As Doctor Who reaches the end of its current series, we speak to Steven Moffat, the man in charge of the show…
Congrats on your success at the TV Choice Awards (Doctor Who won Best Family Drama, Karen Gillan, who plays Amy Pond, won Best Actress and Steven’s other show, Sherlock, won Best Drama)!
Thanks. That must be the best haul I’ve ever had from an awards ceremony. For two shows! How cool am I?!
Doctor Who and Sherlock are so popular, but is it still reassuring to be picking up prizes?
Yes, very much so. Doctor Who and Sherlock are designed as mass appeal shows. They’re not really meant for the niche markets that sometimes I think they’re expected to be in. So it’s lovely to get a popular vote award – that’s what we’re after. I know it sounds crass, but we want volume. We are after lots of people loving it. We don’t want a little cult following, we want millions, otherwise we can’t continue.
At the end of last Saturday’s episode, Closing Time, we see River Song in the astronaut suit, ready to shoot the Doctor. Is it satisfying for you, as the show’s lead writer, seeing it all come together like that?
It is. We’ve always talked about our plot arcs on Doctor Who, but, as you know, in the past they’ve been very slight. This has been a real ongoing story and it’s nice to think everyone’s now going to get answers to all their questions. Well, all except one, because that’s the way I am! So, yes, that’s a lovely feeling.
Has weaving in a continuing storyline made the show tougher to write?
I don’t think it’s that much harder. It requires a bit of concentration, but the hardest thing will always be the individual standalone story – whether it’s part of the arc or whether it stands free of it. Just making that as entertaining and exciting as possible each time – whether I’m writing it or somebody else is – is the challenge.
You’ve told River Song’s story in reverse. Are you happy that works? Someone is bound to go through it all backwards to check!
Yes it does work. Mostly because it’s planned, but sometimes because I got lucky. About 60 per cent of it is to plan, but you’re always leaving 40 per cent to mess around with. So it can be difficult, but I set up from the very first time River appeared this idea that she tells lies. And she certainly does!
We understand that when you’re writing your scripts, you start at the beginning and work through to the end, which seems insane considering how complicated things get. Why do you do that?
I just feel as though it’s cheating to skip ahead to another scene. If you’re doing something intricate, you have to assure yourself you’re not always borrowing from the future, as it were. You have to be certain each moment is entertaining.
So, set the scene for the finale, The Marriage Of River Song. Or at least tell us what you want our readers to know!
Well, it’s pretty much all the answers in terms of what you saw at Lake Silencio and in The Impossible Astronaut. We also truly find out about River Song – who she is to the Doctor. There have been a whole lot of hints about a good man that she kills, and the reason why she’s in prison. She certainly seems to behave like a lover or a wife to him, and this is where we say what that’s all about. It’s a huge mad story, probably the maddest Doctor Who episode ever made. It’s a big roller coaster ride of Doctor Who madness in that sort of bombastic finale style. Loads of fun.
Does River’s story end here?
You’ll have to wait and see. You really will.
Hmmm. What about Amy and Rory? Is this the end for them?
Again, you’re just going to have to wait and see!