Steven Moffat
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This is a big year for the show ‘Doctor Who’. Not only will the series be celebrating its 50th anniversary, but Whovians will also be saying goodbye to Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor and ushering a new Doctor in his place by year’s end. With so much going on, and with Comic-Con coming up, it’s a wonder that executive producer Steven Moffat had time to sit with Entertainment Weekly and talk about the 50th anniversary special, Smith leaving and when we may actually know who will play the next Doctor.

Having to choose the actor to play the Doctor is nothing new to Moffat. After all, he was the one who chose Smith after David Tennant decided it was time for him to leave the show. “Well, it’s always just terrifying,” says Moffat. “If you’re a ‘Doctor Who’ fan, as I have been all my life, you’ve been doing fantasy casting for this part for as long as you can remember. But when you’re suddenly faced with the reality that you are going to sit there and you are going to make that decision it does feel absolutely chilling. There’s a very big range of people who could play it and different ways you could go with it. We must get this right. One false move and the show’s over.”

As to when will fans find out about who will be the next Doctor, Moffat responded:

“Unless we have an insane plan, we’ll announce a new Doctor within days of finalizing the new Doctor. Because it’s very very hard to keep any kind of a secret. The last time, when we chose Matt, we had to hold over on that one, because there was a Christmas ‘Doctor Who’ special called “The Next Doctor” for which Russell (T. Davies, former Doctor Who showrunner) was playing the game of pretending it was going to be David Morrissey. So we couldn’t deflate that. [Laughs]. But I think we’ll go public pretty fast.”

Some have speculated about when the Doctor’s regeneration will occur in the Christmas special. While rumors persisted that it may happen at the beginning of the episode, Moffat makes it clear that it will be a “traditional regeneration” and occur at the end of the show much like we’ve seen it happen in the past:

“… It’ll be the traditional regeneration. You know, the eleventh will fall and the twelfth shall rise. And you’ll see that in the closing moments of the show. I mean, you sometimes sit and think, “Are there better ways of doing it? Is there a different way of doing it?” But quite honestly what could be better than that? It’s just too exciting.” [Laughs]

Smith has been using his hiatus from the series to film ‘How to Catch a Monster’ which involved shaving off his a lot of his hair and a few fans were surprised to see his buzz cut after seeing his thank you video to them during the film shoot. Will his hair be back to its ‘Doctor Who’ fullness by the time the Christmas episode films or will Smith be sporting a wig? Moffat is wondering the same thing:

Matt Smith“We’re sprinkling fertilizer on his head as we speak. I don’t know. If you care to take a look at “The Angels Take Manhattan” there are a couple of scenes that Karen Gillan came back to do in the graveyard after she’d had her radical haircut and she is wearing what seems like a strategically draped otter on her head. [Laughs]

However, we effect it, the Doctor will turn up in his trademark quaff. We can’t have Matt’s last stand in the TARDIS without his proper look. So, thank you, Ryan Gosling…”

Moffat did reveal, however, that Matt’s departure had been planned for a very long time. Almost from the beginning, Smith decided he would be doing 3 seasons of the show which included the 50th anniversary special and the Christmas special.

“… That was Plan A for a very, very long while. That may sound cold that it was so far in advance but you’ve got to plan a career. [Laughs] The question was, “Will I be able to talk him out of it?” We went out for lunch and he said that he’d come very close to doing another series but it was the same argument: “If I do another series, I think I might do two more series, or three more series. I think I might never leave.” It’s that thing of wanting to leave while you’re a huge hit and not let it tail off. It’s part of the ecology of the program, it’s part of the DNA of the program, that there is going to be a new Doctor now and then.

None of them ever want to outstay their welcome, and Matt certainly didn’t. Not that I think he was in any danger of that, frankly. It’s also, it has to be said, an overwhelming schedule for the actor playing the Doctor. As a workload it precludes you doing anything else. It precludes theatre; it precludes any significant other television or film work really. And even trying to crowbar some time in for him to do other things — which was part of our charm offensive — in the end he wanted to go and develop the other parts of his career.”

Smith’s reasoning sounds very much like David Tennant’s when he was anguishing as to whether or not to stay for one more season under Moffat or to leave. And speaking of Tennant, Moffat was asked how the two Doctors would be relating to each other in the 50th anniversary special:

Matt Smith and David Tennant

“Well, when you’re talking to yourself, there’s no filter! You don’t spare yourself! They’re quite a fun pairing, I would say. There’s a bit of the normal joshing of each other but they’re both such enthusiastic Doctors. While they might be sort of competing slightly, they’re both standing there saying, “Oh god, it’s so cool, there’s two of me!” So, it’s very different. I think the other one that worked brilliantly was Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton. They were incredibly funny together. This is very different from that but it’s a sublime double act.”

While Moffat wouldn’t say too much about the special, he did say that the running time would be “movie-length”. He couldn’t give much more than an estimate as the special is still in post-production getting its CGI and 3D treatment and he’s not sure of the finished running time as of yet.

As for long much longer Moffat himself will stay with the show? Here’s what he had to say:

“I think a year at a time. I’ve signed up for this next year, with the new Doctor. It’s one of those jobs when you know when you’ve had enough. At the moment I haven’t had enough and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I’m very excited for the challenge of the new Doctor and establishing that new Doctor. So, no plans to leave as yet. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be here for 20 years. There will come that day when I think it’s time someone else had a go and it’s time I did something else.”

You can read the rest of Moffat’s interview over at Entertainment Weekly and there’s more in the newest issue of the publication on sale now.

The “Doctor Who” 50th Anniversary Special will air November 23, with the Christmas special to follow on December 25.