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article imageAcross the galaxy with ‘Doctor Who’ producer/writer Steven Moffat Special

By Earl Dittman     Mar 31, 2013 in Entertainment
The man behind the curtains of 'Doctor Who' chats about the global popularity of The Doctor, his new companion, the current season and hints at what fans can expect from the upcoming 50th Anniversary special.
The recent cover story on the premiere American entertainment magazine Entertainment Weekly only confirmed what most Whovians have known for quite some time – that countless millions of North Americans love the sophisticated sci-fi adventure series Doctor Who as much as the British have for the past 50 years. Season 7 of the 21st century Doctor Who resumed March 30, 2013 with the new episode "The Bells Of Saint John." The series’ worldwide appeal comes as no surprise to executive producer and head writer Steven Moffat (who took over producing duties from Russell T. Davies in 2010). Moffat confesses he knows the key to why Doctor Who is so universally-loved by television viewers thoughout the planet.
 Doctor Who executive producer and head writer Steven Moffat
'Doctor Who'executive producer and head writer Steven Moffat
BBC America
"I think the key is accessibility, in a way," the Scotland-born Moffat offers. "I mean, you can start watching Doctor Who at any point in its history. You don't have to catch up with the rest of it. It's a very simple myth. It's a man that can travel anywhere in time and space inside a box that's bigger on the inside. That’s as much format as we have. You can join it anytime, absolutely get a hold of it. Dare I say, I just think it's one of the great pieces of television entertainment that's ever been. That's why we latch onto it. It's terrific, it's simple to understand what it's about and it's hugely entertaining. Every so often it completely reinvents itself to feel at home in its new era, which is really a key ingredient. It always feels at home in the present day because it always adapts itself. Plus, we are after all our eleventh leading man."
Moffat, of course, is referring to actor Matt Smith, who is 11th and current Doctor (who took over for David Tennant in 2010). With the departure of the Doctor's companions Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) last year, it was time for the alien Time Lord to travel the universe with a new co-pilot. Introduced before Amy and Rory's left The Doctor's side, audiences began to know and love actress Jenna-Louise Coleman as The Doctor's latest companion Clara Oswald.
Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman star in  Doctor Who
Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman star in 'Doctor Who'
BBC America
Following in the heels of such iconic companions as Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), Moffat made a wise choice with Jenna-Louise Coleman. "I think she's terrific," he says of the actress who appeared in the mini-series Titanic. "Jenna is a terribly, terribly good actress. I know that sounds like a terrible dull thing to say but it's the truth. You can be as beautiful and charming as you like, but if you're not terrific at acting it will mean nothing on the screen. I can't say it enough – she's a terrific actress. In addition, she looks great, she has great comic timing. She looks like she belongs somehow next to Matt Smith. When the two can stand together it looks like an instant team. They have enough in common and, yet, have enough sharp contrast that it's instant poster when you stand them together."
Jenna-Louise Coleman portrays Clara in a scene from  The Bells Of Saint John
Jenna-Louise Coleman portrays Clara in a scene from "The Bells Of Saint John"
BBC America
Although the series is focused on the time-traveling adventures of the Doctor, adding Coleman's character of Clara to the mix has revealed a little known secret. "In a way Doctor Who is almost more in a way of the story of the companion," Moffat confessed. "It is Clara's take on the Doctor and it's her adventure. If you consider it, the companion is the character that changes more than the Doctor ever does.
The Doctor (Smith) and Clara (Coleman) in the  Doctor Who  episode  The Bells Of Saint John
The Doctor (Smith) and Clara (Coleman) in the "Doctor Who' episode "The Bells Of Saint John"
BBC America
"The companion is the person to whom the story happens to," Moffat explains. "A hero is somebody who saves the day and is extraordinary, and you stand back and admire – that’s The Doctor. For the storytelling to work, the emotional connection has to happen to somebody. The Doctor, himself, has to happen to somebody. So very often in Doctor Who the companion is sort of the main character, not the hero, not the one with all the cool lines, not with all the cool moments but is the hero. The person whose story it is and how this experience changed them. We never see how The Doctor began his journey, and we will probably never see how he ends it. We'll probably never know why he embarked on it, but we know all those companions who they were before they met The Doctor. We know why they ran away with him and we know roughly where they ended up. Those stories are complete. The Doctor is the enigma that enters their lives and changes them. The story is always about the person who changes the most rather than necessarily about the person who does the most. Doctor Who, basically, is about who effects those changes."
Moffat goes on to admit that Clara is a much different companion than Rose or Amy, but he confesses she was essential in keeping The Doctor on his A-game. “You need someone who challenges The Doctor,” he declared. “You need someone to throw the Doctor into a new light, into a new relief. Amy had done it in one particular way. I think we just needed somebody who was slightly less willing. The Doctor is always the remote, inaccessible, mysterious one and the companion is always the fluffy, friendly one well. Amy tested that theory from time to time. Whereas, Clara is the slightly difficult to get to know. She’s the one that is probably going to be slightly difficult to hug. Quite frankly, because The Doctor is haunted by her and met her twice before he is slightly the needy one. Clara’s the unsolvable mystery in the enigma, and The Doctor is the one chasing after her. It's a reversal of the normal Doctor companion dynamic, which I've been rather enjoying.”
Smith and Coleman in  Doctor Who
Smith and Coleman in 'Doctor Who'
BBC America
Moffat credits Coleman with making the importance of The Doctor's companion more evident than ever before in the long-running series. "What Jenna, in particular, brings to Doctor Who is her tremendous speed and wit and sort of an unimpressed quality that makes the Doctor dance a bit harder – he works a bit harder with Clara," the 52-year-old Moffat explains. "Clara is always just a little bit out of reach. Obviously, she's secretly devoted to him, but Clara's a little bit harder to impress. She's tough, she's fast and she's hard to impress, exactly the way The Doctor, generally-speaking, doesn't like them. But, of course, he's absolutely devoted to Clara. That's very much driven by Jenna's particular acting style – it's a very, very fast, snappy style. Jenna's a very, very beautiful girl but there's a real sense of toughness in that face of someone that can be a real adversary if she wants to be."
With a total of 8 new episodes scheduled for the remainder of the season, Doctor Who finds The Doctor (Smith) and Clara (Coleman) embarking on an exciting set of incredible adventures through space and time. The time-traveling pair discover new adversaries and old friends around every corner as they trek from the bottom of the ocean in a submarine to the center of the TARDIS and beyond. For fans of The Doctor's nemesis, get ready for The Cybermen to make a thunderous return, as well as the Ice Warrior – who appears in an unforeseen situation.
 The Bells Of Saint John  episode of  Doctor Who
"The Bells Of Saint John" episode of 'Doctor Who'
BBC America
The latest Doctor Who episode, the modern-day urban thriller "The Bells Of Saint John" – written by Moffat – is set in London and introduces viewers to a brand new nemesis – the Spoonheads. The Doctor's latest adversaries target the Doctor when the Time Lord discovers something strange and sinister is lurking in the planet’s Wi-Fi system. While it may seem Moffat is attempting to make a commentary on our increasing reliance on technology with “The Bells Of Saint John,” the episode is simply another exciting trek for The Doctor. “What Doctor Who often does is grab hold of whatever is omnipresent in your life and turn it into a monster,” he says. “That’s what makes The Spoonheads so relevant – and dangerous.”
Throughout his ten-year tenure on Doctor Who, Moffat has helped to create some iconic monsters for The Doctor – from The Weeping Angels, The Silence, Vashta Nerada and now the Spoonheads. While Moffat offers that he loves all the villains he’s created equally, he does have his favorites. “They are all fun to write, but the one I'm tempted to say are The Weeping Angels, because I'm looking at one right now in my back garden,” he says jokingly. “I guess the one I got the most kick out of might have been The Silence.
A Weeping Angel from  Doctor Who
A Weeping Angel from 'Doctor Who'
BBC America
I loved the gimmick of The Silence, because you couldn't remember them," he adds. "I just thought finding ways to employ that and finding ways to make that frightening was great. It was a very exciting thing. I hugely enjoyed writing The Silence. The Weeping Angels are, of course, the most popular adversary I've invented. I’m sure will always be the most popular ones I've invented. But, they are a bugger to write because they don't move and it's always really hard to work out how you're going to do a chase scene this time.”
A Spoonhead from  The Bells Of Saint John
A Spoonhead from 'The Bells Of Saint John"
BBC America
So, how do the Spoonheads compare in terms of scare factor alongside villains like The Silence and The Weeping Angels? “Well, that's not really for me to say, because I don't know,” Moffat admits. “I never really know which ones are going to be scarier than the others. With that said, I suppose that ‘The Bells of Saint John’ is an action roller coaster. Whereas, The Weeping Angel and The Silence stories were more consciously designed to be sort of scary adventures. Honestly, it really isn’t up to me to decide. It's up to the kids to say which one gives them nightmares, so I'll not prejudge it. I think the Spoonheads are quite creepy, I think it's a roller king adventure ride. I think it's a cracker of an episode.”
The Tenth Doctor David Tennant and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler
The Tenth Doctor David Tennant and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler
BBC America
With Season 7 of Doctor Who already under his proverbial belt, Moffat can now concentrate on the upcoming 50th Anniversary special. First premiering in 1963 (broadcast in the England the day of U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s assassination), 2013 marks the fifty year celebration of Doctor Who. Filming has commenced on the Anniversary special in the United Kingdom, and familiar Doctor Who favorites such as the Tenth Doctor – David Tennant – and Rose Tyler – Billie Piper – will be joining the current Doctor (Smith) and Clara (Coleman) on a stunning new trek through the universe. Matt Smith finds the chance to work with the former Doctor Who stars a genuinely thrilling proposition. “I am glad to say that David Tennant and Billie Piper will be in the Doctor Who 50th special...I am excited!” the Eleventh Doctor exclaimed on a recent posting to his Facebook fan page.
Matt Smith is the Eleventh Doctor Who
Matt Smith is the Eleventh Doctor Who
BBC America
Scheduled to air later this year, Moffat doesn’t anticipate the 50th Anniversary special to be a complete nostalgic look at Doctor Who, but more as a springboard into another half-century of The Doctor’s adventures. "You're always wanting to make it special and huge and big, but I think Doctor Who must be seen to be going forward, because it's all about the next 50 years not about the last 50 years,” he admitted. “If you start putting a full stop on it, if you start thinking it's all about nostalgia then you're finished. It’ll be about moving forward. Keeping Doctor Who exciting is what is most important to me, and for fans of the series – across the universe.”
The Doctor Who episode “The Rings Of Akhaten” airs April 6, 2013 8:00pm EST/PST on BBC America and BBC Canada. (Check local listings)
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