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Doctor Who – Steven Moffat on ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’

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Doctor Who Series 6 -  Steven Moffat
Steven Moffat, lead writer and Executive Producer © 2011 BBC

When Doctor Who returns on August 27th on BBC America, the doctor’s time travelling police box, the TARDIS, crash lands in 1930s Berlin in an episode appropriately entitled Let’s Kill Hitler. Matt Smith returns as the new Doctor, as he and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) desperately search for her daughter, Melody.

Writer/producer Steven Moffat continues his conversation with the journalists at the TV Critics Association.

I gather there was some controversy after the trailer of Let’s Kill Hitler was shown at Comic-Con?

I think we can unequivocally and controversially say that we were against Hitler. I’m glad he’s gone. I think the worst thing you could possibly do to that awful man is to take the mickey out of him on Doctor Who, so that’s what we did. We’re not going to save Hitler. He is, by the way, dead already, so we can’t!

It’s not only the Doctors that get regenerated every few years; it’s the people who write it. So when you’re making these almost series-changing decisions, do you feel any responsibility to the four-year-old that might be writing the Doctor Who series some day?

The only way you can keep your show alive and keep it vibrant is to make changes. Stories are about change. If you say, ‘We can now only make Doctor Who one way,’ you might as well build that tomb. That’s over.

So, no, the responsibility I have to the four-year-old who will one day have my job, and there is a four-year-old who will have my job someday, is to keep it alive and vibrant and exciting, and, yes, you make changes. And, yes, you do shocking things to the Doctor like maybe he’s got a wife. Maybe his wife is the daughter of his best friend.

In this season what do we learn about the Doctor?

Doctor Who 6.4 The Doctor's Wife - Matt Smith
Episode 6.04 The Doctor's Wife - The Doctor (Matt Smith) © BBC 2011

[That] there’s a dark side of a man who could have caused the end of the universe and, as Matt is always saying, he’s running away from, frequently, the consequences of his own actions. He takes terrible decisions, vast decisions that affect millions and billions of lives and then runs.

To some extent, what these 13 episodes that Series 6 does is sort of bring him face-to-face with the consequences of all of that, both at the intergalactic level and at the domestic level. He’s got the most complicated family unit just formed around him. I would imagine the Christmas dinner and the poisonous silence.

So there’s nothing that somebody would be stuck with, that they couldn’t get out of?

Doctor Who 6.01 The Impossible Astronaut - Alex Kingston, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill
Episode 6.01 The Impossible Astronaut - River Song (Alex Kingston), Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) © BBC 2011

There are tons of things. If you look at the way Doctor Who has progressed, it’s been scandalously neglectful of the future in a way. Suddenly they give him a whole new backstory. He wasn’t originally a Time Lord. He suddenly is a Time Lord.

Then you can regenerate out of nowhere and change the actor. Suddenly we kill off all the rest of the Time Lords. Suddenly, there’s River. Of course, it’s a story, things happen in stories. You can’t just stop them and freeze them.

In a way you’ve got two models, don’t you? You’ve got the Doctor Who model, which the story keeps progressing and changing. You’ve got the James Bond model, which I love, but it is nonetheless basically doing the same story over and over again.

Doctor Who does a bit of that, but it does allow progress and change, and that means you’ve got to watch next week because next week might be the one where everything changes. You cannot miss Let’s Kill Hitler.

To be honest, in terms of explaining Doctor Who, it takes a terrifyingly short amount of time. After all, it’s been around for nearly 50 years. You can say it’s a man who can go anywhere in time and space in a box that’s bigger on the inside. That’s it.

Our precinct is everything that’s ever happened in every play you could ever go. Now, who doesn’t want to watch that? That’s the best format ever. It’s like all the other television formats at once. So it’s the most fun you can have on your television. I don’t know why there are people out there still not watching.

What would you say to people who don’t watch the series?

Doctor Who Series 6 -  Panel
The panel, including Steven Moffat, answers questions from the audience at the New York City Premiere © 2011 BBC America

Even if it’s complicated, even if there’s a lot of stuff going on, there will be some running and an explosion and some great gags and some pretty people. You’ll enjoy it. It’s always entertaining by every means possible.

I used to absolutely love the American show The West Wing. I never had a clue of what was going on in it because I didn’t understand anything about American politics. They all seemed to understand it, and that was fine by me. They’d walk fast down long corridors and say really weak stuff like, ‘We’ve got to do this with Congress,’ and I’d say, ‘What’s a Congress?’

Then they’d say, ‘We’ve got an affidavit,’ and I’d say, ‘Aha,’ I was so relieved. I wondered,’ What’s going to happen next week?’ That I think is the way Doctor Who can work for anyone because it’s fun. If you don’t’ understand all of it, join the rest of the audience.

Russell T Davies has had a phenomenal success translating Torchwood to America. It’s still Torchwood, and yet it’s infused with this new kind of flavor. Is there any thought to coming to America and setting a Doctor Who story arc here?

Just show me the check, mate. It’s entirely about story. I don’t think in order to make Doctor Who successful in America, that you have to do stories set in America because it’s not like Americans are sitting around watching the television set saying, ‘I wish there were more television series set in America.’ They’ve got loads of them.

It’s just story-driven, and for us, it’s fresh territory. So I’m keen. I’d like to do it. I think it would be fun. I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think absolutely, we like coming here. As with everything, is it going to be a fun story or not?