Wallander writer Peter Harness makes his Doctor Who debut this weekend with ‘Kill the Moon’.
In the near future, the Doctor and Clara find themselves on a space shuttle making a suicide mission to the Moon. Crash-landing on the lunar surface, they find a mining base full of corpses, vicious spider-like creatures poised to attack, and a terrible dilemma. When Clara turns to the Doctor for help, she gets the shock of her life.
‘Kill the Moon’ airs at 8.30pm on Saturday 4 October on BBC One.
CultBox caught up with Peter for a spoiler-free chat about the episode…
How long have you been a Doctor Who fan and who is your Doctor?
“Well, I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for as long as I can remember, really. Some of my first memories are of watching Doctor Who – I fell in love with it when I was very small and I’ve never fallen out of love. Not entirely. There was the usual period of estrangement when I discovered girls. But I returned to the Doctor pretty damn fast.
“My first was Tom Baker, so I guess he’s my Doctor really. But he shared me with Peter Davison, who I still love. And I’m really falling for Peter Capaldi in a big way too. To be honest, it’s as hard to choose my favourite Doctor as it is to choose my favourite story.”
What’s the first Doctor Who story you can remember watching and what effect did it have on you?
“The first story I can remember is 1979’s ‘Destiny of the Daleks’. And it must’ve had a big impact on me because it was the thing that made me into a Doctor Who fan.
“I can still very clearly see the scenes that most troubled me: Davros coming back to life again, all dusty in his little cellar; the Doctor trapped under a big bit of fallen masonry; and Romana (or someone) being buried under rocks and left for dead.
“These moments scared and disturbed me, and I remember ‘Destiny…’ as being very bleak and startling. Which it still is, really, underneath all of the Douglas Adams gags and the disco Movellans.
“I’ve found myself going back to my first memories of those first few Whos I saw, trying to excavate what had the biggest effect on me as a child, and trying to play on those things when writing ‘Kill The Moon’.”
How did ‘Kill the Moon’ come about?
“I pitched it to [Steven Moffat] back in Autumn 2011. He and the team were pretty keen on it, so I developed it for a while for Matt Smith before I had to go away and write Jonathan Strange.
“I’d thought that it was dead and buried, to be honest, because I spent nearly two years on Strange; but they got in touch again when Peter Capaldi was cast and said they’d really like ‘Kill The Moon’ for his first season if I still fancied doing it. Which I definitely did.”
Did you have Hermione Norris in mind as Lundvik when you were writing the script?
“I didn’t, to be honest. Sometimes I have an actor in mind when initially writing a part, but usually not. I find it very useful, though, when I’m doing the final drafts and shooting scripts, to know which actors are playing the parts, because then I tend to rewrite it for their voice and style; and the whole thing gets a new layer of character and detail.”
Despite the jokey title, it’s the darkest episode of Season 8 so far; did you worry about making it too dark or scary?
“I suppose it is a fairly jokey title. But weirdly, I think that the two episodes with the silliest names, ‘Kill the Moon’ and ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’, may well turn out to some of the darkest ones of the season.
“I might have worried a little about making it too dark. But I don’t feel I did – it’s more challenging than Doctor Who sometimes is, but I think it’s good for audiences and writers to be outside of their comfort zone sometimes.
“I certainly didn’t worry about making it too scary. I remember Doctor Who as being scary, and I think it’s at its best when it is. Much of the best children’s literature is scary, and I think as far as Doctor Who is concerned, it often comes down to the nearly fifty-year-old question of whether it’s too scary for adults.
“I think that if you sit with your child whilst watching it, keeping an eye on them, reassuring them, answering their questions, then it’s fine to have them watch something a little bit spooky or shocking. They enjoy it as long as they’re in an environment in which they feel safe.”
Are you scared of spiders by any chance?
“No, I’m not. But I know that many millions of people are. So when I was looking for something that would be guaranteed to bring a bit of a shiver to people, I thought of spiders straight away.”
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