The Time of Our Lives (Steven Moffat’s final DWM Column)
You know something I don’t know. You know who the next Doctor is. At least, I think that will be out by the time you read this. Old Chibs (as he must always now be known) is playing his cards close to his chest, and won’t tell me a thing. I attempted to give him some sage advice on the subject of secrecy, but he gave me a look, as if to say, “Seriously, have you checked your own record on this??” and had me removed by security. Again. But it’s comfy here, in my skip in the Roath Lock car park, and Russell is good company. When we’re both not crying, that is.
Actually, I’m not comfy at all. I’ve got everything crossed. Can Old Chibs pull it off? Can we actually have a new Doctor that’s a proper surprise, the way it’s supposed to be? I do hope so! But you know all that by now, out there, in the glorious new dawn.
And the fact is, I have no more news for you. Barely any secrets to keep. One more Special on Christmas Day, and I’ll be gone before the end credits. A brand-new team will go blazing into action, and in the far future, vast new Andrew Pixley Archives will form in the void.
But frankly, even I don’t care about me - this is all about Peter Capaldi. I saw him at the end, you know. The very last shot you see of him as the Doctor is in fact (brilliant scheduling by amazing producer, Pete Bennett) the very last thing Peter did on the show. Just as popping out the TARDIS and confusing Strax was the very first thing he did in Deep Breath, all those centuries ago. Since then he’s faced down a Mummy on the Orient Express, talked down a Zygon war using a couple of empty boxes, punched a wall for four and a half billion years, misunderstood the romantic intent of a puddle, decked a racist, insulted Santa, had a 24-year date in a restaurant, and played gooseberry when Missy met herself. He’s been gentle and fierce and rude and kind, and now with a wave of his hand and a flap of his cuff, he’s striding into the sunset to give it a piece of his mind. Be there for him on Christmas Day - Scotland’s finest in his final hour. He’ll break your heart and save your galaxy, all over again.
It was funny, that last day. I was in the studio for most of it, which is the first time I’ve ever managed that on Doctor Who. Normally, there’s so much else to do - new season to plan, new scripts to write, new stars to find. But now, with my time on the show winding down, with desks falling empty, and computers falling silent, and endless rounds of goodbye drinks, there’s nowhere else for me to be.
Brian Minchin is here today. And we sit and laugh and chat, and marvel at Peter’s extraordinary final performance. Every take is different and beautiful in a new way, and how the hell are we supposed to choose just one? It’s not goodbye to Brian, I’m delighted to say - he’s joining me and Sue at Hartswood Films, and we have dark and mighty plans. Rachel Talalay, our finale specialist, is directing. She’s come back to see number 12 off into the shades but I very much hope she’ll be directing more Doctor Whos in the future. She keeps hinting that she won’t, though.
“You’re already directing the new one - you’re doing the regeneration!” “Yes, but apart from that.” “You probably know who the new Doctor is, and everything!” “No, I don’t” “You had a secret dinner with Matt Strevens and Old Chibs!” “It wasn’t secret!” “Well, I didn’t know about it.” “No-one thought to tell you, it was just for people who are… you know…” “What?” “Involved.”
I was alright after a bit, and the nurse with the oxygen was very nice.
“Who’s the new Doctor?” I demanded to know from my stretcher, mostly in hand signals. “I don’t know,” lied Rachel, probably. “Just the initials.” “I don’t know.” “Will you tell me if I cry?” “You’re already crying.” “… Would you like ten pounds?”
There’s another goodbye coming up - and frankly it’s right here. My old friend, the wise and kind King of Numbers himself, Tom Spilsbury, is leaving this magazine. It’s funny, we’ve done almost everything in parallel in Doctor Who. He was assistant editor on the mag, while I was an occasional writer for Russell’s era. He became editor only shortly before I became showrunner. And now, at the end, we’re tumbling out the door together. We’ve tumbled out of quite a few doors together, but I’m damned if I’m telling you which pubs. Once a month, for so many years, Tom would remind me that this column was due. No, that’s a lie. He’d remind me several times a month. Towards the end, in a very high voice, with crying. Well, no more! These days are over. Tom’s entirely brilliant era of DWM is drawing to a close with every word you read, my time on Doctor Who is vanishing like breath on a mirror, and this column too is about to pop out of existence.
It’s funny how things you take for granted just disappear, isn’t it? That school you went to every day and then never go back to, that friend you part from laughing and never see again, all those doors that click behind you without you knowing they’re closing forever. I first wrote Doctor Who in 2004, and I very much hoped I’d get to write it again. Then I wrote more, and then so much more, until I thought it might go on forever. I remember at some awards dinner, telling Brian I loved my job so much I couldn’t imagine ever stopping. In other more melancholy moments I knew that everything ends and wondered what the very last words I’d ever write about Doctor Who would be. Well, the time has come, and here they are.
Seriously, every Capaldi finale has been stellar. Steven Moffat going all out every time, Peter Capaldi tearing into the material with gusto, Pearl Mackie and Jenna Coleman holding their own against that wild force of acting power with their own unbelievably magnetic performances, Rachel Talalay giving them all visual power and poetry and meticulous precision… so many people combining to do their jobs exactly right and creating television unlike anything else.
And they’re all really very feminist, too. Which is awesome.
Really, Dark Water, Death in Heaven, Heaven Sent, Hell Bent, World Enough and Time, and The Doctor Falls have a particular unity and strength that give this whole era such a unique identity and coherency, a distinct and powerful artistic vision through the medium of Doctor Who.