SciFi Friday: Approaching the Moffat Era for Doctor Who

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Journey’s End, the season finale of Doctor Who and the final regular episode under Russell T. Davies aired Friday on the Science Fiction channel. My comments on the episode were previously posted here. Davies will still be doing a series of specials while David Tennant is performing in Hamlet, with the series resuming on a regular basis in 2010 under Steven Moffat. Among the episodes written by Moffett are the Hugo-award winners The Girl in the Fireplace, The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances, and Nebula award winner (as well as nominee for this year’s Hugo award) Blink.

Moffat is working with Davies so that the specials lead into his planned episodes according to SciFi Wire.

“It’s all happening in this head,” Moffat said in an interview at Comic-Con International in San Diego on July 23. “I know where I want it to start. I don’t mean to make it sound very grand. It’s very simple, just where I want it to be when it takes off. So [Russell's] arranged for that.”

Moffat, who has written some of the most popular episodes of the new series so far, said that his new role as executive producer will require him to approach writing from an entirely different perspective.

“There are a bunch of things I’ve always wanted to see in Doctor Who, yes, but now it’s slightly different–it’s very different in my new position,” Moffat said. “Obviously, I only turned up once a year, and practically my brief was to write, in effect, the Moffat episode–the one that’s very different, the one that’s a bit timey-wimey or a bit scary. And that’s all they were expecting. And they would just tell me, ‘Go, and do your thing.’ So I would do my Moffat-y thing–whatever the f–k that is–in a very, very pronounced way. But you couldn’t have a whole series like that. If you started a series with ‘Silence of the Library’ or ‘Blink,’ people would turn off. You can’t have that as the first episode. It’s just too grim. So it’s different contemplating it from this position, very, very different.”

The series will also continue to embrace a wide range of tones and genres, Moffat said. Rather than adapting the show to his particular writing style, he looks forward to experimenting with different voices to maintain the show’s variety.

Moffat discussed his plans for Doctor Who in an interview with IO9. One of the questions dealt with how future companions might be portrayed compared to the companions in the past few seasons:

One of the great innovations of the Russell T. Davies era was the idea of the companion being connected to her home and family, and keeping the family as a supporting cast. How do you keep that fresh with a succession of new companions?

You change everything, all the time. Even that element of the show has changed radically over the past four years… You don’t worry about doing things radically, in an a new way… [You] do what tells the story… It was very important that Rose, Jackie and Mickey were clear, developed characters. [When the show started] the Doctor was a ridiculous guide. [Audiences didn't] understand who he is and what he’s supposed to be. But [now] it’s very different, because the Doctor is the most familiar character in the show. [Originally] we knew Rose much better than the Doctor, and now we know the Doctor better than we know Rose. And now we see Rose from the Doctor’s point of view, instead of seeing the Doctor from Rose’s point of view. You have to stay alive and stay lively, and Doctor Who is about change. Change is part of Doctor Who‘s formula. It must change.

Working on Doctor Who was Moffat’s childhood dream, and this was such a high priority for him that he turned down a £500,000 movie deal with Steven Spielberg so he could take the job:

Moffat said: ‘I know a lot of people won’t understand it but I’ve been dreaming about writing for Doctor Who since I was seven.

‘There are no bad feelings between Spielberg and me, but Doctor Who has to come before Hollywood.

‘The show has enjoyed a renaissance. I am working on scripts to be filmed next year. Russell T. Davies is doing four specials next and then my shows will begin. The show is all-consuming.’

coupling

This isn’t the first time that Moffat gave up something in order to work on Doctor Who. He previously wrote the British sit-com Coupling. His interest in Doctor Who could be seen in the series as the male lead is named Steven Tayor, who had also been the name of a character on Doctor Who. An early second season episode had a brief reference to Daleks. Moffat wrote the series for four season, but turned down an offer to write a fifth season due to being busy with other projects, including his work on Doctor Who.

I recently started watching Coupling and highly recommend the show. In addition to being available on DVD’s it is being shown on BBC America. NBC had planned to have an American version replace Friends when it completed its run but it did not last long due to both poor adaptations and protests by some affiliates with the manner in which the episodes dealt with sex. The scripts were based upon the original scripts but execution was far inferior to the original. The BBC episodes also lack the commercial breaks of the American episodes, allowing more time for the plots to play out.

The extra time might be important as, while the show is often compared to Friends, Moffat was influenced even more by SeinfeldCoupling manages to combine the best of Friends, Seinfeld, and Sex and the City. Instead of dealing with “nothing” as Seinfeld did, it deals with more exclusively with relationships and sex, but many characteristics of Seinfeld can be seen in the writing. This includes the manner in which topics are discussed, with some of the conversations sounding like they could be between Jerry and George. Coupling often takes this further with the male and female characters having two parallel conversations about the same situation, with quite different views. Coupling is also much like Seinfeld in the manner in which two or three different stories might be told during the episode which come together at the end in an unexpected manner.

While some are predicting that episodes of Doctor Who under Moffat will be scarier episodes such as those he has written previously, seeing his work on Coupling demonstrates the versatility of his talent. Coupling is quite different from Doctor Who, but should The Doctor and Captain Jack get together at a pub, Moffat is capable of writing quite interesting dialog between them. He also has the ability to write about relationships with The Doctor’s future companions which probably would not be allowed considering the appeal of Doctor Who to younger viewers.

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