Steven Moffat reveals the most 'terrifying' thing he ever wrote for Who

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May 16, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT

Steven Moffat's got plenty of experience carrying the burden of Doctor Who's legacy by now, but he admits one story in particular was the hardest thing he's ever done on the show.

Moffat is now entering his fourth season (not including a year of specials) as the head writer of the venerable British sci-fi series. In his time steering the TARDIS, he's seen the show reach new levels of success outside of its native country (remember the dark ages when we couldn't see Doctor Who in America on the same day it aired in Britain?), helped make Matt Smith and Karen Gillan into stars, shepherded the show through its 50th anniversary and, now, is preparing to usher in a new era with Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor.

Through it all, Moffat's remained a divisive figure among Who fans, and though at times he seems to enjoy having a bit of a laugh in the face of his critics, in a recent interview with Radio Times, he revealed that he does sometimes get scared while working on the show, particularly when he's working on something that will be a major piece of Who history. So, what project has freaked him out the most?

“I don’t think I’ve ever worked on anything that was as difficult, terrifying and as much of a responsibility as writing the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who. I wanted everybody to love it. I knew that was impossible, but I wanted people – from those who had never seen it, to the absolute diehard fans who hate every episode I’ve written – to love it. So it was monstrously stressful and very hard: the uncastable cast, the impossible brief, the unwritable script…

“I can remember sitting with my wife saying, 'I can’t tell if it’s good any more, it could be rubbish – I’ll have to leave the country. I’ll have to fake my own death.' And then going for a meeting with the producers the week I was meant to hand the script in, and we were still trying to assemble the cast. We all just sat there, thinking, 'This is impossible, this can’t ever work!'"

It's understandable that The Day of the Doctor would be the most intimdating thing Moffat's ever worked on in the world of Doctor Who. It could, after all, go down in history as the most important think he'll ever write for the show. So, how did he finally figure it out? By narrowing down the one drastic event that would require three Doctors to meet.

“All of these problems, of course, had been 50 years in the making. There was, I reasoned, only one story to tell if the Doctor was to meet himself – this had to be the day when he saved himself. And in the whole history of Doctor Who, there was only one day he needed saving from.

“There was a tremendous crime committed during the Time War that the Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith Doctors have all referred to, but we’ve never seen it played out or seen the consequences of it. When we got John Hurt, with that extraordinary voice, I knew we could make his Doctor face that day – the most terrible day of his life. We would finally witness that moment.

“By the time we discover him, the John Hurt Doctor has been fighting the Time War for centuries. He doesn’t call himself the Doctor, and doesn’t behave like him, either – this is our hero as a dark and battle-hardened general. I think it’s nice for a hero to have a dark chapter, although it’s a chapter we will probably never see again because that somehow isn’t Doctor Who. “

So, while Moffat often likes to (publicly, at least) shrug off fan complaints about his work on the show, it's clear that this story really did weigh on him, if only because he loves Doctor Who as much as anybody, even if he might view it in a different way. 

What do you think? Did all of Moffat's stressing over Day of the Doctor pay off?

(Via Doctor Who TV)