Now that Steven Moffat has moved on from ‘Doctor Who’, it’s easier to assess his tenure as a whole. Sometimes the benefit of hindsight allows you to spot patterns you never saw before. But some trends are apparent even in the moment. By the time Peter Capaldi’s first season as the Doctor rolled around, one of the most persistent criticisms of Moffat among ‘Who’ fans was that Moffat had perhaps stayed on a bit too long, and perhaps the show was in need of new blood. Whether one agrees with it or not, it’s hardly an unreasonable criticism, as Moffat had at that point been working on ‘Doctor Who’ (occasionally splitting his time between that series and ‘Sherlock’) for nearly a decade, roughly half of which he’d spent as showrunner.
Moffat himself wasn’t unaware of this and noted on more than one occasion around that time that he was surely closer to the end of his time on ‘Doctor Who’ than the beginning. But just how close was he? Moreso than we might have expected, as it turns out.
In a recent interview with the ‘Doctor Who Fan Show‘, Moffat revealed that he very nearly left alongside Matt Smith in the wake of the fiftieth anniversary celebration in 2013. And all of this is in addition to the fact that Moffat has often described 2013 as a particularly grueling and stressful year for the ‘Doctor Who’ production office. So what convinced him to stay on? As the Sixth Doctor might put it, “Change, my dear. And it seems not a moment too soon.”
“I’d always sort of assumed that I would leave with Matt. [But] I was so insanely busy I didn’t have time to leave. It was season seven, ‘Day of the Doctor’, ‘Time of the Doctor’… and people [were] saying, “Who’s the next Doctor?” and I’m going “Yes, better find one!” and before I know it , I’m auditioning Peter Capaldi. That’s when I suddenly got excited. I thought, “My God, Peter being the Doctor! That’s a whole new Doctor. That’s going to be a whole new sky for us to fly through.”
So it was Peter Capaldi‘s casting and the prospect of writing for a Doctor so utterly different from Smith’s that changed his mind. And frankly, whether or not you think Moffat should have left in 2013, the cracks were beginning to show. While I certainly wouldn’t describe the later Matt Smith seasons as bad, Capaldi’s arrival unquestionably gave the show (and Moffat) a much needed shot in the arm.
The first season of ‘Doctor Who’ following Moffat’s departure will air later this year, though the BBC has yet to announce a premiere date. Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more ‘Doctor Who’ coverage as the premiere approaches.