‘Of course I watch it! I always watch Doctor Who!’
Four years after he departed as head writer of the BBC’s beloved sci-fi, Steven Moffat now chats about the show like any die-hard fan, albeit one with a very close relationship with current showrunner Chris Chibnall.
‘I send Chris an apology if I can’t turn it on live, if I have to watch it later, as I did this week,’ he confessed to Metro.co.uk.
After his reign (2010 to 2017), Moffat was succeeded by Chibnall, who has taken the show to ambitious new heights, with its latest series, Doctor Who: Flux, which is told as one story.
‘I think it’s great, it’s really interesting that Chris is doing it long-form because he’s a real master of long-form,’ Moffat reflected. ‘I wondered when I handed it over to him, because I was starting to fret in terms of Doctor Who, because everything in television is now very much more in the form of an uncompromising serial. Line of Duty makes no concession to the fact that you might have a scaled memory. You are supposed to know what’s going on.
‘And I thought maybe Doctor Who should be moving in that direction. But I wasn’t sure, so I’m really, really interested and excited that Chris is pushing it that way, that’s really interesting. It gets us more cliffhangers as well and Doctor Who is very good at cliffhangers.’
Notoriously so! After we left the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) in peril in the last episode, fans are eagerly awaiting the return of one of Moffat’s most iconic contributions to the series, the Weeping Angels.
Series three episode Blink, which was written by the Scottish writer in Russell T Davies’ era of the show and introduced the terrifying monsters, is referred to by some as one of the best episodes ever written. But Moffat is mildly horrified by the suggestion that Doctor Who might remain ‘faithful’ to his creation.
‘Every time you bring back a Doctor Who monster, you should be slightly irreverent with it,’ he pointed out. ‘You shouldn’t stick to all the rules. You should break a few. That’s the way it works, otherwise you’re just erecting a monument to the past and that doesn’t work.
‘Within Doctor Who, there’s a dynamic balance between being respectful and being iconoclastic really, saying: “Yeah but what if we did it this way?” or just doing something cheeky with it. If you don’t do that, it doesn’t really feel like Doctor Who. It’s respectful and grave and important, which are tedious qualities that should never get involved in Doctor Who!’
There’s no doubt that Moffat’s a titan in the world of British TV, especially after his time on Doctor Who, his beloved take on Sherlock, which starred Benedict Cumberbatch, and 2020 drama Dracula – and he’s now turned his hand to crime thriller series Inside Man.
The cast is absolutely incredible but even Moffat was initially concerned they were unattainable. David Tennant’s schedule wasn’t working out, Lydia West seemed ‘out of reach’ due to just starring in RTD’s wildly popular It’s A Sin, and Stanley Tucci was…well, Stanley Tucci. Thankfully though, the stars aligned in just the way they should for a Steven Moffat BBC drama.
‘It feels like a very different thing for me. We’ll see what everyone else thinks – that’s probably relevant. It’s not such a puzzle box. I mean, I love a puzzle box but there’s no weird alien intelligences, whether it’s Sherlock Holmes or Doctor Who, involved in it.
‘You’re constantly having to remind yourself, “These people are supposed to be ordinary!” So they can’t just keep coming up with aphorisms and witty remarks, you’ve got to pull yourself back from that. I think it’s good. I hope it is! I’ve just seen the first episode, it looks good to me.’
Never one to take things too slowly, he’s also currently working on a play with his pal Mark Gatiss and an adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife, starring Rose Leslie and Theo James.
‘I’m not big on adaptations – despite the way it looks,’ he insisted. ‘I wouldn’t normally contemplate it but this came up…and I thought, I think we can do something with that.
‘It’s a tough one because it has to work as a TV show and TV shows aren’t the same as books. They don’t have the same rhythm, they don’t have the same feel, so you have to push it quite far and hope you’ve kept what’s critical and important and what people love and, at the same time, made it function the way it should do in another medium, so I’m hoping I’ve got that right.
‘It feels good to me. I’m flying off to LA on Saturday to see a couple of cuts of it, so we’ve started that process. We’ll see – the cast is good. I think Theo and Rose are everything people would want Henry and Clare to be, so I’m confident of that. Whatever else people hate, I don’t think they’ll hate them.’
Safe to say, Moffat’s a busy man right now. But surely there’s room in his schedule for a little bit of Sherlock? A series? A special? Anything?
‘I love that people think it’s my choice!’ he laughed. ‘I have no problem with writing Sherlock but we do need people to show up and do it. It’s not really down to me, it’s down to our very famous lead.’
A huge consideration for him is also the loss of Mrs Hudson actress, the legendary Una Stubbs, who died in August at the age of 84.
‘I have to say it would be grim at the moment without Una,’ he said. ‘That would be a thought, to go back to Baker Street and there be no Mrs Hudson. I think we’d all find that a bit hard. So I don’t know – obviously not right now. If the boys wanted to do it again, I’m sure we’d haul it back into life. I quite like the idea myself, just myself, at some point in the future of getting a chance to write Sherlock without it being an emergency.
‘Because I spent all my time in the Doctor Who/Sherlock years – it was like writing in a house that was on fire. The room never cleared of smoke… I was just running around like mad. It would be quite fun for it to not feel as though you’re tied to the front of a train and screaming for mercy. But, as I say, it’s not down to me I’m afraid.’
‘I look back on it with increasing fondness, ‘ he added, of the years that spawned the Wholock (Doctor Who and Sherlock) fandom. ‘…Mainly because my memory is failing and I don’t remember exactly what it’s like. Sometimes I’ll look back at my emails and think, “Dear god, these are the emails of an insane man.”
‘It was great! I was very lucky to be in that position for that amount of time. But at the same time I felt as though I crawled out of the wreckage with only seconds to spare.’
As for whether he’ll follow in Russell’s footsteps and return to Doctor Who – that’s a solid no for now.
‘I know now how long it takes to forget what making Doctor Who is like – just over 10 years, as it turns out! At the moment, I’m up to my eyes in other things and, because I’m now so old, it feels like yesterday that I stopped. It really doesn’t feel like any time at all. I couldn’t even think of that. I slightly worried that I was there too long – I was saying to Chris the other day, I was so busy I forgot to leave! I’m not really thinking in those terms just yet.’
‘I don’t play fantasy Doctor Who anymore!’ he added of speculation about who could play the 14th Doctor when Jodie steps down next year. ‘I spent several years of my life fretting about who Doctor Who should be – it’s a very big responsibility. So now that it’s not my job anymore, I just wait with enthusiasm and interest to see who it will be. I’ve got no insider information on that at all! I talk to Chris and Russell of course, but I forbid them to tell me anything, so I don’t know what’s going on. I’m sure it’ll be somebody brilliant.’
Looking to the future, you would think he’s keen to have a slightly more chill time of it – but not quite.
‘I’ve got a couple of projects that I’ve written episodes of – two projects that I’m trying to place somewhere, that I’m trying to get made,’ he told us. ‘There’s new stuff. If it all comes off, I’ll be in hell again but I’m assuming it won’t.
‘I’ll say this – both of them are comedies. I used to do a lot of comedy and I miss it. And my play [The Unfriend] is a comedy. So I really fancy doing a comedy, if my comedy isn’t so appallingly old fashioned that it’ll be derided.
‘I did fancy just making people laugh again.’
Credit: Original article published here.