Steven Moffat Doctor Who series 7 part 2 press launch Q&A

News Simon Brew 18 Mar 2013 - 07:10

The Ice Warriors, directors, The Bells Of St John and all things Doctor Who. Steven Moffat has been chatting about the lot...

Last Friday, the BBC held a small press launch for the return of Doctor Who, which heads back to our screens on Saturday 30th March with The Bells Of St John. Our spoiler-free review of the episode can be found here.

Once the episode was over, there was a Q&A session, which for the most part was an exercise, as all concerned admitted, in saying a lot without actually giving anything away. As such, Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman and Steven Moffat were quizzed on such matters as to whether they were on Twitter, plans for the 50th anniversary of the show, and how things were going.

So here's what Steven Moffat had to say...

On The Bells Of St John...

We were talking about the fact we were going to have to do a modern day story to introduce Jenna yet again. But this time, not kill her. And Marcus Wilson, our producer, said, "let’s do it as a proper London thriller"

So it's as close as we can get ... to James Bond. It’s a very, very Doctor Who-ized version of that.

On the pacing of Doctor Who...

Of course it’s got faster down the years. But the truth is all television has. If you look at old Doctor Who compared to other television shows at the time, it was faster. So, yes, you do try and go madly fast in Doctor Who. More stuff, more colour and more sooner all the time.

On the first three episodes of Doctor Who series 7 part 2....

Actually can I just tell you that I think what we’ve got, in effect, this year is three opening episodes. The next two are fast-paced nail biters as well. So as normal we get one big, super-fast mad one at the beginning and settle down. But we don’t settle down for ages in this one. It’s like having three episode ones in a row.

On Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS...

You will go to the heart of the TARDIS. You will see more of the TARDIS more properly than you’ve ever seen it before. It’s all that stuff.

I remember years ago in the Radio Times there was a little article saying "in this week’s episode the Doctor dodges the Sontarans through the many rooms of the TARDIS". I could not wait for Saturday. But there was a problem with the scenery or something and they shot it all in a disused hospital. And it was so disappointing. And I thought that day, "some day, somehow, I will do what I can to get into television and do that properly!"

And that worked out. So Michael Pickwoad [Doctor Who production designer] goes mad and gives us the TARDIS and gives us all manner of things.

On the balance between pleasing fans and keeping the show accessible...

It’s been a long time since we’ve bothered, really, hasn’t it?

I think there was one problem within the first year when it came back. Because I think everyone just became a fan. And the truth is people stop me in the street with the most abstruse questions. And they’re real people. They’re not fans like me. And I’m thinking, "you’re not supposed to know that stuff. That’s supposed to be mine!"

To be honest, it feels like everyone’s a fan. The level of knowledge is very intense. But it’s very, very easy to keep Doctor Who accessible because it’s designed to be. The format can be summed up in such a short sentence, even after all this time. It’s a man who can travel anywhere in time and space in a box that’s bigger on the inside. We’re done. That’s all you need to know. Everything else you can pick it up.

People quite often ask me, usually Americans, "what’s a good jumping on point?" And you say "that’s like asking, what’s a good James Bond film to start with?" They’re all fine. You’ll get it. I don’t think it’s difficult.

It’s surprising how much the general audience want the detail and the continuity and the call backs to their childhood, because we all remember it.

Then we got a question in ourselves...

You talked about television has got faster over the years and I was taken at how well directed that episode was. The scale of intensity of what directors are doing with television at the moment has just been on a real roll for the last ten years or so. I’m wondering where you’re finding your directors and what kind of things you’re looking for. Because we’ve talked about how Jenna’s jumped into the show, but you’re bringing lots of new directors and talent in as well?

Where do we find them? We find directors like Colm [McCarthy] there, sitting right behind you, with ambition, not just to get the show made but to show off a bit. That’s what you’re looking for. Directors who – and it's the same with Sherlock – actually actively want to impress you. They’re not just there to get the show done in the time. Which is actually quite difficult in itself. But ones who are really ambitious – storytellers.

And we make no demands on Doctor Who for it to be the same every week. We are saying "this one’s your one. Make it your one".  

We say that to the writers as well. Treat it like you own it. And that’s really important. So there’s a category of writer and a category of director – and that category is called talented, I would say – where they leap at that. They say "his is mine. Right now it belongs to me and I can do what I like with it". That’s what we want. People with authorial ambition.

On why he's not on Twitter anymore...

The trouble is, it does take up your time when you start looking at it. When I sit at that computer I need as few distractions as possible. So I removed it from my life.

I think it’s a fascinating thing Twitter. And as a means of promoting something it’s brilliant, extraordinary. The trouble with it…I think if you’re involved in something like Doctor Who [and] go on it - and I haven’t done this - [then you would need to] go on with a different name. Because then you can just talk to people as opposed to everybody asking you "how does Sherlock survive?" or something. It gets a bit tedious after a while.

On the return of The Ice Warriors....

Oddly enough, I slightly resisted them.

First of all, I don’t think we still have to go into the back catalogue of the old show anymore. Originally we did that to affirm that this new thing really was that old thing. Now that both shows are merged together and nobody really bothers to make a distinction between them anymore, we don’t really need to do that. And I always slightly thought they’re slow moving and you can’t hear what they’re saying. Is that the archetypal slightly silly monster?

But then Mark [Gatiss] had been going on and on about it during a phone call which was meant to be about Sherlock, [and] he started pitching this idea…a couple of very, very clever ideas of what we could do with an Ice Warrior. And I went for it at that point.

But we were very concerned, as you’ll have seen in the clips, that that design hasn’t been seen enough to be updated in a way. So it’s a super version of the original. Sometimes you think a design should be upgraded because it’s so familiar. That one is slightly less familiar so you will be seeing the Ice Warrior in a familar form but with at least one big surprise.

Doctor Who returns on Saturday 30th March 2013.

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Is the surprise with the ice warriors is that they'll take their helmets off and go from being, er, cool to looking a bit rubbish?

They'll have a third eye!

Someone should have asked why we're getting one season spread over 2 years, and if the next season will start later this year like it's supposed to, or are we really only getting the anniversary & xmas specials once season 7/33 is done.

Thank you sir. That genuinely made me LOL

Very nice. I expect to be entertained well by this show, as usual.

Were there any questions about issues with the show? Such as the status of Matt Smith beyond this season, the sudden departure of the producer, whether half-seasons will continue to be presented as full seasons, whether there is more to the 50th anniversary than the special and docudrama, and so on.

Surely someone must have asked this? It's probably the question a fan would have asked? I class myself as quite keen on Dr Who but I find the current "drought" of who a bit annoying. If they did the same with American shows I like such as Elementary, Dexter, or The Mentalist, it would be just as annoying. My understanding is that 2013 is going to be 1 50th special and 1 christmas special. We might get another special or two if we're lucky, I'd just like a Series 8.

The first defence such as it is, is that it takes most of the year to film ect ect. In the States they sign you on a contract committing you to seven series of 20+ episodes. Then you get on with it. When I hear Matt Smith moaning about the time it takes, he seems to forget that it's Who that made him. He'd been a supporting actor in obscure TV drama and a non headlining Theatre Actor before that. He only has these new opportuniuties because of Who.

The second defence is cost. Well Russell managed to get it done, so I don't see why Moff can't. Personally if I were the BBC I'd want 14 episodes + Christmas special as a minimum. It's too big a hit not to make that much. I'd also tie the lead actor down to a contract that they keep him for 4-5 years with a two year extension and then they can go. If Tennant's "Rex is not your lawyer" had been a hit he'd of been tied down to a 7 series contract. From Who's point of view they need something similiar. It's been a theme of the show that the lead actor (William Hartnell and Tom Baker apart) has gone too soon. Let's face it Tennant was just hitting his peak when he left.

American shows make double the amount of shows that Who puts out and they more than cope. I'm not saying it's not hard work, but it's doable. Therefore it should be done. I do wonder if there is not some trouble at Mill? From the days of Chris Eccleston there have been rumours that Who is not always a happy ship and the stuff in private eye and Moff's deputies resigning all looked a bit wibbly wobbly to quote the The Time Lord.

exactly my thoughts for the last year or so. there is something wrong, but they wont say what. its not budget because they can make thirteen merlins and thirteen of the new jason series etc. Its moffat I think, he has taken on too much and cant cope. Rtd managed to do Torchwood Sarah Jane and Who as well. There are many rumours to that effect. If Matt Smith leaves after the Christmas special then he is a fool. David Tennants career has not gone on to bigger and better things and is jobbing about in crap dull kitchen sink dramas and voice over work. He failed to break America , even though he was popular as the Doctor. Anyway they are not going to tell us whats what. We will just have to watch what we get and enjoy that and complain about things to the Bbc until someone listens.

Those would be kind of journalist questions, wouldn't they?

Matt Smith is terrific -- I actually may like his Doctor more than Tennant's, and I never expected that because I thought Tennant was fantastic -- but he's an acquired taste. I'm afraid that Hollywood will have trouble getting beyond the lantern jaw. He would need very clever positioning to break into the US market beyond Doctor Who.

Most of the people at these events appreciate that they've been invited in a promotional capacity rather than an investigative one,and i think advance previews of the first episodes of a new series tend to be quite celebratory so there's little chance of these kind of questions being asked,really.It's not even the kind of stuff they're there to write about.Did notice in a transcript of the head of drama's introduction of the screening elsewhere that he made a point of praising the work ethic of Moffat and the production crew before it was shown which indicates that the people in charge at the BBC are very aware of the criticism around online and that Moffat is being blamed.

He was abused on Twitter that's why he is not on it anymore and I hope we get a full season of Who in 2014

Twitter is a big part of the sharp decline of media culture.

Well, it's not really investigative to ask an obvious question or two. It's sort of the basic minimum to avoid simply being a marketing adjunct.

It's also the job of a PR person to be able to handle an obvious question or two.

One needn't get into a debate with the PR folk to ask what is the policy on seasons now and what is the status of Matt Smith.

Investigative would be actually, you know, tracking down some answers from people on the production/finance/talent side of things.

>Most of the people at these events appreciate that they've been invited in a promotional capacity rather than an investigative one,

Matt's said in many interviews that he gets a bit bored with being questioned about his future so i think it's completely understandable that some people decided not to ask that question.He just answered it on the appearance he made on Jonathan Ross' programme anyway and his answer would have been exactly the same at the preview screening.I'm not sure anybody involved in making Doctor Who can actually answer about what they're commissioned to make unless the BBC Has decided it wants to make that information available,

Maybe it's just a couple of questions for the BBC rep(s) then.

I'm not suggesting that the event be turned into an inquisition on these nevertheless all too important matters, just that questions should be posed and answers elicited to gain the state of play.

Let the talent focus on the show itself.

He is indeed terrific. And your right, hollywood is not going to get over how he looks. He is going to end up as the weirdo, murder etc. He can act but his looks would limit it. He reminds me of Michael J Pollard in some ways, he is a good actor, funny but weird to look at and he was placed into roles that fitted his oddness. What can you do.. It will depend on how well his film does. If it bombs he is not going to want to leave in a hurry. I just hope he is sensible and does not get too up himself. He needs to look at what happened to Tennant. He left far too soon. It wont help mind you, if we only get six episodes a year. It will leave him time to do other things, but there comes apoint when not enough is going on, or being made, and he might not think its worth doing anymore......

It's funny because I hadn't seen the show he was in so the first time I saw him was in a newspaper photo and I thought, hmm, really? But he won me over in about the first five minutes of Eleventh Hour.

Now I think he's a cool-looking guy. (I don't think I'd ever describe Michael J. Pollard as cool-looking, exactly, though he was a hell of a character actor, usually fairly creepy as in Bonnie and Clyde.) But that's probably because he comes with all the associations now.

As it is, he has plenty of time to do other projects now. I hope he's able to take advantage of it and hope his movie catches on.

Still think Zygons would have been better. Anyways, pretty excited now for this season, and I'm happy to hear that seeing the inside of the TARDIS is as much his dream as it has been ours. Also, cool to hear him talking about the directors and writers

Always thought the Zygons or Rutans would be really effective in a post regeneration story,it just fascinates me that it's such a traumatic process for the Doctor to change his shape and how he can't avoid changing his personality when it happens yet less advanced species like Zygons or Rutans can do it so easily. Would be quite crazy if the Doctor was stranded on a planet of shape changers when he was trying to stabilise after he regenerates.I'd love to see a Krynoid saturated jungle planet where the last humanoids are struggling to survive too.

I don't get how it could be Moffat struggling to cope. Admittedly, I don't quite understand how the BBC funding works, but if that were the case, you're suggesting they have all this Doctor Who money they'd love to spend but it just sits in the corner because Moffat's to slow at his job? Seems unlikely. Besides, Doctor Who is probably the easiest show in the world - aside from the likes of The Twilight Zone - to simply insert a couple of one-off episodes at any point; you'd just nab a couple of extra writers and off you go.
If Moffat was that much of a problem, couldn't they simply install a new showrunner? I don't see why they'd be beholden to him. It may be that the BBC simply wants to have a selection of sci-fi/fantasy shows rather than the one big seller, which is why they commission the likes of Merlin and Jason.

So, how about another issue or two?

Presence of past Doctors in the special? Past companions? Captain Jack Harkness?

Well what can I say. All I am doing is putting facts and rumours together and trying to come up with answers. How does the funding work? Are you an American by any chance? The people in the Uk have to pay for a Tv Licence to watch or own a television. You have to pay, there is no choice if you have a Tv in the house. At the moment its £145 a year. That money goes to the BBC and the deal is they use it to make Tv programs on BBC1 / 2 /3 /4 and Radio 1 + 2 etc. The other channels like ITV are funded by adverts and you do not need a licence to view them or have to pay for them, but you still need the licence because of the BBC. Mental isn't it?

Anyway the BBC is not supposed to show adverts on it, but now spends about five minutes between each show that's on, showing adverts for its own programs that are on later tonight / coming soon etc. And they are even stupid enough to show an advert for what's coming next, even though the show is about to start! For example if you are one of the people that watches Eastenders, you could turn your TV on at 8pm on a Monday, the time Eastenders is about to start, and right before the show begins, they show an advert for what is going to be happening in it, then an advert for what's on after it and and so on.. Stupid Stupid, Stupid.

The excuse they give for this when questioned is that because there are so many channels now, they have to keep doing the adverts in case you switch over to something else, or have forgotten what's on next or don't know, even though you just turned the Tv on to watch it. They also now squash the credits up into a little window at the end of each show, and show adverts for more programs in another part of the screen and talk over the credits, so if you have enjoyed the program you just watched, you cant see who was in it , who directed it, and who everyone is. Its so annoying its unreal.

Anyway the money for everything the BBC sells in the shops, Doctor Who Dvds, books of the show, toys etc all goes back to the BBC and goes into its pocket to spend as they see fit. It does not go back to the budget of the show in question. So if they make a million pounds selling DvDs of the whole season of Doctor Who that's just been on Tv that year, it goes towards other crap like Eastenders etc.

There is nothing you can do about any of it, and you have to pay for it all, and hope they make something that you might want to watch. If you are reading this and American I hope this helps to explain it. If your British I am sorry for ranting on again!

All I can do is post things as I see them and try to make sense of it. There is something going on behind the scenes over the last two years that they are not telling us. I don't know what that is, but there is no logical explanation as to why they would say there is going to be more Who than ever this year and then deliver less. Or say its going to start going out in September again, and then put it on in March. Or to say "don't believe all the nonsense about there only being a single one hour special" and then only make a single one hour special, because Mat Smith is off to do a film, and wont be around to film anything other than the said one hour special. So there may be repeats of old stuff or documentaries etc but no more of the proper tv series other then the eight episodes we should have had last year and the special.

On other web sites I keep reading stories from people that live in Cardiff and go to watch the filming and talk to people, and people that supposedly work on the show itself as prop people, runners etc that keep saying that the BBC wants 13 episodes a year and Moffat cant seem to deliver. Either he has writers block, or is a control freak that wont let other people fill out the episode numbers with other stories, or its something else. He is too busy with Sherlock, or worn out or whatever....It changes all the time depending on what you read and hear, and non of it may be true, or some of it. But no one is saying anything officially. It might all be utter rubbish. But there just seems to be too many stories like this now, for there not to be some grain of truth in it all somewhere. They don't want to get rid of Moffat because what he does do is very good. And I agree it is. But there is something weird going on, no doubt and I don't like it, and no matter what anyone says less episodes per year is not a good thing. You can all read this and look at what you can see and make your own minds up.

I have just decided to let them get on with it as I am sick of all the rumours and crap the BBC keeps spouting. And if all we get is the 8 shows and an hour special, because this looks exactly like the situation and what fits, I am going to be very angry and I will never forgive the BBC. Fair enough make less stuff last year for one year only. But don't do it for two years in a row and certainly don't do it in the 50th Year. And certainly don't spout all this rubbish about Autumn, more Who than ever and then go and do the exact Opposite!

If I were at that press conference, I would have asked if the little girl (CAL) from "Silence in the Library" had any relation to Clara. I mean, she flat out states "Aren't I a clever girl?" That seems to be Clara's favourite adjective.

Doctor Who? 11th doctor's truth and death to be "The Other"? Get the karma back from the Cartmel Masterplan and save doctor who history. The show could be on for another 100 years if its whole seems profitable.

please please please start doing more than 13 episodes of doctor who it is simply unfair to expect doctor who fans to survive on 13 thank you

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