Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Steven Moffat at the Hay Festival

Steven Moffat was talking at the Hay Festival (a writing/arts festival held in Wales every year) yesterday, and a couple of items have come out of it. Wales Online has a neat round-up of most of it - some was the usual stuff about how he took his time deciding whether or not to accept the role as showrunner, it's his job to make ordinary things scary, etc. However, there were some new things.

First, some comments on casting: “It will not happen when someone says we must cast the Doctor as a woman...A person will pop into your head and when that person is a woman that’s the day it will happen. Casting is the dark arts of television – it makes the difference between a television programme and a sensation. You don’t mess around with it. It’s all about passion and aesthetics – it’s not political.”

But then, regarding Capaldi:
“Can you imagine if we had cast another handsome yet quirky young man with sexy hair? It’s a part that can be played by anyone aged 20 to 70 and you’ve got to use that flexibility not ignore it. Peter Capaldi just kept popping into my head and I knew he was a Doctor Who fan. He would come looming up to me at industry events and insist on talking about Doctor Who when I wanted to talk about In The Thick Of It."

“I got him round to my house and we auditioned him there as Doctor – he didn’t know he was the only person being auditioned and of course he was brilliant.”

Which is at least consistent with Moffat's earlier statements, but still, he found Matt Smith via audition, and if the Doctor can be played by "anyone", did he audition women for the Eleventh Doctor? Well,  the other news to come out of the Festival suggests for him not to have done - casting another Doctor at all was a matter apparently up for debate. The Radio Times has the quote.

"I think there were plans maybe to consider ending it...It was Russell T Davies saying, 'You are not allowed to end it' [that kept it going]. David owned that role in a spectacular way, gave it an all-new cheeky sexy performance and became a national treasure. So the idea that Doctor Who could go on at all in the absence of David was a huge question."

"I didn't realise how many people thought it wouldn't succeed at all. That was quite terrifying when I found out about it later."

Reading between the lines...even with Davies' support, was Moffat was told not to take too many risks with the next Doctor's casting? Smith's quite different from Tennant, but if the BBC executives were questioning the idea of having another Doctor at all they perhaps wouldn't have cared for a woman or someone as old as Capaldi. Leading Moffat to go with the most promising youngster he could find, instead. Moffat wouldn't have wanted to start his showrunning by complaining about the BBC, so that none of this has been mentioned before doesn't tell us how far the mistrust extended. There was that whole business about the budget, after all; a lot seems to have been going on behind the scenes affecting the show that we just don't know about. It'd be interesting to know whether Tennant would have agreed to stay one more year, if that'd been what was necessary to convince the execs that  Moffat's showrunning was viable.

His commenting about this now might mean Moffat's intending to move on, or perhaps that he's feeling self-confident enough in the wake of the Sherlock renewal (showrunning two of the BBC's biggest properties right now) to take an old concern public. This is probably a story we've not heard the last of...

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