Image courtesy BBC America

Doctor Who at SDCC 2015 – Our Interview with Steven Moffat and Michelle Gomez

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Rounding out our trio of Doctor Who interviews at San Diego Comic-Con international is this really fun and informative chat with showrunner Steven Moffat and Missy herself, Michelle Gomez. Both have a great sense of humor that really shines through in some of their answers.  The discussion focused primarily on Missy and the differences between a villain and a hero. It turns out there is surprisingly little difference between these two roles if you take the right look at them. There is also some discussion about familiar faces and monsters, both old and new.

Overall, it was a fun time and a lot of great information came from our time at the table.

For our other Doctor Who interviews, click on Doctor Who at SDCC 2015 – Our Interview With Jenna Coleman and SDCC 2015 Interview With Peter Capaldi – The Day I Met the Doctor.

With the introduction of Missy, does this mean there could be a female Doctor?

Moffat: Well, clearly, it does mean he could be. We’ve been saying that for ages. I don’t know how many more times we can say it without people getting the message. [laughs] The very first dialogue I ever wrote in Doctor Who (as showrunner) was Matt Smith … wondering if he was a girl. So, yes, it does mean that. Whether that will ever happen is a different question, but it absolutely can. Yes.

We’ve read where you’ve said just how dark Missy goes this season. Can you tell us more about that?

Gomez: There’s various shades of darkness to Missy. I guess this year there’s a sort of weird, kind of perverse justice that’s coming from her where she, like any good little psychopath, believes that she’s doing the right thing. And for her, the right thing is to completely and utterly annihilate the universe.

You’ve always been mindful that this is a family show, but it’s scifi and you take it to dark places. Have there been moments where you two decided together that maybe you’re taking her too dark?

Moffat: Well, basically, wanting to wipe out all life-kind is quite far. There are definitely laws against that.

True, but people feel the loss of an individual more.

Moffat: Yeah, if you kill someone nice like Osgood then that is … that was the clearest statement – she absolutely would do that, however charming she might seem at times. Oh, she absolutely would. She would kill you and it wouldn’t bother her. But then, you know, unless you’re a vegetarian you’ve killed lots of innocent creatures, too. So, that’s fine. That’s the way she looks at it.

Is your character involved in any way with the big mistake the Doctor’s supposed to make this season?

Gomez: I think that Missy thinks that everything the Doctor does is a mistake. His very existence is a mistake. I don’t think she’s directly involved in his mistakes. I think she lets him take full responsibility for everything he does that is entirely wrong.

Moffat: To think Missy would say anything to survive isn’t a mistake.

Over the years, the Doctor and the Master have been less like traditional enemies and more like old friends on opposite sides of morality. Now that the Master is Missy and there’s flirtation involved …

Moffat: What kind of ___ing flirting do you do? [everyone laughs]

Gomez: If I may take that one. The flirtation is coming solely from the Doctor, because as a woman of a certain age who’s still extremely attractive, Missy does have to keep batting his attentions off. I mean even that first kiss … if you look at it closely, which I don’t suggest you do, he’s hanging on for grim life there, you know? So, I think the flirtations – you’re reading into that, you’re projecting that, and they’re all coming from him.

Is Missy trying to lure the Doctor to a dark side this season?

Moffat: Oh, wait and see …

Gomez: Yeah, I think she’s just doing anything she can for entertainment.

Moffat: Well, to take up your earlier point, the most flirtatious they ever got was John Simm and David Tennant. The current iteration isn’t flirtatious at all. Capaldi’s Doctor wouldn’t know what to do with flirting. From the very beginning – from Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado, they play it all the time, just straightforward as best friends in the world. Unfortunately, one of them wants to blow up the world and one of them wants to save it. I think they go to the same gentlemen’s club after and share a brandy.

Speaking of Jon Pertwee: Sean Pertwee, his son, had posted some pictures of himself dressed as the third Doctor and they looked amazing. Would you ever consider having him cast in the role?

Moffat: Recasting a previous Doctor? Me, personally, I wouldn’t recast a previous Doctor. I don’t think it’s right. We have a mechanism for recasting the Doctor, it’s called regeneration.

Even in a multi-Doctor episode?

Moffat: I know, but I don’t think we should do it. I think if you can’t get the original, you haven’t got the original. I think he looked great, though.

Peter was in the episode “The Fires of Pompeii”. Is that something that’s going to be visited this season?

Moffat: As you know, he recognizes that he has seen that face before and we do address that this year.

Is River Song coming back?

Moffat: Yeah, she’s on Big Finish (audio dramas) right now.

Steven, do you find it more interesting creatively to play with the old classic characters and creatures or are you more interesting in creating new creatures?

Moffat: A bit of both, really. I think there’s a fundamental dilemma in Doctor Who in that Doctor Who is never more Doctor Who than when it’s inventing a new monster. It’s also never more Doctor Who than when it’s bringing back an old one. So you want to do both. I have to sort of stamp on the fanboy in me at times or we’ll have it remade in video at 4 by 3 in multi-camera studios because the part of me that’s a fan is like that. So I’m just, “Shut up, that’s a stupid idea” occasionally. We’re all like that. Peter’s like that, too, I’m afraid. I have to say, “No, we can’t really bring back the Chumblies.” So, I think in the end it’s a rarity when you get a great, new monster and it’s very exciting.

How does the approach to a season change creatively when you have a villain of this type, like Missy – someone you can really have so much fun with.

Moffat: The key for me about a villain is they don’t think they’re the villain. If you ever write someone that’s a villain, you’ve just not been writing that day. Every villain, in real life, everyone that we consider a villain – not only do they think they’re in the right, they think they’re the victim. Every war is between two groups of people saying, “They started it.” So, when you write a villain well, it’s when you understand their point of view and you think that this is perfectly reasonable. If Missy were sitting here, and, oddly enough, she is, she would be saying, “You think I’m bad because I kill people? Are you enjoying your bacon sandwich? You think the pig wanted to die? You just think it’s okay to kill pigs. Well, I think it’s okay to kill people.”

Gomez: Exactly. And why is it okay for the Doctor to kill people and feel bad about it, but it’s not okay for Missy to kill people and feel quite good about it? That’s the distinction … that’s the difference between good and evil. One has a conscience and one doesn’t, but they’re both still doing the same thing. They’re both still killing people.

So when you step into the character of Missy, is she insane? Does she have a goal or a series of goals?

Gomez: If she could carry a large ladder and climb to the top of it and try to get over herself, she might endeavor to do that, she just doesn’t want to carry the ladder. She suffers from extreme self-righteous indignation and her whole purpose is to get the Doctor to admit, as Steven was saying, that he started it. That injustice just consumes and engulfs her purpose in life. That’s what drives her: To make sure that he knows that he’s wrong. What are we doing here if we’re not agreeing to the fact that we’re both doing the same things, I just don’t feel bad about it.

Since we know Gallifrey exists, is Missy going to be on a quest to find the other Time Lords and wipe them out?

Gomez: I don’t think she is. I think her mission is very current and very present and very focused on the Doctor at the moment.

Moffat: I think she would say Time Lords are a bit boring. Well, you have to shoot them twelve times!


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Tom Gardiner