takes a nostalgic voyage of discovery
to find out the secret behind the success of the series,
speaking to long-time fans who are now working on the show
and elsewhere in the television industry... including,
naturally, Steven Moffat... The following is a
transcript of the Moffat/Tennant sections of the programme.
These days, Doctor Who is filmed in Cardiff, but when
I was a kid growing up, it was recorded here, at the BBC
Television Centre near Shepherds Bush in London. When I was
wee, this place seemed like a remote mystical palace,
hundreds of miles away, where the Two Ronnies lived...
It was watching programmes from here that in no small part
inspired me to become an actor. It seems to me that
there are quite a few people who are working in television
today who grew up as Doctor Who fans. Quite a few of
them have ended up working on Doctor Who. So I'm on a
bit of quest, to find out whether growing up as a Doctor
fan makes you a better person, and how it might end up
influencing what you do for a living...
There is no other show like this. There really is no other
example of this genre.
Steven Moffat made his name in television writing about
dysfunctional relationships in the 21st century, but maybe
what he always wanted to write about was malfunctioning
spaceships in the 51st... So, Steven Moffat,
television writer of some repute, where did you grow up?
SM: I grew up
DT: In Paisley?
SM: Do you know
Just down the road from myself! So, growing up in Paisley in
the wind-swept west of Scotland, how remote did Television
Centre feel to you?
SM: It was more
Hollywood than Hollywood! I mean this place is more exciting
to me to this day... That... [indicates TVC statue/fountain]
...where Roy Castle and the Record Breakers tap-danced...
Exactly! Every single planet in Doctor Who was
DT: You grew up
watching Doctor Who...
SM: Oh god yes!
What was your era?
SM: I remember
watching Patrick Troughton being bewilderingly the Doctor
and being confused by that...
SM: And really
from the start of Jon Pertwee I was watching every single
This is Studio 8... In this very studio, this list here will
SM: Very good!
DT: Oh yeah!
We've done our research on this, yeah! This... In TC8 we
had... The Sea Devils was in here...
SM: Oh really?
DT: Planet of the
Spiders was in here....
SM: Jon Pertwee
turned into Tom Baker in this room somewhere!
Well, there were a few studios used for Planet of the
SM: But lets
just say he did...
Let's just say that the regeneration happened on this very
Yes, it was here! You've got a list of all of them, yeah?
Here we go... TC8... The Silurians...
SM: Oh, I
watched The Silurians...
DT: It was in
SM: All those
events happened in this sort of...
...in this dull grey very big room.
Would it be fair to say that watching Doctor Who as a
kid had a direct result on what you're now doing for a
Yes. I got into television... seriously... tragic but
true... in order to write Doctor Who. I don't know...
maybe like yourself, I got interested in background stuff in
television, you know, how television was made, because of
Doctor Who. But it wasn't really a background in
television I was researching, it was how did they make
DT: Yes, in
this very studio!
Yes, how did they do it?
another one - this is TC7. I think all the studios in TV
Centre have been used at some point for Doctor Who...
this is currently being used by Newsnight but we're
going to invade it anyway.
[pointing at the backdrop] I always thought that was
really London! It's just a big picture!
7.... Robot filmed in here. This is where Tom Baker
began. In fact, this might be the very studio... famously I
remember there was a scene-shifters strike wasn't there, and
Blue Peter transmitted from the Doctor Who
SM: I remember
my Dad shouting up from downstairs saying "Doctor Who's
on!" and I thought that's amazing, it's Wednesday or
whatever day it was... Running down and discovering it was
just Blue Peter and I burst into tears.
Sorry Blue Peter but it just doesn't measure up to
It's just not the same. So what do you think? What was it
about Doctor Who that fired up your little infant
SM: As a
childrens programme it was all so frightening. There was no
other show like this. There really is no other example of
DT: You were
also charged this year with writing one where the Doctor
didn't appear much...
SM: I used a
story that I'd written for a Doctor Who annual. It was
originally called What I Did On My Christmas Holidays by
Sally Sparrow, aged 12 and a half... I thought well
actually that's quite a good story as its already taken the
Doctor out of the thing. He's leaving messages in the past.
And I added in a bit more fear and terror.
DT: And aged
Sally Sparrow up a little bit...?
Children like watching older children and adults. They don't
necessarily like watching kids of their own age.
We've also got DVD extras saving the universe...
Yes, well that's bound to happen eventually, isn't it?
Which is a very post-modern idea I suppose.
I've got the message in the wall, but I thought what else
could he do? So I thought I know, I've always found the idea
of easter eggs quite exciting cos I can never find them, so
they seem genuinely exciting and remote to me, so the Doctor
being a ghost DVD extra... I dunno... the moment I thought
of it, that just sounds cool...
There's also something spooky about it as well though. Until
the other side of the conversation is filled in...
...There's something about a disembodied conversation that
is slightly creepy...
This is a format... I mean it works you hard as a writer, I
think it works everybody hard, very hard... but I think if
you are prepared to work hard, it helps you.
Russell also says that. He says its the hardest thing to
write. Why is that?
narrative burden on Doctor Who is colossal compared
to anything else. In Doctor Who you've got two
minutes, if that, of the Doctor and the companion in the
TARDIS... you walk out the doors and its a new world of some
kind or other. A whole bunch of people you have to introduce
and dispose of in one episode. And it needs a big, strong
idea every week. I think you know you've got a good idea for
a Doctor Who story if you think "Well I've just blown
that feature film idea forever, haven't I...?"
That's the size of story that gets you through 45 minutes of
SM: I remember
going to school on Monday morning and you'd talk about
whether you'd made it through the entirety of Saturday's
fear that day. I really do. And I remember thinking "I've
made it all the way through those Autons and that was pretty
DT: But its a
good fear right? I mean...
SM: Oh, its a
healthy fear. But I think kids love scary things. I mean, if
you say its a particularly scary episode of Doctor Who
this Saturday, that's a recommendation...
SM: I think the
very fact that its a childrens programme makes it scarier.
What's the first time you remember being scared by it?
This is going to sound made up... Tomb of the Cybermen.
It was so frightening. Because it had that classic Doctor
Who thing... which I think is a brilliantly constructed
first two episodes, where the Cybermen don't appear at all.
They are just painted on the walls, so you know they're
coming. And then the long, protracted scenes of them coming
out of the cells... I thought all of that was
brilliant. And I think it still works now. I think I
sort of became too frightened to watch it after Tomb of
the Cybermen. And the next one... And in the interim I
developed a real phobia about dummies, about shop dummies,
and then my Dad said "Oh come and watch Doctor Who,
there's a new Doctor." And I watch this thing and there's
this guy who breaks into a factory and as he's walking
through the factory one of the shop dummies steps down from
a pedestal and starts moving towards him... I didn't
watch it for another four or five weeks. That was
specifically targeted on me!
DT: So iconic
was that that Russell used it for episode 1 of the new
SM: I was so
thrilled when he did it. I remember reading the treatment
and thinking "Ah! It's the Autons!" The scariest thing ever.
The most illogical thing ever, makes no sense at all. If you
were choosing to take over a whole planet, would you target
shoppers? That wouldn't be the first place you'd go, is it?
We've really got to take down those department stores and
then I think Earth will be paralysed. No!
You've talked about keying into childhood fears when writing
an episode - what happened with Blink?
Blink is basically that statues game isn't it? That
Grandma's Footsteps game which I always found frightening. I
know kids find it exciting and interesting. And if you can
do the thing like we do at the end of the episode where you
say "and every statue out there is secretly a Weeping
Angel..." Come on! If you ask people to recall
the moments they remember of Doctor Who as you've
been doing, how often is it they remember the scary bit?
It's not that Doctor Who is scary that often, but its
the bit that somehow sticks in people's minds. I think its
the showbiz element of Doctor Who, the bit that
no-one else does...