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Steven Moffat

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Steven Moffat
StevenMoffatBBCinterview
Birth date: 18 November 1961
In the DWU
Main jobs:
Stories: See Filmography and Bibliography
Main time period active: 2005-present
Career highlights
Notable non-DWU work:
Coupling
Sherlock
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
IMDb profile

Steven Moffat (born 18 November 1961 in Paisley, Scotland) wrote numerous Doctor Who episodes, undertaking the position of head writer at the beginning of the Eleventh Doctor era. He was also the show's most award-winning writer. He is known for creating "scary" monsters such as Weeping Angels, Vashta Nerada and Silents.

Prior to Doctor Who Edit

Moffat came to Doctor Who after a successful career of writing for situation comedies that began in the 1990s. He was a major creative force on Press Gang (also his first television programme) and Coupling. His love for Doctor Who sometimes crept into his scripts for these programmes. In Coupling, for instance, the character of Steve explains the use of sofas as protection against Daleks. The character of Oliver, introduced in the fourth season of Coupling, worked at a comic book and sci-fi/fantasy specialty shop, which allowed for Doctor Who references. In one episode, for example, Oliver has a pretend conversation with his girlfriend, using a life-sized Dalek replica as the stand-in for his ex. In another episode, Oliver arrives at a dinner party wearing what he thinks is a nice, formal jumper, forgetting that the jumper says "Bring Back Doctor Who" on the back.

Classic Doctor Who writer Terrance Dicks noted Moffat's fandom in a commentary for Horror of Fang Rock, recorded in 2004 (before Moffat's work on the revived series).

Opinions of the original series Edit

The mid-nineties Edit

Prior to his first script for Doctor Who, Steven Moffat was a fan who sometimes publicly opined on his love-hate relationship with the program. In the mid-1990s, he was wont to extol the virtues of Peter Davison's acting abilities, saying that the reason "he's played more above-the-title lead roles on the telly than the rest of the Doctors put together" is "because — get this! — he's the best actor." Furthermore, he has called Snakedance and Kinda, "the two best Who stories ever."[1] During a discussion after at least one round of drinks with Andy Lane, Paul Cornell and David Bishop, he claimed that although "as a television format, Doctor Who equals anything", he couldn't hold up the program as an exemplar of great television to "anybody I work with in television." He went on to call the original program "slow", "embarrassing", and "limited by the relatively meagre talent of the people who were working on it." He spoke particularly harshly of 1960s Doctor Who, stating:

If you look at other stuff from the Sixties they weren't crap — it was just Doctor Who. The first episode of Doctor Who betrays the lie that it's just the Sixties, because the first episode is really good — the rest of it's shit.Steven Moffat

Moreover, he expressed some disdain for the Virgin New Adventures, which were, at the time of the discussion, the dominant form of Doctor Who fiction. "There's 24 of them a year. That's too bloody many! I've never wanted 24 new Doctor Who adventures a year in my life. Six was a perfectly good number." However, he did call "brilliant" the notion that the NAs "sometimes successfully" took a television program "aimed at 11-year olds" and reinterpreted it for adults, involving "a completely radical revision of the Seventh Doctor that never appeared on television."[2]

After writing for the show Edit

In 2013, Moffat considered the first episode of Doctor Who, "An Unearthly Child", to "still [be] an extraordinary piece of television by any standard" and "absolutely amazing". He considered William Hartnell's portrayal of the First Doctor to be "brilliant" but found it was Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor who "[lay] down the central rules" of being the Doctor. He noted that Jon Pertwee's "showmanship" was largely in the Third Doctor's costume, and that he played the Doctor far more seriously than even Christopher Eccleston. [3]

In 2014, during the celebration of Tom Baker's 80th birthday, he found that the Fourth Doctor, or "the one with the scarf", had "quite a few of his [stories] that [were] very special". He thought that Douglas Adams' script for City of Death was "very very funny" and "beautifully plotted". [4]

Also in 2014, he found The Ark in Space "sort of sums all of Doctor Who up" with a "quite, quite brilliant movie-sized script" which was a "superlative piece of writing" and a "really, really well-told story", in spite of containing a monster which was "a bit shoddy" and the production being "a little bit overlit". [4]

In 2013, he continued to love Peter Davison's performance as the Fifth Doctor. He thought that Davison went in the opposite direction to Tom Baker and that this made him "real and passionate and heartfelt". He felt that in serials like The Caves of Androzani, it wasn't so much that the Fifth Doctor was more vulnerable or less effective, to which Moffat claimed he wasn't, but that he "[made] you feel the journey in a way that Tom Baker didn't". [3]

By this point, Moffat concluded that the effects team of the BBC London version of the show were "brilliant people"; they usually had the know-how and experience to make effects shots as good as the opening scene of The Trial of a Time Lord, but they didn't really have the time or the money to realise them. Moffat "quite like[d]" the idea of the Valeyard being a dark version of the Doctor, but claimed he wasn't completely sure if he understood it. [3]

Around this time, Moffat considered some of the last stories of the original run of the show, including the "terrific script" and "very, very well-directed [story]" of Remembrance of the Daleks to be "superb", and that they "show[ed] a re-galvanised production team just really trying to deliver proper blockbusters". He also noted how the spaceship landing in this story was done "superbly" by the special effects team without using CGI. [5]

He believed that "stylistically, tonally, everything", that when you follow the final episode of Survival in 1989 with Rose in 2005, Doctor Who was "really the same show" and it "came back exactly as it left". [3]

Work on Doctor Who Edit

Writer Edit

It is unsurprising, then, that he didn't significantly contribute to the flood of Doctor Who prose that was published in the 1990s — though his first piece of professional Doctor Who fiction was a 1996 short story for Virgin Books called Continuity Errors. "Errors" is one of the few non-televised Doctor Who stories Moffat has written and established a pattern of Moffat only writing short stories in prose.

Soon after Errors, he wrote the first piece of televised Doctor Who after the 1996 TV movie — the 1999 Comic Relief story The Curse of Fatal Death. When the BBC Wales version of the program started in 2005 he began writing a string of BAFTA- and Hugo- award-winning storylines, which included The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances(Moffat's first episodes), The Girl in the Fireplace, and Blink. Steven also wrote Time Crash, the first multi-Doctor story of the new series, as well as Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. His only prose contributions during this period were three more short stories, each for a version of the old Doctor Who annual concept.

As of 2014, he has the distinction of writing for the most number of Doctors on-screen than any other writer for the show, with a total of (at least) 7. As well as contributing episodes to the main tenures of the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and War Doctors, Moffat also penned Time Crash for the Fifth Doctor and Night of the Doctor for the Eighth Doctor. Furthermore, due to cameo appearances in The Day of the Doctor, he has also written for the Twelfth and the Curator, who may be an alternate version of the Fourth Doctor, though the nature of his cameo is left intentionally ambiguous.

Head writer Edit

On 20 May 2008, Steven Moffat was announced as the executive producer and head writer of Doctor Who starting with the fifth season in 2010, taking over from Russell T Davies, who revived the show in 2005. He said in a BBC press release:

My entire career has been a secret plan to get this job. I applied before but I got knocked back 'cos the BBC wanted someone else. Also I was seven. Anyway, I'm glad the BBC has finally seen the light, and it's a huge honour to be following Russell into the best - and the toughest - job in television. I say toughest 'cos Russell's at my window right now, pointing and laughing.Steven Moffat on the Doctor Who official website, May 2008[6]

Although Steven Moffat cast twenty-six-year old Matt Smith in the role, Moffat had previously been quoted as preferring older actors in the role of the Doctor. "Although I loved Peter Davison and Paul McGann, probably the best two actors in the role, I don't think young, dashing Doctors are right at all. He should be forty-plus and weird-looking — the kind of wacky grandfather kids know on sight to be secretly one of them."

On 22 March 2013, Moffat was quoted as saying that "statistically... [he is] nearer the end than the beginning" of his time as showrunner[7], which, if true, means that he will have left the job by 2016.

Major themes Edit

Everybody lives? - Doctor Who - BBC03:59

Everybody lives? - Doctor Who - BBC

"Everybody lives" when the Doctor comes to call.

Steven Moffat's work on Doctor Who has exhibited three major themes: romance and sexuality (especially concerning the Doctor), the power behind The Doctor's real name and the consequences of time travel and its resulting paradoxes. Other recurring elements in his stories include children's fears (whether they be bombs dropping in World War II, monsters under the bed, statues coming to life and the most common childhood fear, the dark) and the Doctor being a very lonely soul. Another common characteristic is that "Everyone lives": of his first four stories, two of them featured no deaths at all, while the other two featured only deaths by natural causes. Another characteristic is antagonists who are not necessarily evil, merely doing what they are made to do. Three times Moffat has used time travel to very quickly build an emotional relationship between someone and the Doctor when they encounter him fleetingly and see him again many years later (Madame de Pompadour, Amy Pond) and even Liz 10 in The Beast Below. The reverse happens between the Doctor and River Song in Silence in the Library.

Moffat tended to use metafictional references as serious or semi-serious themes. Previous head writer Russell T Davies invented "Retcon", a memory-wiping drug in Torchwood to restrain in-universe knowledge of non-public information. Moffat has converted The "Doctor Who?" running joke into "The First Question", part of a universe-threatening story arc. (TV: The Wedding of River Song) He also liked to plant his themes early and let them be revealed slowly, sometimes years later. Although he first raised the theme of "Doctor Who? It's more than just a question" in 2006 (TV: The Girl in the Fireplace) and only revealed its importance in 2011. (TV: The Wedding of River Song)

In like manner, the question of the identity of River Song and her relationship to the Doctor was raised in 2008 (TV: Silence in the Library) was only answered in 2011. (TV: A Good Man Goes to War, The Wedding of River Song)

Moffat also has had the Doctor and River Song warning each other "Spoilers!" to avoid future-altering (and suspense-destroying) foreknowledge. (TV: Silence in the Library et seq.)

TARDIS telephone Edit

Moffat has used the TARDIS as a telephone box several times to surprise even the Doctor. In The Empty Child and The Bells of Saint John, the Child and Clara Oswald made the TARDIS outside phone ring. At the end of The Beast Below, the Doctor enters the TARDIS as the console phone is ringing. In The Wedding of River Song, the Doctor uses the phone to call the Brigadier up for an adventure.

Monsters Edit

Moffat-designed monsters have been very basic-looking, but intricately designed. The Empty Child look like people wearing gas masks, but are actually mutants modelled after a dead child and created by subatomic robots. The Clockwork Droids look like people in French dress, but are actually clockwork repair droids using time-windows to repair their ship with human parts. The Weeping Angels look like statues, but are actually ancient, quantum-locked, time-trapping assassins that feed off of time energy. The Vashta Nerada look like shadows, but are actually carnivorous swarms that inhabited trees that were manufactured into books. Prisoner Zero looks like a man with a dog, but is actually a shape-shifting worm hiding in Amy Pond's house via a Time Crack. The Smilers look like dummies, but are actually androids involved in a killer government conspiracy. Perhaps Moffat's most notable monsters are the Silents, an ancient species that have the ability to make people forget that they had ever existed. Moffat's monsters have also been highly regarded by fans as the scariest monsters, though Paul Cornell's Family of Blood and Russell T Davies' "Midnight entity" have been also regarded. [says who?]

Awards and recognition Edit

Sherlock and the Doctor with some bloke

Steven Moffat with Benedict Cumberbatch and Matt Smith.

Throughout his involvement with the revived series, Moffat has been something of a Hugo Awards "juggernaut". The episodes he wrote for each of the first four seasons; The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances; The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, and Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead were all nominated in the 'Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form' category. He has also received multiple nominations during his years as executive producer. Both The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang and A Christmas Carol were nominated in 2011, and A Good Man Goes to War in 2012. Three of his episodes were nominated in 2013: Asylum of the Daleks, The Angels Take Manhattan and The Snowmen.

Moffat set a record by winning the Hugo three years consecutively (2006, 2007, 2008), with his episodes defeating episodes of Battlestar Galactica, and a Star Trek fan film, as well as others from Doctor Who and Torchwood. The winning streak came to an end when Moffat's Library two-parter was defeated by the Internet production, Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog, although only by approximately 100 votes.[8] Despite this however, Moffat won the award once again for the series 5 finale in 2011.

As an individual writer, Moffat has twice been nominated for the 'Best Script' Nebula award (Girl in the Fireplace and Blink) and his work on Blink resulted in 'Best Writer' and 'Best Screenwriter' awards at the 2008 Television BAFTA and BAFTA Cymru awards respectively. As part of the collective writers of Series 3, he was also awarded the Writers' Guild of Great Britain award for 'Best Soap/Series (TV)'.

Moffat's work on Doctor Who has also been recognised by those writing for other well known franchises. The preface to the Star Trek novel Watching the Clock features a quote from Blink credited to Moffat.

He wrote the Hartswood Films drama series Jekyll, a modern version of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which aired on BBC One in June and July 2007. In an interview with The Age, James Nesbitt, who played the lead roles of Dr Tom Jackman and Mr Hyde, called Moffat "an eccentric, shy fellow", while commending his writing as "inventive and dark and funny".

In October 2007 it was reported that Moffat would be scripting a trilogy of The Adventures of Tintin films for director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson, starring the boy reporter Tintin. According to The Times newspaper, Moffat had to be "love bombed" by Spielberg into accepting the offer to write the films, with the director promising to shield him from studio interference with his writing. He had intended to complete work on the whole trilogy before resuming work on Doctor Who, but the intervening Writers Guild of America strike meant he could submit a finished script for the first film only. In July 2008, Moffat was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying:

I could not work on the second Tintin film and work on Doctor Who. So I chose Doctor Who.Steven Moffat, July 2008
The first film, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn was released in 2011.

Moffat continued to write for Hartswood Films even after his appointment as show-runner for Doctor Who. During their journeys from London to Cardiff for Doctor Who, Moffat and Mark Gatiss conceived a contemporary update of Sherlock Holmes, called Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch was cast as Holmes, with Martin Freeman as Dr Watson. Three series of three 90-minute episodes written by Moffat, Gatiss and Steve Thompson aired in 2010, 2012 and 2014. He won a Royal Television Society Judges Award in 2010 for his work on Doctor Who and Sherlock. [9]

Personal life Edit

Moffat married his frequent production partner, Sue Vertue, who produced The Curse of Fatal Death and Sherlock. They have two children who are, as of 2010, in the target audience age range of Doctor Who. His children have been seen on Doctor Who Confidential making backstage visits to the set of The Girl in the Fireplace. Moffat has disclosed in Doctor Who Magazine [which?] that he often shares details about newly-arrived scripts with his kids. He is also the son-in-law of the legendary British television studio boss, Beryl Vertue, who is most significant to Doctor Who fans as the agent who originally negotiated Terry Nation's rights to the Daleks.

Selected credits Edit

Televised scripted drama Edit

As writer Edit



As executive producer Edit


Short fiction Edit

Virgin Decalogs Edit

Doctor Who annual Edit

Doctor Who Storybook Edit

Big Finish Bernice Summerfield Series Edit

Television pastiches Edit

As actor Edit

NotesEdit

He won the award for writing The Day of the Doctor for "The First 50 Years" poll in DWM 474.

External links Edit

Footnotes Edit

  1. Moffat, Steven. "Season 19 Overview". In-Vision #62. 1996. Posted to doctorwhoforum.com. Registration required.
  2. Bishop, David. "Four Writers, One Discussion" Time Space Visualiser #43. March 1995.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 An Evening With Steven Moffat. BBC One - Doctor Who (12 November 2013). Retrieved on 6 April 2014.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Doctor Who: Steven Moffat on the Fourth Doctor. BBC One - Doctor Who, Season 12 (24 January 2014). Retrieved on 6 April 2014.
  5. Remembrance of the Daleks, Steven Moffat on Remembrance of the Daleks. BBC One - Doctor Who, Season 25 (18 December 2013). Retrieved on 6 April 2014.
  6. Doctor Who official website press release on the accession of Steven Moffat
  7. Mirror article on Steven Moffat's tenure as showrunner
  8. 2009 Hugo Awards Final Ballot results
  9. http://www.rts.org.uk/winners-rpa

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