‘Doctor Who’ exec on Series 7, the show’s fans, and a female Doctor

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This weekend saw the Scottish premiere of Asylum of the Daleks as part of the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival.

After the screening, which received a rapturous response from the early morning crowd, the episode’s writer Steven Moffat, took to the stage with broadcaster and journalist Andrew Collins where he talked about Series 7, the BBC, the fans, getting David Tennant to stay on for Series 5, and a female Doctor…

The BBC 6Music presenter asked the current showrunner to sum up Series 7 of Doctor Who in one word, after Moffat described his first as a “roller coaster” and the second as a “ghost train”, the current show runner joked, “It’s Waterworld!”

“No, this time I abandoned fairground rides for movie posters. When we had pitch meetings for the various stories, whether I was pitching to a writer or a writer was pitching to me, I would say, ‘Tell me the movie poster. Tell me the title. Tell me that. Let’s have a blockbuster every single week. No two-parters, every single week is going to be a blockbuster and let’s not have the cheap episode, let’s not make one. Let’s just make them all huge.’

“It has caused some problems, obviously. We’ve had to rob banks and people! [Laughs] I think it’s worked very well for us. It’s the year of the blockbuster. Well, I hope anyway.”

Following up on this year’s theme of the “blockbuster”, a fan in the audience asked why this choice was made, to which Moffat replied: “Last season we did an arc and next year we’ll do something else. I think that every year you have to push it in a particular direction to see what happens with it. It just keeps it fresh and exciting and new. I’m always terribly aware that even the new version of the show is getting old, so you want to do something each year to make you feel, ‘Oh god, we’re doing something new and something different.’

For that reason, each year should feel different. You shouldn’t arrive and think it’s good old cosy traditional Doctor Who, you should think, ‘Ooh, it’s doing something slightly different this time.’ Always, I think. Keep it fresh, keep it tight.”

Collins broached fandom and the pressures of such an obsessive following, asking if Steven could “shut it out and just do what you want to do?”

“As Russell [T Davies] said when he was doing it at the very beginning, shutting out the fan voice is the first thing you have to do because you are a fan yourself. So you have to close your own whiny little voice. But as solidarity I always send out messages to the fans in the scripts, the ridiculous references to Exillion or Spiridon [both mentioned in Asylum of the Daleks].”

“You absolutely have to address the mainstream audience and the kids and the people who watch it with their families. The funny thing is, if you asked the dedicated Doctor Who fan what I should do with their opinions they would say, ‘Ignore us, we want it to be a huge mainstream hit.'”

“In a way, the forums and these obsessive fan conversations – I shouldn’t listen to them. That’s eavesdropping. They should be allowed to sit and complain about Doctor Who. What is the point in loving something if you can’t complain about it incessantly?”

After discussing the huge role Doctor Who plays in the Saturday night schedules, Andrew queried Steven if he felt the pressure of responsibility. The Scotsman responded: “It’s a hugely difficult show to make; just the amount of work and stress that goes into making it. I forget every time we embark on it again just how tough it was the last time. It’s really horrific. And it’s tough writing it and it keeps being tough all year round.

“But the responsibility or the demands of it, you never spend any time worrying about that. These days will never come again, working on the two shows I’m working on right now [Sherlock and Doctor Who]. That’s amazing, you cannot waste time being apprehensive about it. You’ve just got to get on with it and love it and look back on it in your disappointing future when I’m reflecting on my great glory days. [Laughs]”

Discussion turned to the budget for the show and its needs, with Steven commenting: “Doctor Who is incredibly well looked after by the BBC. I have no complaints. They are incredibly aware of its crown jewel status, that it’s not merely a show that’s successful now but I truly believe it could be a show that outlives everybody in this room. It could carry on that long. It doesn’t just make money now, it could make money for ever. It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

After the interview, questions were taken from the floor and one fan asked if and how Series 5 would have been different if David Tennant had stayed on [as the Tenth Doctor]. Moffat candidly responded: “It wasn’t something we embraced with great enthusiasm. It was quite frightening when we realised the entire cast and the entire behind-the-scenes teams were changing over at the same time – it was quite worrying.

“Generally speaking when the Doctor regenerates, he regenerates with someone. There’s someone there to prove he’s The Doctor to. So it was quite hard with the Doctor and Amy – he’s new, she’s new. That’s why I made her a little girl at the beginning so he had someone to prove his Doctorness to.

“[Series 5] would have been different, but Doctor Who is always different and yet always the same. Who knows what would have happened. I tried very hard to get David [Tennant] to stay on but he said no. I told him all my ideas and he left! [Laughs]”

Finally, the last question from the audience brought up the age-old question, “Is [the Doctor] ever going to be a woman?” After gauging the audience’s opinions with a show of hands (who were in favour of the notion), Steven positively replied:

“It is a part of Time Lord lore that it can happen. It was mentioned, and I put the reference in actually, in The Doctor’s Wife [Neil Gaiman’s 2011 story] the fact that a Time Lord could potentially turn into a woman. Who knows? The more often it’s talked about, the more likely it is to happen some day, I suppose.”

Steven Moffat’s Asylum of the Daleks airs at 7.20pm on Saturday 1st September on BBC One.

> Read our spoiler-free review.

Are you looking forward to Series 7? Would you like there to be a female Doctor? Let us know below…

> Order Series 7 Part 1 on DVD on Amazon.

Watch the Series 7 trailer…