Your friendly neighborhood editor got a chance to talk to Doctor Who Showrunner Steven Moffat late last week about the upcoming Christmas special during a conference call. During the chat Moffat defended the Doctor against some naughty accusations about the Doctor being the cause of some companions having their lives destroyed:
“I mean that’s not true about all the Doctor’s
companions. It’s maybe what the Doctor thinks in his darker moments and
when he’s dying in “Let’s Kill Hitler.” He worries that he might’ve done them
But Rose is off in a parallel universe. She’ll be with her – with a human
version of the Doctor. She’s fine. Martha learns to stand up for herself and got
over her crush on the Doctor and she soars off.
Yes Donna has a more miserable thing. But she doesn’t know she’s miserable.
She ends up actually quite happy and married to a good bloke. Rory and Amy
are perfectly happy in New York. They’re dead, but, you know, everyone
from that year is dead so that’s all right. They lived to a ripe old age and had a
The Doctor – so he’s not – they all don’t leave under terrible circumstances at
all. I think the tragedy when Amy and Rory went was the Doctor lost them not
- and that in the end they, you know, of course that, you know, Amy would
choose Rory over the Doctor in a heartbeat. And he actually had some trouble
quite dealing with that.
But the fact is, no he doesn’t ruin their lives. He can induce a certain amount
of trauma, it must be said. But no they’re not all destroyed by any means. And
no, every time, every time the Doctor loses a regular character from this show
it will happen in a moment that makes people talk. Because the episode that
you described no one would talk about that. That wouldn’t be thrilling.”
One of the more interesting bits though was when ComicMix turned the conversation to the companions again, but this time it involved the recent discussions around the web of when we might see a different companion that WASN’T from modern day earth. The response was practical and also made sense from a writers perspective when it comes to modern Who.
“Now in fact, the old series doesn’t do a hell of a lot of it. If you looked at the
vast majority of the companions come from contemporary era. Even the ones
who don’t come from contemporary era are pretty much normalized ones like
with Jamie and Victoria. Then it’s hardly any time at all before Victoria is
wearing short skirts. No Victorian would actually do that.
You know, so the problem is – and I don’t say it’s an unsolvable problem, but
the majority solution will always be a contemporary companion. But the
problem is you need an anchoring point for the audience. You need someone
who represents their world and their point of view. And the simplest, purest
and best answer to that is somebody from their world.
Now somebody who’s watched Doctor Who for an unseasonably long time
like I have, like possibly you have, I don’t know, might get bored of that and
say I wish it was, you know, a two headed alien from the planet Prang. The
new audience don’t think that. They want an anchoring point on that
mysterious alien the Doctor.
Doesn’t mean we’ll always do it this way. But the reality is it’s always going
to be somebody from contemporary era or somebody who ends up being very
like somebody from contemporary era.
I think it was great – the one that broke the mold really I would argue was
Leela. We actually went for somebody who was quite different. I would sort
of say that Jamie and Victoria ended up – when I was a kid watching I wasn’t
particularly aware that they were historical characters. And I do remember
And Romana just came across as, you know, in the end like a very, very
clever young woman. She wasn’t that different from Liz Shaw. It’s going to
be – it’s going to be the relatable half of the partnership.
Keep in mind Doctor Who has to not just appeal to sci-fi fans, it has to appeal
to a huge mainstream audience who dwarf the sci-fi audience. You sort of
need that way in for them. Having said that, you know, who knows maybe
there’ll be a robot dog next. I don’t know.
My question though was more central to the issue at hand, which was the Christmas special itself and how it was about time Santa Claus was involved.
Jessica Dwyer: So as a writer what is the process of planning and
plotting a Christmas Special every year for a series like Doctor Who, and what
are the challenges? And kind of as a backup to that as well, why did it take so
long for someone to use Santa as a plot point in a special?
Steven Moffat: What did it take – it’s not massively different from just writing an episode of
Doctor Who. The thing about Doctor Who and the way we approach it, and it
sort of has paid off is – I’m always saying to every writer and often myself
when I’m the writer – every episode of Doctor Who has to be an event. It has
to be an event. It has to be the thing the paper is talking about that day.
So when you come to do the Christmas Special, which has to be an event
episode obviously, I kind of think we’re fighting fit for that. We’re used to
The additional things that are different about Christmas, though they’re not
massively different, is that we have to remember that a lot of people will be
forced into watching it that don’t normally watch Doctor Who. Probably, you
know, there’s people – you know, your parents getting dragged in, grannies
getting dragged in. You have to sort of – you have to have a sort of quite basic
version of Doctor Who.
But when I say that I know I’m lying because actually that happens with every
episode of Doctor Who. And people certainly in Britain know Doctor Who
incredibly well. So it doesn’t need a lot of introduction even to people who
don’t watch it that often.
The other challenges – I do think a Christmas Special should be Christmassy. I
think there’s no point in trying to pretend an ordinary episode would pass
muster on Christmas Day. It wouldn’t.
You know, it’s a highly sugared day. People are exhausted by six o’clock on a
Saturday. They’ve had food, they’ve been drinking champagne since 10
o’clock in the morning. They’re not – and they’ve probably eaten an amount of
chocolate that would kill a horse. You know, it’s not – they’re not in the same
So you have to sort of cut through an even louder living room than normal
with your story. And I can admit all these things are just exaggerations of
Doctor Who. Doctor Who is always like that.
I don’t know how clear it is to an American audience and sometimes in the
way they react to it I wonder if it’s very unclear to them that Doctor Who is an
early evening Saturday show in Britain. It’s surrounded by shiny floor shows.
It’s shown in houses full of children all yelling and talking at once. And mum
and dad doing the cooking and maybe a Hoover. It has to be a loud clarion
call of a show to survive all that.
I know you guys watch it later in the evening and I sometimes think it must
feel a bit loud for nine o’clock. But it seems to be going very well so I
Jessica Dwyer: And why did it take so long to have Santa be a plot point in a Christmas
Special for Doctor Who?
Steven Moffat: Well the simple dull – the dull answer is that it took me this long to think of it.
And so, no big deal. I think it’s oh so true that now that this is Doctor Who’s
tenth year at the heart of the Christmas schedule he’s now earned the right to
go toe to toe with Santa, you know? It feels about right.
It’s one of those ideas that when you have it you just – for goodness sake why
has it not happened before now? Why haven’t we seen them, you know, in a
buddy movie together before now? They belong together. And it’s something
in the hearts I’m sure of the younger part of our audience Doctor Who and
Santa Claus live – and Robin Hood – all very much live in the same place.
So that’s – it’s irresistible once you’ve thought of it. But, you know, and also
because of the format of the show we can contrive anything to happen. So
here we are.
Jessica Dwyer: That’s awesome. Thank you so much. And thank you for casting Nick Frost. His name screams Christmas and Santa.
Steven Moffat: Yes, Nicholas Frost is a name Santa would choose isn’t it? If he was going for
a nom de plume. He’d call him – and it fit’s much better than Kris Kringle -
Jessica Dwyer: Exactly. Thank you so much.
Steven Moffat: Pleasure.
The Doctor Who Christmas Special airs Christmas Day!