Ten years ago today, Doctor Who introduced the world to the Weeping Angels and Sally Sparrow in the outstanding episode, Blink.
Very kindly, the story’s writer (and now Doctor Who showrunner) Steven Moffat has sat down with doctorwho.tv to tell us all about this iconic instalment from 2007. You can discover Steven thoughts and memories, including an alternate ending for Sparrow and Nightingale, and a look to the future below:
“Right, then - Blink. What can I say, I haven’t already said. Stream of consciousness ahoy! Last time I said anything about Blink, I answered a question about whether I knew it would be such a hit. Naturally, I said I didn’t, because only a fool or maniac thinks anything will be a hit. What a storm of abuse I got. Whole articles about my stupidity and arrogance. Possibly marked the only time anyone has been accused of arrogance because they’ve just been modest. So forgive me, all, if I tread carefully.
Nah, to hell with it. If you can’t get away with modesty these days, what’s the point in treading.
Okay, so I watched it again. Ten years?? Where did TEN YEARS go?? Has somebody been stealing years?
Oh, it’s rather lovely, isn’t it? Carey Mulligan - haunted and stubborn and beautiful. Hettie McDonald directing the first consciously (and I don’t mean self-consciously) arty Doctor Who. And Neill Gorton giving us the Weeping Angels. Everything a Doctor Who monster needs to be: gorgeous, scary and completely silly. And what about that mournful, dread-laden score - one of Murray’s finest, and that’s saying something. You know, I’m not being modest (so put down that chair) when I say I’d give the lion’s share of the credit to those guys. So many of the very best in the industry, at the top of their game: it’s not modesty to feel outshone by talent like that.
But I’m the writer, so I might as well talk about the writing. And I can feel the engines of Online Hate revving already, because I think it’s pretty good. Interesting though - I won two writing BAFTAS, a Hugo Award and the DWM season poll (I voted for Human Nature) for that, and yet most of my most egregious failings are well and truly there. There are lapses into sitcom dialogue, a disturbing fetish for bootstrap paradoxes, and of course showboating “cleverness”, which isn’t that clever when you think about it. Which just goes to show, anything can work on a good day.
The sitcom chatter makes Sally, Kathy and Larry seem so much more vulnerable, because they don’t know they’re in a horror movie. The wilful complexity of Sally’s DVD conversation with the Doctor, is clearly set out, and decently funny. I was very proud of the double use of the “But I can hear you” at the time, but now I wonder if it’s so have-to-think-about-it ingenious that it might kick you out of the emotion of the moment. Generally, though, it all clicks. It fits. Maybe it’s always true, that your best work is just when your failings work for you.
One other thing. Despite the deafening applause right now for Bill Potts and Missy, I do seem to be under a fair amount of attack for my female characters - come back and save me, Lynda Day - and while there’s no probably no smoke without fire, can I put my head on the block and say I think I wrote Sally rather well? The line “sad is happy for deep people” may be a bit (as in very) smartarse, but it sums her up perfectly. The slightly detached, melancholy girl, in love with the past - forgive me, but I do think I nailed that.
Makes me wonder why an Angel never set her back in time. All these years later, I wonder why I didn’t end it like that? Just after she meets the Doctor, she pops back into the shop - and big fright, there’s an Angel there! A moment later Larry follows her in, and she’s gone. And for the first time he notices something about a painting on the wall - it’s Sally, in the distant past. And she’s smiling and waving.
But no, maybe not. Maybe it was better she learned to live in the moment - to take Larry’s hand and move on. Maybe, in fact, it’s time I stopped rewriting this script (you never, do you know) and let it be.
Goodness, I’ve gone on a bit. But I’ve got little doubt that it was Blink that got me the showrunner job - so I owe a lifetime of thanks to Phil Collinson and Julie Gardner for making me look better than I deserve, and to Russell T Davies, for making me seem, for a moment, good enough to replace him.
I’m feeling very nostalgic today. Can you tell? There’s a reason. When I finish this, I’m getting into a car and going to the very last Doctor Who readthrough I will ever attend. The end of days starts here. This has been the best job I’ll ever have and it was Blink that got me here. That episode was a thunderclap moment in my life, and only today, ten years later, is the echo starting to fade.”
Steven Moffat, June 2017