Moffat: David and Matt see each other as 'the real Doctor'

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Tags: Eleventh Doctor, Tenth Doctor, Clara Oswald, Rose Tyler, Zygons, 50th, Featured, War Doctor

The Tenth and Eleventh Doctors (David Tennant and Matt Smith) meet in The Day of the Doctor

In between running both Doctor Who and Sherlock, lead writer and executive producer, Steven Moffat, found time to answer some more questions about The Day of the Doctor - lifting the lid on his desire to film in the Large Hadron Collider, staying up late for "event telly" and how Matt and David both see the other as "the real Doctor"...

Can you describe how you’ve felt being the showrunner for Doctor Who in its 50th anniversary year?
Obviously it’s incredibly exciting that I’m handling an anniversary. Doctor Who, it always seems to me, is at the centre of attention in television so to be here in this moment where they’ve increased the size and scale of the party is just incredibly exciting. Although in truth an awful lot of it doesn’t feel any different because we make Doctor Who inside a bubble – it feels as though we’re making home movies with our mates but in this case we’re showing it to the entire world. It’s both a hugely exciting privilege and business as usual.

What is it about the show that has made it last 50 years?
Doctor Who can reinvent itself and has to reinvent itself every few years. Most shows age, most shows get tired, most shows get predictable especially a show, which like Doctor Who is a little bit similar with every story. Everyone so often Doctor Who, while having the advantage of great age manages to add to that advantage by having the greater virtue of being brand new. A new Doctor, a new companion, a new story – it becomes an ancient tradition but also a brand new shiny thing. No other show can combine those two virtues at the same time.

What was it like having Matt Smith and David Tennant working together in one episode?
I think both Matt and David felt it was a nerve-wracking prospect because it’s a bit like the king across the water for the two of them. David was so huge as the Doctor, Matt is so huge as the Doctor that both of them contemplated the other I think as the “real” Doctor. You never think of you, yourself as the Doctor, you think someone else is. Matt watched David as the Doctor and loved him and David being a huge fan of Doctor Who continued to watch the show after he left so he considered Matt to be the Doctor. So I think there was a moment where they might have thought they were both frauds in the presence of the other but rather magically and rather wonderfully they got on hugely well - I suppose because they’re the two people that have led that life and can talk about it in detail so most of the time making the special you’d see them in the corner together chatting and gossiping away. As people are about to see it’s genuinely a very funny double act and it really works.

Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt in Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor

Was it challenging writing an episode with two incarnations of the Doctor in a single episode?
Well there were two incarnations of the Doctor that we know about and one we’ve never seen before which is John Hurt. It’s different aspects of the same character – what you have to go for is the fact that they’re at different places in their lives so if you met yourself 5 years ago you wouldn’t exactly be meeting yourself – you’d be meeting somebody a bit different who has not had the same experiences and your current preoccupations. It’s the same character but not the same character. I wrote episodes for David when he was the Doctor and I know David socially. I wrote Matt’s first episode – The Eleventh Hour - and know Matt really well so I knew the two voices and I’ve always wanted to see what would happen when they met each other.

You’ve been to Comic Con and other international events – what has it been like to see the growth of the show across the world?
It’s only now and then that those of us who work on Doctor Who know how big it’s become. Most of the time, seriously, we plod around in the rain making Doctor Who and we love it and we’re very serious about it and we love our show and we love watching our show. We don’t always think about the world outside our show and then as the press launch of the next series approaches, we do loads and loads of interviews and you become aware that there’s a public phenomenon. The growth and scale of Doctor Who is usually most noticeable when we get a trip to New York or LA and we get a chance to see what’s happening with it and it’s very exciting. It was brilliant at Comic Con to see how incredibly dominant it was - there were more Doctors there than anything else.

Matt Smith, Steven Moffat and Jenna Coleman at Comic Con San Diego 2013

What’s the strangest thing message/letter/gift you have received from a fan?
Generally speaking there isn’t much weirdness, or strangeness, there’s a lot of kindness and there’s a lot of inventiveness. When I was at the French Comic Con a couple of years ago I was given a beautiful book of fan art – it was just lovely, clever and funny.

If you could set an episode of Doctor Who anywhere in the world where would it be and what might that adventure look like?
I think it would be great to go and shoot inside the Hadron Collider, so if the people who run the Hadron Collider would like to get in touch with me about shooting in the Hadron Collider then we’d be very happy to bring the TARDIS to the Hadron Collider!

What are the similarities and differences between working on Doctor Who and Sherlock?
An awful lot of working in television is the same – what you make might be different but the processes are often the same. A lot of it is sitting in a room typing, writing or re-writing and turning up on set. Other than that, the critical difference is when we lock-off a cut of Doctor Who it’s full of missing effects and Matt Smith capering about near a green curtain. When you lock-off an episode of Sherlock in the cutting room, the grading might not have happened yet but it looks pretty good and we’ll have a good temporary score even if it’s not the real score. Frankly what you see in the edit room in Sherlock is quite close to what people see on television. For Doctor Who, you cannot imagine how different what we sign off is from what you actually see on television.

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor cinema poster

The 50th anniversary episode will be airing across the world – for some people it will be early in the morning or later in the evening – what TV moments would you or have you stayed up for?
I think I stayed up for Live Aid all that time ago! I enjoy an election – I tend to stay up for them. I’ve stayed up for US ones as well. I do like staying up late for event telly and were I a Doctor Who fan in a foreign country absolutely I’d be up watching it!

The Day of the Doctor interviews