Interview: Steven Moffat Talks Monsters, Companions and More

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Image courtesy BBC

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Steven Moffat about the upcoming run of Doctor Who episodes and about the show in general.  He talks about the monsters he’s created for the show and touches on a classic one that’s received an update.

Further along, he also discusses companions.  Clara in particular, but also the Doctor’s need for a companion in general.  And, finally, he tells us what it’s like to go from being a fan of Doctor Who, like us, to being the person in charge.

So read on and enjoy while we wait for the premiere of The Bells of Saint John this Saturday, March 30 on BBC America at 8/7c.


What can you tell us about the Spoonheads?

Well I’m not going to tell very much because you’ll learn all about them on Saturday but suffice to say Wi-Fi covers every civilized country now. So if something got into the Wi-Fi that would be a problem for us all, a new way to invade us beyond that the Spoonheads are for Saturday.


How do the Spoonheads really compare in terms of scare factor with villains like the Silence and the Weeping Angels?

I suppose The Bells of Saint John is an action roller coaster.  Where the Weeping Angel stories and the Silence story were more consciously designed to be sort of scary adventures.  So I think it isn’t really up to me it’s up to the kids to say which one gives them nightmares so I’ll not prejudge it.  I think they’re quite creepy.  I think it’s a cracker of an episode but let’s wait and see what the audience think.


We’ll see the return of the Ice Warriors.  What were some of the challenges in reimagining that old foe?

I thought they were good, but I never quite got into them.  Mark Gatiss kept nagging me about bringing them back and then he came up with an idea, which really made them come to life for me.  So it’s a design classic buffed up a bit for HD rather than change or revise, I would say, and that was the challenge to make.


You’ve created some of the most recognized iconic monsters on Doctor Who.  In all the episodes you’ve written, which monsters were the most fun to write and why?

I’m tempted to say Weeping Angels because I’m standing looking at one because it’s in my back garden, but the one I got the most kick out of might have been the Silence.

I loved the gimmick of the Silence you couldn’t remember them.  I just thought finding ways to employ that and finding ways to make that frightening was a very exciting thing I (hugely) enjoyed.

The Weeping Angels are of course by far the most popular adversary I’ve invented and I’m sure will always be.  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.


During the course of discovering the mystery behind Clara, will this Clara ever remember her other incarnations?

Well I would know the answer to that question and I certainly wouldn’t give it to you. And you will uncover the mystery of Clara in the next eight episodes all will be made clear and you’ll get your answer that way.


Clara is such a unique companion what inspired you to create her?

You need someone who challenges the Doctor you need someone to throw the Doctor into a new light, into a new relief.  This time she’s the unsolvable mystery in the enigma and he’s the one chasing after her.  It’s a reversal of the normal Doctor companion dynamic, which I’ve been rather enjoying.


Why do you think it is that the companion is such an important element of storytelling in Doctor Who?

It’s the person to whom the story happens, you know, a hero is somebody who saves the day and is extraordinary and you stand back and admire and that’s the Doctor.  The person whose story it is and how this experience changed them.

We never see how the Doctor began his journey, 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.  The story is always about the person who changes the most rather than necessarily about the person who does the most – who effects those changes.


A big conflict of your era has been the Doctor needing to not be alone.  Why doesn’t he just always get a companion why does he resist that?

Well if you were told the way to heal yourself and to make yourself a better person was to permanently endanger another human being you might be hesitant too.  He’s also aware that a relationship or a friendship for him, like it or not, is postponed bereavement and it’s not even postponed that long.  He will outlive them, they will die and he will be roughly the same age.  So I think those factors make him very, very hesitant about taking someone on board.


You grew up loving Doctor Who like many of us did.  What’s it like to go from behind the sofa to behind the curtain as it were?

It’s very very exciting, I mean it’s massively demanding.  And, you know, I mean your fantasy remains intact, you stay excited by Doctor Who and the idea of Doctor Who always remains thrilling.  I think you couldn’t function on the show unless that was true but, you know, it’s a terrible thing to say in a way but I’ve been on the other side of the curtain for quite a while now and I’m starting to forget that this used to be a show that I wasn’t involved in.

One day when I’m not involved in it again it will all come rushing back but, you know, right now it feels as though I have always worked on it. You know, it retains its excitemen, it retains its shine that’s the main thing to say about that I think.


Doctor Who “The Bells of St. John” premiere dates:

  • USA – BBC America: March 30, 8/7c
  • Canada – Space: March 30, 8./7c
  • UK – BBC1: March 30, 6:15pm
  • Australia – ABC: March 31, 7:30pm

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Tom Gardiner