next to him, by some ghostly quirk of the vortex, is William Hartnell, running through his lines. No, wait – it’s
Game Of Thrones star David Bradley, conjuring the stern but twinkling spirit of the original Doctor, just as he did in 2013’s docu-drama An Adventure In Space And
Time. On the studio monitor the effect is eerily persuasive: the sweep of white hair and bony profile almost convince you that time itself is in flux. A snatch of dialogue from 1964 plays in your head. “One day I shall come back…” “What’s after lunch?” asks Bradley. Capaldi pockets his phone. “Explosions.” It’s the end of an era. And it’s just another day on Doctor Who. Four months later SFX meets Steven Moffat in an office suite in London. “It’s the end of my last press day,” he tells us, managing to sound simultaneously relieved, knackered and just a little melancholy. “So this may literally be my last ever interview as showrunner!”
This year’s Christmas special “Twice Upon A Time” marks not only Peter Capaldi’s departure from Doctor Who but Steven Moffat’s, too. He’s exiting the fourth dimension after eight years at the helm of the series. On his watch he’s cast three Doctors and five companions, exported the show to the world, unleashed Weeping Angels and the Silence, cracked time itself, resurrected Gallifrey, rebooted the universe, locked Hitler in a cupboard, and introduced fish fingers and custard to the masses. It’s almost six o’clock. Is he flagging? “Flagging? Come on, it’s me!”
So you’re writing a farewell to Peter in the ChriStmaS SPeCial. how muCh are you alSo writing a goodbye to yourSelf?
It’s entirely a farewell to Peter and not at all a goodbye to me. There is nothing in the fictional universe that changes because I’m going. I’ll take story from anywhere, so if there’s a story in the showrunner leaving the show that works, tell me what it is, because I can’t see it. Who cares? Even I don’t care. It’s entirely Peter’s farewell, and even within that I’m quite strict, as I was with Matt – the Doctor is not dying. The Doctor is carrying on. We’re not telling the kids that the new Doctor is a replacement. They’re the same person, and they’re carrying on this adventure. That’s very important.
what did you want to give Peter for hiS final Story?
It was a weird one, because we’d sort of done it in the Cybermen two-parter. That was him choosing a hill to die on. So what do we do when we come back, purely in order to maintain the Christmas slot for Doctor Who? It’s a Christmas story of resurrection! He can choose to die rather than change. He has now changed a ridiculous number of times, more times than he should have. Technically he’s four and a half billion years old. He’s been around an insanely long time. How does he find the spirit and the energy and
Steven Moffat with director Rachel Talalay.