Hello and welcome to the Fan Show. Today, we’re talking to a man who’s written
possibly more Doctor Who than anyone else. He’s created 3 incarnations of the Doctor
and 6 long serving companions and is the only person to have written for every season of
the post-2005 show as well as penning the award winning 50th anniversary special. Now, lead writer, executive producer and lifelong
Doctor Who fan, Steven Moffat is bidding farewell to Doctor Who after 12 years of service. Welcome Steven. Hello. So let’s start by dialling the clock back
to before you were showrunner. It’s well known that you’ve been a huge
Doctor Who fan since you were a kid and by 1999 you’re an award winning TV writer and
that’s when your first episode of televised Doctor Who comes about, the Comic Relief sketch,
The Curse of Fatal Death. How did that come about? Well, my wife was producing Comic Relief that
year and the first thing the producer of Comic Relief has to do because you’ve got to get
lots of people to do things for free is recruit people and obviously she was married to a
comedy writer. She used Doctor Who knowing I was a Doctor
Who fan and knowing this was possibly the only advantage she’d ever have out of being
married to a Doctor Who fan. She used Doctor Who and said why don’t you
come and do a Doctor Who for us for free? And I said well god, if I can do that then
I’ll absolutely do it. Well, I thought in what is possibly the most
least accurate prediction of all time that this would be my only chance to write Doctor
Who. At the time, 1999, when The Phantom Menace
was rebooting the Star Wars franchise for kids, kid you feel there was the potential
for Doctor Who to come back? There definitely was. The never was a point
when Doctor Who couldn’t come back. It was kind of an outrage what happened, that they
managed to keep it off the air for so many years when so many people wanted it back. It was doing pretty well in the ratings, it
was doing very, very well critically and anybody who knows their Doctor Who for real knows
that Sylvester McCoy was terrific and Sophie Aldred was terrific and they were actually
making some really good shows. There was no reason for it to go off. When we did it on Comic Relief, I think the
ratings went up to 10 million every time Doctor Who was on. In any other real world situation it would
have come back the following year. So, fast forward to November 2003, it’s
announced that Doctor Who would be returning with Russell T Davies as showrunner, how did
you find out? I think Sue told me at some point. This is
all going to be about Sue. She said, I think they’re giving Doctor
Who to Russell. I didn’t particularly react to that because
I’d known he had been vaguely around the place with it for a while. And then I was in America, I was in New York
attending a DVD launch of Coupling. I somehow logged onto the internet, it was
difficult in those days. You actually had to put a balloon up a light a small candle. I saw that Russell was bringing it back and
I thought oh my god, it’s actually going to happen. I didn’t doubt that it would be good. I
didn’t doubt that for a second because I knew Russell slightly. I knew Russell’s
writing. They were giving the show to a premiere dramatist
who was also a Doctor Who fan. I just thought that was going to work, that’s definitely
going to work. It’s not going to be somebody who doesn’t
really get it, trampling all over it. It’s going to be someone who loves it, who really
knows what they’re doing. It’s going to be someone who loves it, who
really knows what they’re doing at a level that Doctor Who hadn’t had before. And of course I wanted to get an episode,
of course I did. Well, you got 6 episodes. How did you two
meet? We met years and years and years ago. I remember
the very first time I ever read his name anywhere, I was staying with the producer of Press Gang. In those glamorous days, I just slept on the
sofa downstairs, I remember that, that was my television life. And as I woke up, I saw there was a whole
scattering of correspondence, of secret correspondence, private and intimate correspondence spread
on the coffee table so naturally, I read it. And one of the letters was Russell writing
in looking for work basically. And I remember just thinking who’s that? What do we need
him for? We don’t need another writer for god’s sake. I’m here, I’ve got the sofa, there isn’t
another sofa! You can’t have him. Then I think I met him in ‎Sandra’s office,
Sandra Hastie, the producer of Press Gang. And not in any sort of vastly important way. I think I was just pratting around the place
and he was in pitching a show. How did he know about your love for Doctor
Who and how did he bring you on board? We met many times after that, not many, several
times. He wrote a Doctor Who novel which is very good, Damaged Goods so I knew therefore
he was a Doctor Who fan. Loads of people were Doctor Who fans. We sort
of enshrine this myth that no one was a Doctor Who fan during those years. Loads of people
were Doctor Who fans, almost anybody vaguely arty was a Doctor Who fan at some level. He was a very, very major one and I heard
he’d actually purchased his own Dalek which later appears in Asylum of the Daleks and
nearly kills Matt Smith. We would occasionally bump into each other
at things. I think he sent me a nice email about The Curse of Fatal Death, there was
all of that going on. Because I wanted to at least be in the frame,
I emailed Russell, I got Russell’s email from Paul Cornell. I emailed him and said look… I did go a
anything as egregious as ask though that’s what every atom of my being was wanting to
do. I just said look, congratulations, from the
bottom of my heart, you are the perfect choice which I did believe, I did think this was
a huge statement of intent and integrity from the BBC that they were getting Russell. And he responded almost immediately with well,
I’m down for 6 but if there are more than 6, I will be approaching you. Wow. So I thought, woe that’s great but I also
thought if it was just polite. But then of course, you wrote The Empty Child
and The Doctor Dances. Yes. I was just over the moon. Properly over the
moon. I couldn’t wait to do it, I was so excited. I was away with my brother in law, staying
at a house he was doing up in France and I was sitting down to write my first scene and
that’s when you get the cold wave because I suddenly thought, it had not up until that
point occurred to me that I had never written anything remotely like this before in my life. I had not done that. And I had read Russell’s first few scripts.
They were superlative. I hadn’t read scripts as good as that ever really. They were just
at a different level. So I was already feeling, oh, you’re not
going to be the prettiest girl in the room today, this is better than I can do anyway.
On my best day, this is better than I can write. And I sat there and thought, I actually…
I write sitcoms. I’ve been writing sitcoms for 10 years. I have no idea how to do this.
So I had absolute terror. Soldiering through absolutely terror which
Russell assures me he did not experience at all, he just got the hell on with it. I was just saying what do you do? What is
a scene if it doesn’t have jokes in it? And in fact, if you look at The Empty Child
and The Doctor Dances which are very good episodes, I’m very pleased with them but
my sitcom twitch which is evident to this day is all over the place. For all that it’s a scary, dramatic, serious
Doctor Who, it is gag after gag after gag. It is the work of a comedy writer turning
his hand notionally to horror, to child-friendly horror. I remember sending my first script in appallingly
late, something I never remedied throughout my time on Doctor Who, I sent my script in
so dreadfully late. Within about an hour, I got an email from
Russell which was the most incandescently gorgeous email about the script and then several
more from him about how much he loved it. Wow. And I was absolutely over the moon, I was
so excited. It wasn’t until I watched those two episodes
as an adult that I realise how sexually charged some of those scenes are, where Rose asks
the Doctor if he’d “dance” with her. For me that whole scene completely changes
the Doctor from being an asexual, weird uncle to a romantically available hero for both
men and women. Do you think this was necessary for Doctor
Who to succeed in the 21st Century? No. I don’t think it was necessary. I think
it was already there. I think it is very naïve to look at old Doctor
Who and think it’s not there. Television has moved on, we talk about those
things but we don’t necessarily change it. now, what’s different is, in the old show,
we just assumed that the Doctor has no interest in anyone around him. That remains true, the only thing that changes
is that in, I think it’s in School Reunion, Rose challenges him on it. She says, what
is it? What’s going on here? As you really would if you were hanging out
with a good looking young fellow, at some point you might say, what are you thinking? And he actually says it. It’s the only time
it’s definitively said in Doctor Who. I don’t age. I regenerate. But humans decay.
You wither and you die. Imaging watching that happen to someone you… There were plenty of people who watching classic
Doctor Who who thought the Doctor was a bit of alright. I mean, that’s absolutely true. Do you think
Peter Davison went completely unnoticed? The most critically acclaimed episode you
wrote during this period is Blink, I think it’s fair to say the Weeping Angels have
become truly iconic. They’ve been absorbed into the public consciousness
along with the Daleks and the TARDIS. How does it feel to have left an indelible mark
like that on Doctor Who history. I love that. I love that the Weeping Angels
are so important and that they’ve actually probably snuck in a 3 in terms of Doctor Who
monsters. I think to make a very good Doctor Who monster
is genuinely difficult and we know that because we’ve made so many monsters on Doctor Who. How many monsters have there been in Doctor
Who? How many of them are up there on the top shelf? Hardly any. I think the Weeping Angels can’t really
compete with Cybermen and Daleks but you know, they’re up there. They’re up there. Maybe a sort of mini shelf just below. I’m
really, I’m hugely proud of that, genuinely. So you should be. They’re genius. I’ve got one in my garden, right at the
end of my garden standing there. That’s terrifying. It’s not terrifying really because I just
made them up. That’s true. Actually one of the reasons why they’re
so genius is because the end of Blink suggests that all statues are Weeping Angels. Other normal things you’ve made scary include
shadows, cracks on walls, ticking clocks, snowmen, things hiding under the bed, things
in the corners of your eye. For a show that you’ve consistently maintained
is a children’s show, you’ve certainly taken it to some scary places, how do you
strike a balance? Well first of all, that kind of fear, that
kind of horror is of the nursery. It’s the horrors of childhood, it’s not the horrors
of adulthood. I mean, I’m frightened of going to the dentist
and of my GP clearing his throat suddenly. These are the things that terrify me. Not
monsters. I’m not scared of the dark. I’m not scared
of shadows, I’m fine with all of those things now but when you talk about Doctor Who it
is from the angle of the nursery, it’s what scared you as a child. And the way in which the child populates the
ordinary world around them with not just horrors but with wonder and excitement. They see old people as wise as fascinating.
They cracks on walls to portals to other worlds. They see status as people coming to get them.
They see magic and mystery and horror and joy everywhere. Which in a way is how the Doctor looks at
the universe but is also the key to writing the show. Because Doctor Who, properly, doesn’t take
place in out of space like Star Trek or Star Wars, it takes place under your bed, the back
of your hall cupboard, at your school, in the forest you have to walkthrough on the
way home, that’s where Doctor Who lives. So your second story for Russell is Girl in
the Fireplace and it was the first time you wrote about doomed love which is something
you returned to a lot later on with River Song. What is it about love that is doomed, unrequited
or frustrated due to obstacles like time that’s so appealing to you? I do love a twisted love story, I don’t
know why. You do, yeah. There is something about falling in love with
somebody, when you really fall in love with them, that it’s the first time in a moment
of sometimes terrifying and sometimes enlightening realisation that you actually now know who
you are, you know where you fit. You think oh, I’m the person who loves that
person, that means that. I fit here. I think to write a character who never falls
in love would mean you would be writing a character who doesn’t ever get who they
are. Who doesn’t see themselves reflected and forgiven in the eyes of another person. I think if you do not write that, you have
not understood them because I don’t think you understand yourself until that point. As I say, most love stories end and most love
stories end before you do. So we’ve all got a back catalogue of heartbreak and joy,
haven’t we? And we’ve all defined ourselves and learned
about ourselves in those moments so to write a character who does not have that moment,
however… You know, you could have a love story like
he falls in love with Rose in his Doctor way but he stands away from her because he knows
he can’t and he explains why he can’t. And then he has the grotesque, sadistic humiliation
of having to watch his human clone go away with her. You think, I’m not even the hero of my own
love story. How did that happen? Then you have Madame De Pompadour in The Girl
in the Fireplace who is the fling at the party. It’s that momentary thing that could have
been so much more, you think but wasn’t. So it’s the love that doesn’t happen. Well, at this point I think we should talk
about River, played by the marvellous Alex Kingston who you introduced in your fourth
and final contribution before you took over as showrunner. Did you have a plan for her when you wrote
The Silence in the Library? Certainly not. I had read The Time Traveller’s Wife and
when I wrote The Girl in the Fireplace, I specifically said to Russell, we should do
something of the mood and tone of The Time Traveller’s Wife. I wasn’t expect very subconsciously, at
the very top of my subconscious doing that with River expect it turned out much closer
of course. River came from two things. One, I needed the Doctor and Donna in the
library and I needed some archaeologists to meet them and for them to all join forces. But I didn’t want to do that bit where the
Doctor is locked up because the first thing you do is lock him up, that’s what they
do in the classic series, lock him up for an episode. I didn’t want to do that. We had the psychic paper specifically, invented
brilliantly by Russell, specifically to get him out of that but I thought there is no
piece of psychic paper that says it’s okay that I’ve been in this library that it’s
been sealed for 100 years. So I thought what if he knows one of the archaeologists?
That is so lame! That is such a coincidence. Oh Jeff! How are you mate? Then I thought, it could someone he hasn’t
met yet and that could be a bit confusing. What if it’s a kind of sexy woman? Who’s just suddenly treating him as if she’s
married? And that of course takes of the story the
moment you do that, of course it does. Of course, everything else is subordinate
to River. The other place it came from may not be a
story you want to hear but Russell and I went through a phase of trying to work out Doctor
Who titles with rude acronyms to wind up people on internet message boards. I just went with A River Song ending. Work
it out. And he said what’s a River Song? And I said
I’ll just call somebody River Song and she’d better die and that way we’ve got the acronym. That’s brilliant. And then we didn’t use the title. I remember sitting on the train with Julie
and Russell saying well originally I called this episode A River Song Ending and Julie
was saying that’s quite good. And I was saying, we can’t actually use
that. I don’t think to this day Julie understood
what Russell and I were saying. No, we can’t actually. Arse. It’s just. We can’t do
that. Looking back on your time on the show, I think
it’s fair to say you’re fond of a powerful and mysterious woman. Why do you have a fondness
for writing characters like Missy, River Song, Kovarian and Madame Vastra? What a strange selection. I don’t know. I’m not sure that I particularly
do. First of all, if you’re going to have someone go toe to toe with the Doctor, they’d
better be able to match him at every level. A certain quality of power and enigma is good
because he’s like that so, that I suppose. And you know, I don’t know that I have a
particular… there’s been loads of female characters that have been not the least bit
like that. Powerful and mysterious women. Powerful and
mysterious men. Just powerful and mysterious. If you say someone comes in and is powerful
and mysterious, you think, okay, that’s interesting. If you say someone comes in and they’re
accessible and affable, you’ll say, eh, it’s a sitcom then. Do you know what I mean? I don’t know that I’ve got a particular
fetish for that. So, Russell decides to step down during the
production of Series 4 and offered you the job via email around the time of writing Silence
in the Library and Forest of the Dead. What did that mean to you as a lifelong Doctor
Who fan? Oh it was thrilling, it was thrilling. I mean, if I’m honest, it was probably circling. I mean, I used to lie about this all the time
but I knew that Russell was going to leave and I knew from quite a time before he was
leaving that he was going to do 4 series but I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to think about Russell leaving,
I was really happy. I was really happy doing a Doctor Who every year, doing my other stuff
and coming back to Doctor Who. I was really incredibly happy with that period
of my life, it was a golden period, I was excited by it. I loved it. I didn’t want it to end. I remember saying to Russell and meaning it,
well, look, if me doing more episodes would make it easier for you to stay, I’ll do
more episodes. And he said, maybe he was lying of course,
it would actually make it a lot easier but I am going. Maybe he just thought, more episodes from
Moffat? I’m out of here. I’d like to think he was telling the truth. So I wasn’t anxious for this time to come
at all. I actually dreaded it slightly him leaving. And then people started talking to me in cryptic
terms which I ignored. I ignored because I was so loving that time of my life and my
connection with the show, that I didn’t want to… I think I must have been blocking
it out. I remember Jane Tranter saying to me at the
Voyage of the Damned readthrough, we must get together and discuss the next 5 years. And I didn’t get it. I said to Sue, they’re
really keen on me at the BBC, they’ve got a 5 year plan for me, the BBC. That’s amazing,
God, I’m well in there. And Sue was saying, they’re talking about
Doctor Who. And I was saying, no they’re not talking
about Doctor Who. And then Julie sat with me explaining to me,
well we’re going to leave, we’re going to do these specials and then we’re going
to be gone. I was going, oh yes, yes. I was so hungover I think at the time, I couldn’t
really understand that she was sitting there patiently explaining and then… And then I got the extraordinary email. I was on a plane to Greece to discuss the
Greek version of coupling. No, really. The Greek version of Coupling. Sue and I would
just sell the right stop Coupling anywhere we felt like going. Just to get a free trip. We’d say yeah,
thanks very much, we want a free trip and a nice hotel and some restaurant recommendations,
then you can make your version of Coupling. So we were flying out there. And I got the email and I passed it to Sue
and she went, I knew it, I knew they were going to offer you that job. And I said, at least I’ve got my health. And then in October 2007, you were announced
to be writing screenplays for Steven Spielberg’s Tintin, May 2008, you’re announced as Russell’s
successor on Doctor Who. Then, August 2008 it was announced you and
Mark Gatiss are making a modern day version of Sherlock Holmes. Plus you’ve got two children at the time
of under 10. Was this the most complicated year of your life? God yes. It was about 10 years ago now as you’ve
just worked out, as you can sell from those numbers. I’ve done my research. Hey. Yes. I remember just being very, very excited.
I remember thinking there was no way on Earth this worked. I remember though I haven’t talked about
it much, there was another show also in the mix called Adam and Eve which had been greenlit
and Sue had done a wall plan of what it meant to write all 3 series and I said, I can’t. It’s just not possible. I can’t do all
3 of those. One of them has to go because they would all…
none of them were capable of being, me saying you can do that, I had to be fully involved
in a showrunner way with all 3 of them. So I said, I can’t do that. At maximum speed at the BBC, Mark and I had
gone and pitched Sherlock with the words, Sherlock Holmes in the modern day and we had
a whole other pitch for it and they said yeah, go and do that. And we went, can we do a pitch anyway? Because
it’s awesome. So we did. And during the pitch, it came out
that I was taking over Doctor Who which Mark didn’t know up until that point and he said,
wow congratulations. And in the lift he said, that’s brilliant,
I’m delighted you’re doing Doctor Who and Sherlock and I’m doing several things. And I said, I suppose we can rest when we
retire. That’s all we’ve got time for, for part
1. We’ll be back next week with some of this. I was so insanely busy, I didn’t have time
to leave. You’ll be able to see that here. And to catch up on the Christmas Aftershow,
click here. And of course, to subscribe to the official
Doctor Who YouTube channel, click here. We’ll see you next week. Bye!