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Who's Steven Moffat reveals the David Tennant season we didn't see, plus more revelations

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Jan 18, 2018, 12:29 PM EST (Updated)

A new era of Doctor Who is gearing up, with Jodie Whittaker taking over for Peter Capaldi, and showrunner Steven Moffat handing the shark-sleigh reins over to Chris Chibnall. Such change is inevitable on a show like Doctor Who, and this looks like it will be one of the biggest change-ups the show has had in the modern era, not least because the Doctor is (finally) being played by a female for the first time in its long history. 

Steven Moffat recently sat down with the Doctor Who Fan Show and discussed everything about his tenure, from the early thinking about keeping David Tennant's 10th Doctor to the most "timey-wimey" episode he ever wrote. If anyone understands the nature of change it is Moffat, saying that the show "doesn't survive change, it survives because of change."

On possibly keeping David Tennant

When Moffat took over from NuWho's original showrunner, Russell T Davies, it still wasn't clear whether David Tennant would be sticking around. If Tennant decided to stay, it would certainly be his final season — so Moffat went about planning a Series 5 that would feature him. 

The story of the season-that-might-have-been is a bit similar to other Moffat stories. It would have begun with Tennant's doctor crashing his TARDIS into young Amelia Pond's yard, and he would be about to undergo regeneration. Little Amelia would help him out, and he'd jump back in his TARDIS and fly off. Amelia would then grow up and meet the Tennant doctor again, though he would have no memory of her — this being because the Doctor who crashed into her yard all those years ago was from the future. As the series went on they would eventually work themselves to the point of regeneration and Tennant crashing into young Amelia's yard. 

Moffat pitched the outline to Tennant, and though he was positive about it, he ultimately "decided to move on." Moffat retooled his ideas for Series 5 (keeping young Pond and older Pond alike), and scrapped the original outline for parts. Tennant would end up coming back for the 50th-anniversary episode, but more on that in a bit. 

On Dalek redesign

Moffat maintains that it was not his intention to change the design of so many things in the Doctor Who world (he makes it clear that if Tennant or Catherine Tate's Donna Noble had stayed, the TARDIS would have remained the same), but since so many people were leaving (both in front of and behind the camera), changing the TARDIS interior and other various bits of design became a way to cover up the changes. The one design change that he regrets? The giant, crayon-box Daleks from Series 5, debuting in the episode Victory of the Daleks

Going from the bronze-colored standbys from the Davies era, Moffat and company introduced giant, multi-colored Daleks that fans really, really hated. It was fairly evident that the creators knew that they had gone the wrong way, as the rainbow villains were back to their old design fairly quickly. Moffat places the blame for the redesign firmly on himself. 

"The fault resides entirely with me, not with the brilliant team who made the new Daleks ... it was my mistake, and a completely unnecessary one," he says. Supposedly the bright, hulking Daleks looked good in person, just not on television. That might have been a problem. 


On his most difficult episode

Doctor Who's time-travel plots are so intricate that they are often referred to as "wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey," which is a phrase which was first uttered in the Moffat-written Season 3 episode "Blink." Moffat played with time in completely new ways during his reign, though there was one episode that was by far the most difficult. The episode in question is none other than the 50th-anniversary episode, "The Day of the Doctor."

"By far and away it is the most timey-wimey Doctor Who story ever told," he says. "If you get it right, it works fine. If you don't get it right, then I end up confusing people." The episode went through many different versions before it became the masterpiece we have today, and the BBC was placing a lot of pressure on Moffat, telling him, "You promised us the Olympics." He knew he had to get it right. 

At first the episode was only going to feature Matt Smith's 11th Doctor and Jenna Coleman's Clara Oswald. The plan was for Smith's Doctor to step into his own time stream in the end of Series 7 (in "The Name of the Doctor"), and in doing so, he would erase himself from time. The 50th-anniversary special would then be about Clara trying to remember him, with the Doctor constantly appearing to her in various forms. Clara might see a story about a wizard and then realize, "That wizard, that's the Doctor!", and so forth. 

Than,kfully David Tennant agreed to be a part of the special, so Moffat changed the episode to be more in line with what we ended up with — but he hit a snag when Christopher Eccleston refused to reprise his role as the Ninth Doctor. With the script already written and dependent on that character, Moffat went back to the drawing board. 

He realized that the answer could be in featuring a completely new Doctor in that track, one that audiences had never met before. He was scared to do it at first, as it would mess up the numbering of the Doctors — something that both he and the fans took very seriously. The idea was that this new Doctor wouldn't be numbered at all, and would in fact be a "secret doctor" that is never talked about. 

It helped him add an ending to "The Name of the Doctor," which still found the 11th Doctor entering his timestream with no further payoff. He decided to introduce this secret Doctor in that moment, writing in the script, "and then the most famous actor in the world turns around ..." with the words "Introducing ______ as The Doctor" coming up on the screen. People loved the idea, but they also knew that they had to get the perfect actor for the part. 

The line echoing through everyone's head was "If it was John Hurt, that would be great." They could never think of anybody better, so they reached out to the legendary actor. Thankfully he accepted the part, and with Hurt on board, the "War Doctor" was born. The Day of the Doctor was still a massive undertaking in terms of what happens and in what order, but in the end the special delivered on Moffat's "olympic" promise to the BBC. 

Though Moffat may be done working on the show, it's clear that he is still very much a fan. When the new series debuts and Jodie Whittaker's 13th Doctor goes beyond her first "Oh, brilliant," he'll surely be watching with gleeful anticipation just like the rest of us. TARDISES, Daleks, and story drafts may change, but one Doctor Who constant will always be contained in the final words of Capaldi's 12th Doctor — "laugh hard, run fast, be kind." 

(Via The Doctor Who Fan Show)

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