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The Eleventh Hour

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  • Publication: SFX
  • Date: Apr. 2010
  • Author:
  • Page: 10
  • Language: English

Incoming Who boss Steven Moffat on the dawn of a new era

You won't miss a heartbeat, I can tell you that much. When the series begins, it just carries straight on from the end of 'The End Of Time'." David Tennant may have regenerated into a "Geronimo!"-screaming Matt Smith, and the production team outside the TARDIS may have changed, but new Doctor Who supremo Steven Moffat says he's picking up right where the Russell T Davies era left off.

"I think it's vital that people understand the Doctor's the same man," Moffat tells Red Alert. "Obviously if you put on a new suit or pair of shoes you feel different, so as the Doctor develops he does seem quite different, but the essential core of absolute Doctorness is there all the time. You write the Doctor as honestly and clearly as you can, then you give it to a very different actor, and of course it comes out differently - a different voice, a different physicality - but that's about letting Matt inhabit the part more than it's about writing a different man. From the Doctor's point of view, all that's happened is his body's rearranged itself a bit."

The latest rejig of flesh, bones and hair is the Doctor's youngest-ever incarnation, a 900-and-something genius in the body of a 27-year-old man. Blokes in their mid-20s aren't traditionally known for their immense wisdom and empathy, so does writing a character so old for an actor so young create problems? "It becomes a non-issue so instantly," Moffat says. "The Doctor certainly looks absurdly young for someone who's 900, but if you compare Matt to David in 'The Christmas Invasion', frankly he doesn't look any different - to an eight-year-old I assure you he'll just seem like yet another old man! And of all the things you would say are strange and fascinating and exciting about the Doctor, the fact that he might have a manner that belies his years is hardly the first one that would blast your eyeballs back, is it? You'd say he's mad and he's brilliant and he's wearing a stupid bow tie before you'd even think about that!"

The new series will see the new-look Doctor hooking up with new companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan). The RTD years made sure that the home lives of the Doctor's TARDIS buddies became almost as much a part of the show's DNA as aliens, but Moffat is tight-lipped about how much we'll see of Miss Pond's family. "I think you'll have to wait and see," he teases. "There isn't a formula that we follow, as there wasn't a formula that Russell followed. It's a story, it's not some kind of re-enactment of a haiku that's been invented already."

The Doctor and TARDIS aside, some links with the past will definitely remain. Murray Gold's supplying the show's music once more, while returnees in front of the camera include Alex Kingston's River Song, and classic Who foes the Daleks and the Weeping Angels. Moffat's not convinced, however, that alluding to the old days is essential for keeping viewers hooked. "You could do a whole series of Doctor Who that's absolutely brand new, with not one single reference to the past, and people would barely notice that you'd done it," he says. "It's just about whether there's stuff that's worth bringing back. There's a sort of dichotomy in Doctor Who. In some ways the ideal Doctor Who story is the one where every single thing the Doctor encounters is something he hasn't seen before. That sort of maximises the opportunities that the format gives you. On the other hand, it's absolutely classic and brilliant if the Doctor re-encounters his most popular enemies, so yes, you bring back the Daleks, yes, you bring back the Weeping Angels and we're very excited when we do. But by God you make sure you've got a good story to make them worth bringing back again."

But you can't escape the feeling that with a new Doctor, companion and showrunner not to mention a new-look TARDIS and show logo - the Smith/Moffat era could be rather different to the one that ended when Doctor Ten told us he didn't want to go. "I think the actual core of the series has remained so consistent since the 1960s, that you worry about trying to make the style of each adventure different, rather than the overall style of the show. But you refresh things and change things to keep them new - nothing is more important when a show is as ancient as this one. I always want to make the eight-year-olds feel like it's theirs, that this version is brand new and just unwrapped for them. One of the things that Doctor Who has done throughout its life is to periodically, and with no particular reason other than the sheer hell of it, completely renew itself. It's not a coincidence that a show that's done that has lasted for 40 odd years, because that's how you survive. You survive by change for change's sake."

The new series of Doctor Who comes to BBC One this spring.


Men with Pen

Who's writing the new series?


Steven Moffat

Who's new main man has been a Hugo Award magnet with "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances", "The Girl In The Fireplace", "Blink" and "Silence In The Library"! "Forest Of The Dead" (okay, so the last story was "only" nominated, but that's still pretty good). This year he's got six episodes to try and repeat the feat, including the first two stories of the Matt Smith era, a two-parter across episodes four and five and (we're assuming) the two-part series finale.


Mark Gatiss

The League Of Gentlemen-er wrote "The Unquiet Dead" and "The Idiot's Lantern" during the RTD era, and provides episode three for the new series. He's also teaming up with Moffat for the Beeb's new take on Sherlock Holmes.


Gareth Roberts

Another writer carried over from the Tennant years, Roberts' Who CV includes "The Shakespeare Code", "The Unicorn And The Wasp" and a co-scripting credit on "Planet Of The Dead".


Chris Chibnall

Torchwood's former lead writer (and now showrunner on ITV1's Law & Order UK) wrote the 24-inspired "42" for new-Who's third series. This year he gets a two-parter (episodes eight and nine).


Richard Curtis

The king of the rom-com had already blabbed about his Who gig, so this doesn't seem as leftfield a choice as it once did. Curtis is returning to the historical furrow he ploughed to great success in Blackadder with a story about Vincent Van Gogh.


Toby Whithouse

The Being Human creator gets his second crack at Doctor Who, following series two's "School Reunion", which featured the return of robot dog K-9. Apparently, this year's offering involves vampires, which should be right up his street.


Simon Nye

Arguably the most surprising addition to the writers line-up is the creator of the megahit sitcom Men Behaving Badly and the deserved-to-be-a-megahit How Do You Want Me?.


Caption: Matt Smith in episode one of the new series, with Karen Gillan.

Caption: Dressed up and somewhere to go: Matt and Karen relax between takes.

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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=The Eleventh Hour | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/The_Eleventh_Hour | work=SFX | pages=10 | date=Apr. 2010 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=1 March 2024 }}</ref>
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