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Steven's the man who gives the Doctor orders

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Former English teacher started writing Who episodes - then ended up running whole show


IN 1966, young Steven Moffat was watching Doctor Who with his family in Paisley and noticed that the time traveller was no longer a white haired old man.

Now, an older Steven Moffat is responsible for running Doctor Who.

Since Matt Smith took over as the Time Lord on January 1, 2010, all of his escapades have been overseen by Steven in his capacity as executive producer on Doctor Who.

But his connection with the show goes back to 1966. He said: "My first memory of watching Doctor Who, although it wasn't the first time I'd seen it, was watching the second episode of The Power of the Daleks, as I can remember asking my father where Doctor Who had gone, as he clearly wasn't in it.

"I thought the actor on the screen was far too young to be the Doctor. I'd obviously been watching it beforehand, as I recognised that, quite clearly, he had changed."

A former English teacher, Steven took up television writing, creating the cult teen drama series Press Gang. This was followed by sitcom Joking Apart, s Coupling and Chalk. Although not actively involved with Doctor Who fandom over the years, he knew various other fans who were professionals in the TV industry, including Russell T Davies, who was asked to bring the show back on TV in 2003.

He later wrote a two-part story, The Empty Child, shown in 2005.

Steven said: "Once it was announced the show was coming back, I emailed Russell, congratulating him, partly because I knew him, and to make sure he knew my email address!

"At that point, he said, if it went to more than six episodes, then he'd like me to do some. I was thrilled for him, and then in the December, I got a phone call from my agent saying they wanted me to do a two-parter."

That first series of the 21st century, starring Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, with Billie Piper as his companion Rose Tyler, was a massive hit with the viewing public.

"It was great," recalled Steven. "I was just overwhelmed by the fact the show was back and was so huge, and we were getting used to the idea of Doctor Who being huge. My particular memories of The Empty Child are tied in with that.

"I was pleased that people liked my story - history hasn't conferred any special status on it, it was just part of huge hit. I was just pleased it wasn't a screw-up. I was quite late in the run, and people might have thought mine was the disappointing one."

But just after the first episode of the new Doctor Who was shown on air, came the bombshell that Eccleston was leaving the show after a year, and his successor would be another Paisley man, David Tennant.

Looking back, Steven said: "Almost immediately, David was the new Doctor, which was alarming at the time. We've just established the Doctor and Chris was so good - then Doctor Who suddenly gets its first earthquake.

"At that point, we thought Chris and Billie were both leaving. It was the biggest hit on telly and, thankfully, they were able to keep Billie, who was in those days equally the star of the show.

"David had established very early on that regeneration is how it works - the fact the Doctor had changed at the end of the first season meant it was never a problem - you can switch lead actors, which is vital to Doctor Who's longevity." Steven continued to write a story a year for Doctor Who, with The Girl in the Fireplace for Tennant's first season, followed by Blink, and the two-part Silence in the Library.

Each of his stories was hugely popular, and when Davies decided to leave the role of executive producer, Steven was the obvious choice as his successor, being sounded out about the job by BBC executive Jane Tranter.

He laughed: "I sort of was rather blind to the fact for a while. Jane Tranter said to me at the Voyage of the Damned read-through, 'We must have a meeting to discuss the next five years,' and I thought she meant generally with my career in television. It didn't occur to me she specifically meant Doctor Who.

"Then there was an email from Russell sometime around 2008. It was just a matey email to ask if I would consider taking it over - not that it was in his power to decide.

"It was a very long email saying why I should. There was a very long period of contemplation afterwards - it took me several months to decide. The workload is stupefying, as is the pressure."

Steven was hugely popular with fans but knew that the job of running the show would see a lot of abuse come his way, which happened with immediate predecessor Russell T Davies and the show's 80s producer, John Nathan-Turner.

Steve admitted: "I'd already had a pretty good gig on Doctor Who, which I would have to give up. I would come in once a year and, without wanting to sound immodest, do a quite popular story. That's a good gig on Doctor Who and everybody loves you.

"But if you are the person who runs Doctor Who, it's more complex - look at JNT and Russell - the fans have a particular response to whoever is in charge. The majority are lovely but there's a very vocal small number of people - who could all fit into one pub - who get a bit aggressive."

One of Steven's first jobs was to find a new leading man, after the departure of Tennant, who had become arguably the most popular Doctor since Tom Baker.

thi k "I think everybody else was more worried about it than I was," recalled Steven. "Everyone thought, 'How can we follow David?' I knew when we were casting the 11th Doctor, as long as we got somebody good, it would be fine.

"Matt was absolutely perfect at that point - he was an unknown face but was somebody widely tipped to be a star in the industry.

"When he left his drama course, he had never had a day out of work - he was always going to be a star."

November 23 sees Doctor Who mark its 50th anniversary with a special episode, The Day of the Doctor, which unites Matt Smith with David Tennant, and guest stars John Hurt as a mysterious "other" Doctor, leading fans to speculate his is a "lost" incarnation, between Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor and Christopher Eccleston's Ninth.

Work is now under way on the eighth series of the revived Doctor Who, starring another Scot, Peter Capaldi, as the new, 12th Time Lord. Steven said: "It hardly seems any time since we were doing it before. It's very exciting."

Peter Capaldi The Doctor 2013-tor surprise.

WHEN the BBC announced the 12th Doctor was going to be Peter Capaldi, it was a real Although he was the bookies' favourite, expected the Glaswegian - famous for foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker in The Thick It - would really play the part.

e, few playing hick Of n Capaldi was executive producer Steven Moffat's only choice, casting the 55-year-old as the oldest actor to play the Time Lord since William Hartnell.

Capaldi is delighted to have finally got his hands on the TARDIS key, after guest appearances as other characters in Doctor Who and Torchwood.

Saul Metzstein Director - Series 7 GLASWEGIAN Saul Metzstein has had dinosaurs, sun and snowmen in the space of a few months on Doctor Who.

Saul, who directed six of the 14 episodes in the show's seventh series, has been given some really technical challenges to deal with.

But he was delighted to take them on.

He said: "It can physically be very tough, as you shoot a hell of a lot very quickly.

"But you're working with a very good, experienced crew, which makes it easier, and there's Matt Smith, who's very good at what he does.

"If you don't have a good idea of what to do, once you've seen Matt Smith doing his lines and running around the set, you very quickly get an idea.

"I like to have lots of camera movement, which works well with the show. You don't do many scenes that are contemporary-based street or interiors. "You can get away with quite a lot of www.stuff.No one knows what robots running around a spaceship, firing at a triceratops look like!" After tackling Dinosaurs On a Spaceship, Saul took the Doctor to A Town Called Mercy.

"It was fantastic in Spain. It was a proper set from a proper Western, so you're going to have fantastic production values straight away. And if you've seen a few Westerns then you're going to know how to do them - point the camera in any direction, and it's a Western.

"When you have alien planets, you have very limited angles to hide the fact you are not really shooting on an alien planet.

"In a way, the biggest problem we had was with Welsh crew getting sunburnt."

The director, from Glasgow's west end, was given the responsibility of directing the 2012 Who Christmas special, The Snowmen, written by fellow Scot Steven Moffat.

He said: "If I read something that's well-written, I'm more than happy to say, 'I'll direct it!' This was the first time I'd directed one of Steven's scripts. He writes fantastic, funny stuff, which I like - I like directing funny things.

"Steven's got a very clear line and he very much knows what the programme is about.

"If you're directing something and you come across a problem, you might come up with what you think is a good solution. But Steven will come up with something that's brilliant and give you a very clever solution.

"The Christmas special was fun to do, but the only problem I had was shooting it in the middle of summer! Again, that's typical Doctor Who."

Matt Smith The Doctor 2010-13


GRAPHIC: COOL CUSTOMERF A creepy snowman from 2012's Christmas special, directed by Saul Metzstein

BEHIND THE CAMERA Glaswegian Saul Metzstein has directed many episodes

FAN FAVOURITE Steven Moffat wrote two of ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston's most popular episodes

TIME TEAM Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman are the current TARDIS crew

EXCITED Steven is executive producer of the hit sci-fi series

SUPER SONIC Steven Moffat cast Matt Smith as David Tennant's successor

BACK TO SCHOOL Steven Moffat and a Cyberman visited his sister Gillian Penny at Gavinburn Primary in Glasgow

PAISLEY PATTERN Fellow Paisley Buddie David Tennant in Steven's creepy Silence in the Library story

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