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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