Lucca Comics: ‘Doctor Who’ Showrunner Steven Moffat On Why The Reboot Is A Global Hit

'Doctor Who' Showrunner Steven Moffat on
Frederick M. Brown/Getty

Peter Capaldi will be the Doctor in series ten

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.

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  1. DLake says:

    Under Moffat the show is a joke, appealing to the lowest common denominator. It’s unintelligent, puerile and often incomprehensibly convenient. Time for Moffat to go.

  2. Clefton Bumpers says:

    Yeahhhhhhh… it’s not a reboot, seeing as the 2005 series followed on from the “classic” episodes.

    Thought that might have been fairly obvious by now.

  3. tony says:

    no, the ratings for the Sylvester McCoy years dropped and the show was rested despite some excellent stories.

    ‘the happiness patrol’ was the one that had a pop at thatcher.

  4. Margarethe says:

    Most of the credit for how successful Doctor Who is now undoubtedly lies with Steven Moffat. Davies should get credit for precisely two things: (1) taking Moffat on board as his star writer (2) leaving the show and taking David Tennant with him. Over time, Davies’ era will continue to recede further into memory. It is very telling that it was only when Matt Smith came into the Tardis that the show became the world-wide hit that it is now. Moffat took the show out of the soap opera doldrums and made it truly exciting, intelligent and magical. This series is the best we’ve had since Matt Smith’s first and in Peter Capaldi, Moffat has struck gold twice in a row. Peter and Matt remain head and shoulders the best doctors we’ve ever had.

    • Opinionmine says:

      And yet David Tennant continues to be voted the favorite doctor or the second favorite doctor ( second only to Tom Baker) on all the polls and fan-based campaigns that have been centered on the show during ans since his tenure. Tennant is also in great demand by other series precisely because he is so universally loved.

      He continues, as well, to be the go-to interview that is sought by media sources doing a program on sci-fi in general or Doctor Who in particular because they know he pulls in viewers. Same can be said for the sci-fi conventions.

    • badblokebob says:

      This comment is utter poppycock. RTD and co ran the show during those early years — Moffat just popped in to write a couple of episodes. They may be the best individual episodes of those seasons, or they may not (each to their own and all that), but he wasn’t responsible for the overall scope, style, casting, etc etc. It was the huge success of the show in the UK under RTD that led other markets to be interested, and it was already breaking into America during the last year or two of the Tennant era — remember the absolutely huge reception Tennant received when he went to San Diego Comic-Con (I forget if that was for series 4 or his specials, but it was around that time). Matt Smith and Moffat arrived at just the right time to ride on the coattails of what RTD, Tennant and the rest had established. Obviously they did good — the show would’ve crashed and burned, rather than continued to increase, if they hadn’t — but to write off RTD just because it reached peak popularity after he left is idiotic.

    • SallyA says:

      Moffat was hardly the “star writer” during RTD’s era. He wrote only six episodes. RTD wrote 34 episodes. Laughing at the notion that Matt caused the show to become a worldwide phenomenon and not the Internet and BBC America and other international stations picking up the show. David Tennant out-polls Matt Smith consistently as the favorite “new” Who Doctor–and he’s been out of the role for five years. I doubt that he will fade from memory any time soon. lol

      • Tom says:

        Those six episodes are usually considered the best in their respective series though, except perhaps “Silence In The Library/The Forest of The Dead”.

        Moffat was the only writer who RTD didn’t edit.

        RTD was the head writer, but he knew who his best writer was.

  5. Russell T. had many, many brilliant episodes, and Moffat took it to the genius level. I personally love the interplay between characters, and the clues Moffat laid from one season to the next was in itself something to look forward to for anyone who loves to analyze and try to guess ahead.

  6. michael s says:

    While I think Moffat is the best showrunner DOCTOR WHO has ever had and television is a group creation, Russell T. Davies deserves most of the credit for the successful return of the Doctor.

  7. Pw says:

    Thatcher cancelled Dr. Who because it offended her right wing backers .. The episode was “Vengeance on Varos..

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