Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Forever young

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2011-08-24 Times Colonist.jpg


Steven Moffat, aka. "Dr. Moffat," the brains behind the re-imagined, revived, resurrected Doctor Who, did not go to last month's comic-Com (the annual pop culture convention in San Diego) because, as he will tell you with classic British understatement and a stiff upper lip, time travel is just not possible. And, besides, he couldn't be in two places at once.

"I didn't go, because some of us actually had to stay home and actually make the show," he said, turning to Matt Smith. "You could be dispensed with for longer than I."

Smith, the 28-year-old, Northampton, UK-born stage actor who has firmly put his own imprint on the 11th incarnation Of the Doctor, knows how to take Moffat's famously acidic humour in stride, so he gave it that Andy Capp look of: What, me worry? Smith and his Doctor Who partner-in-acting Karen Gillan are unlikely to forget their experience at Comic-Con any time soon, in any event. They were mobbed. Literally. The crowd noise was deafening. They were jostled, pawed at and virtually tackled. Now they know what it feels like to be rock stars.

Moffat, on the other hand, looked as if he might be in physical pain at the very prospect of being thrust in front of a large crowd on a brightly lit stage. Moffat agreed to fly to Los Angeles for last month's meeting of the TV Critics Association only because, well, his BBC masters told him to, and because he'd firmly put the finishing touches on Doctor Who's remaining episodes of the season.

Doctor Who returns Saturday with the first of six new episodes that will cap the current season. The firm new episode, Let's Kill Hitler, caused a stir at Comic.Con because of a scene in which the Doctor saves Hitler from certain death, in one of those time continuum paradoxes Doctor Who is famous for. Time travel has driven some of Doctor Who's most inventive episodes in the past, but it always comes with the moral dilemma that, by changing the past, even with the best of intents, one can inadvertently trigger unintended consequences. Moffat heard about the Comic-Com controversy back in the U.K., where, as he was quick to remind anyone willing to listen he was busy "actually [making] the show."

"I think we can unequivocally and controversially say Mat we are all against Hitler," Moffat said, keeping a straight face.

This season of Doctor Who has been unlike any other, Moffat admitted. Emotions are running high. Characters have hooked up who weren't supposed to hook up. And, driving it all is a not-so-subtle hint the Doctor might be mortal, after all.

Many argue that Moffat, a native of Paisley, Scotland, is currently the U.K.'s most ascendant screenwriter. He created the original 2000-04 version of the U.K. comedy Coupling, and the 2020 BBC miniseries Jekyll. He penned some of Doctor Who's most memorable episodes when playwright Russell T. Davies revived the long-running serial in 2005. He co-created BBC and PBS's Emmy-nominated miniseries Sherlock. And he wrote the original screenplay for Steven Spielberg's soon-to-be-released 3-D film, The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn.

Moffat, whom Jekyll actor James Nesbitt famously labelled "an eccentric, shy fellow" an interview with the Australian newspaper the Age, makes no apologies for Doctor Who's risk-taking, genre-defying gambles this season. Science fiction isn't noted for its heart and emotion as a rule, but then Moffat never was one for rules.

"It's been a Doctor Who tradition that we always start off with a big one-off romp that's jolly and happy, and you think, 'Oh, we're back on board with the Doctor and Amy and Rory,'" Moffat explained. "So instead of doing that, this time, we killed him. Dead. Everyone went, "My God what, he's actually going to die?' We started off on a different foot, and it shocked people. It excited them.

"That doesn't mean this is the new tradition. It's not something we'll do next year. Well shake it up in a completely different way next time. For now, though, that's what is about: keeping it lively, keeping it brand new, keeping it exciting.

This season, Amy Pond, Gillan's character, has become a mother, but that hasn't stopped her from putting her life on the line in the cause of the greater good.

"Mothers are kick-ass, aren't they?" Moffat said. "They've got the biggest kick-ass job in the world, raising children. She'll he just as kick-ass as ever when you see the new episodes."

Smith, for his part, has yet to tire of being labelled the youngest of the 11 actors to have played the Doctor in the show's 46 years to date. Christopher Eccleston played the Doctor for just one season, when Doctor Who was revived in 2005 after a six-year absence. David Tennant played the Doctor for three seasons, from 2006 to '08. Next season will be Smith's third, but he's not chafing for a change of clothes yet.

"I think there's an interesting contradiction of having a round face and an old soul," Smith said. "There's something very funny about it, on the one hand and, on the other, it allows you to reinvent being old." Smith has a favourite Doctor — anyone who has followed Doctor Who for any length of time does — but it's not the Doctor most, often cited.

"Patrick Troughton," Smith said simply, of the eccentric U.K. stage actor who replaced the original Doctor, William Hartnell, 1966 - 16 years before Smith was born.

Most longtime Doctor Who fans cite 1974's Tom Baker as their favourite. Troughton, who played the Doctor for four seasons from 1966 to '69, is an unusual choice.

"I think what was sort of wonderful about him was ho was weird and peculiar, without ever asking you to find him weird or peculiar." Smith explained. "And think that's quite a feat when you're playing the Doctor."

Regeneration — the Doctor periodically reinventing himself in an new image, played by a new actor — is the secret to Doctor Who's longevity, Moffat said, without meaning to belabour the obvious.

"It's brilliant. It's not our brilliance; it's the brilliance of them back in the 1960s, when they first solved this problem by deciding that you not only get a new actor for the role, you get a new Doctor. You're not obliging an actor to recreate the work of another, as they do with James Bond.

Doctor Who keeps regenerating its audience, too. A different generation watches each new incarnation of Doctor Who.

Moffat is already thinking about the next generation of Who followers. "I think they should start with Let's Kill Hitler," Moffat said with a straight face. "Because that's the next one on."

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  • APA 6th ed.: Strachan, Alex (2011-08-24). Forever young. Postmedia News .
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  • Chicago 15th ed.: Strachan, Alex. "Forever young." Postmedia News, edition, sec., 2011-08-24
  • Turabian: Strachan, Alex. "Forever young." Postmedia News, 2011-08-24, section, edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Forever young | url= | work=Postmedia News | pages= | date=2011-08-24 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=21 May 2024 }}</ref>
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  • Title: Doctor Who returns with twists
  • Publication: The Leader-Post
  • Date: 2011-08-24