The final part! How to scare the kids in a good way
The final part of Nick Setchfield’s SFX.co.uk-exclusive interview with Doctor Who ’s new showrunner. For lots more Doctor Who coverage check out the next issue of SFX, on sale Wednesday 7 April.
SFX : As a fan of the classic series, what gives you the most pleasure working on this series? Anything that hearkened back to your own youth?
“Practically all of it… It’s starting to become hard for me to remember not being involved in Doctor Who . Now that it’s the only line in my CV that anyone cares about [laughs] it’s hard for me to remember that I had nothing to do with the previous series! Just everything… seeing the TARDIS in a new location, the police box in a new place, is always properly exciting. And I remember the very first day on location, which bizarrely turned out to be far too momentous, because we were on a beach, and as we were walking down to the beach I could see the police box standing on the beach, just perfect and blue, directly facing me, and it just felt far too significant. I couldn’t deal with the momentousness of it. I thought oh God, I’ve been walking to that police box all my life! But every day you see Daleks, you see the TARDIS, and that feels like what my professional life has been about forever now. I suppose it was a tremendous thrill to have Peter Davison back, playing a scene with David Tennant [in the 2007 Children In Need special “Time-Crash”]. That was a laugh, because I know them both quite well. That was just a bizarre thing to do. They instantly got a bit shy when they were in costume, even though I go drinking with them… it’s ridiculous! I remember once I was walking over to take my kids and Peter’s kids to look at the big monster room, the big storage room, and Peter shouted from behind, ‘Oh, can I come and see too?’ And he ran up from behind, wearing his Doctor Who costume. And I thought oh God, this is too much! I was wandering around saying, ‘These are the Slitheen… and Peter, you’re dressed as Doctor Who!’ That was really strange.”
SFX : Are your kids Doctor Who fans?
“Yes, but it’s a slightly different world for them. Five years is forever, even when you’re 10, so the idea that there was Doctor Who before I was doing it… Doctor Who comes out of their house as far as they’re concerned. When I told them I was taking it over they looked at me, bewildered, and said, ‘Do you mean you’re not already in charge?’ Which makes me wonder how I’d been talking about it up until then…”
SFX : If a six year old was watching it for the first time this year, how would you describe it to them?
“Like all first episodes, it’s designed to explain it. The first episode of the new series is the beginning again. You get to know the Doctor again, from the point of view of a new character. So I’d just say watch this, you’re going to love it. It’s full of monsters and action. And loud noises! It’s a different experience for me – I’ve been watching my own children grow up, and watching how they change… Towards the age of eight Louis stopped just liking colour and incident and music and started to really quite closely follow plots. He’s watching all these American sitcoms now like Hannah Montana , and he actually now understands it, whereas a few months ago it was just some funny stuff, people falling over, but now he’s quite carefully following the plot. So Doctor Who always has to appeal to a six year old as well. So we’ve always got big pictures. Even if you’re not really following the plot – and even if you’re one of those people who can’t follow the plot – there’s always a spaceship or an explosion or somebody in a funny green mask to entertain it. I think they’ll just love it because the Doctor is funny and the monsters are scary. He’s the world’s best dad. Apart from me, obviously!”
SFX : Was he allowed to watch “Blink” when it aired?
“Sure, yeah. Kids are funny. The thing that really, really troubles Louis, out of all the stuff that’s been in Doctor Who , was in the werewolf episode… not the werewolf, but when the man’s eyes went black. He still asks me about: ‘Are you bringing back that man with the black eyes?’ And when David mentioned The Nightmare Child in “The End Of Time” Louis asked, ‘Is that the man with the black eyes?’ No, it’s not, it’s fine!”
SFX : You once told us you thought Doctor Who was powered by death. Is that still true?
“Powered by death… just as I was about to fail to have anyone die for several years! Well, clearly not. I demonstrated the opposite of that! I suppose it’s huge jeopardy, isn’t it? There’s always a massive amount at stake when the Doctor is battling. It’s not small stuff. He’s not investigating an anomaly. He wouldn’t bother. He’d go to a party. It’s always innocent people being mangled up and he’s got to go and do something about it. In a way he’s not really setting out to have an adventure, he’s setting out to do something else, and on the way, because he’s such a moral man, such an emotional and passionate and principled man, if he sees people in trouble then he must go and help them. So in that sense he’s motivated by trying to prevent people dying.