Steven Moffat, the “Doctor Who” showrunner, writer and producer credited with taking the world’s longest-running sci-fi show to the next level, is already at work on series 10, which, he confirmed, will again star Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. Moffat spoke to Variety about what makes the rebooted format such a global hit while at Lucca Comics & Games, a mega geek-meet in Tuscany where he met Italo fans lined up for hours to watch the local preem of “The Magician’s Apprentice,” the first episode of series nine.
Here we are in a medieval Italian town packed with geeks. While in the U.K. “Doctor Who” is considered a family show, elsewhere, in Italy and in the U.S., I think it has more of a geek audience. Are you aware of the different types of demographics of your viewers for the show around the world?
We make and develop “Doctor Who” to be enjoyed at any level. That’s the truth. We are actively thinking, “What would a 5-year-old think of this?” In terms of our audience: It’s the entire human race, if possible. But it is kind of identified by me and Jamie (Mathieson) as a children’s show. What that means is that you can start watching it as a child. So I’m always saying to them in America, “Get in on [the air] earlier! Kids will love it. They just will!”
In terms of time slots, one of the big outlets for “Doctor Who” is now Netflix, which of course doesn’t have any slots. Does this also factor into the show’s creative side?
I think we all have to think about this because my children don’t think in terms of schedule on television at all, even with “Doctor Who,” which their dad makes. To the next generation, they no longer watch television when they are supposed to any more than they would allow the bookcase to tell them when they can read.
You are credited with taking “Doctor Who” to a new level. What do you think allowed this format to be rebooted so brilliantly?
“Doctor Who” is the all-time perfectly evolved television show. It’s a television predator designed to survive any environment because you can replace absolutely everybody. Most shows you can’t do that with. For example, once Benedict Cumberbatch gives up “Sherlock,” what are we going to do? We are going to stop, that’s what we are going to do. Most shows have a built-in mortality. But here is a show that sheds us all like scales; a show that can make you feel everything except indispensable. It will carry on forever, because you can replace every part of it.
In terms of tone, narrative, casting, are there any aspects that you think were key?
I was involved, but I wasn’t in charge when it was rebooted. But I think the one thing you have to keep in mind is that “Doctor Who” is kind of joyful; it’s a joyful show. Tokenly, it’s got a touch of genocide now and then, and the screaming death of innocence. But through it all it has an optimistic, joyous figure. A nice man, a nice silly man in his phone box flying around and doing good. That’s what keeps us all safe. Who doesn’t want to believe that?
In terms of longevity of the show, I think you’ve said it could go five more years?
It is definitely going to last five more years, I’ve seen the business plan. It’s not going anywhere. And I think we can go past that. It’s television’s own legend. It will just keep going.
I understand you are now working on series 10. Can you give us any updates in terms of casting?
We all know that Jenna Coleman is leaving this year.
How about Peter Capaldi?
Peter Capaldi is going nowhere.
Is it just coincidental that both of you guys are Scottish?
[Laughter] No, it’s a conspiracy. Piece by piece, person by person, we are replacing the English.