Steven Moffat: I'm glad I'm not the one to end Doctor Who
After seven years, Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat has no regrets leaving the show
Steven Moffat has proved that even for a show entering its 54th year, Doctor Who can still surprise.
Yet, in his interview with The New Paper, the 55-year-old head writer and showrunner was himself surprised at the "level of fuss" the recent reveal has made.
It was announced that the show about alien time-traveller The Doctor - currently played by Peter Capaldi - would have its first openly gay companion in student Bill Potts played by newcomer Pearl Mackie.
"I did not think it was a big deal. It's the bare minimum of representation and probably too long in coming," he said.
Explaining that it was while writing the character describe a boy she fancied, Moffat that it did not sit right with him. "For some reason, I didn't believe it, " he says.
The show has had gay characters before such as Captain Jack or Madame Vastra and Jenny. While they were recurring characters, the Doctor's companion - or assistant as they are sometimes known - is essentially the show's second lead character.
"There are gay people in real life, there are gay people in Doctor Who. It's not a big statement or anything. And we don't expect any applause for this," says Moffat on the response.
Given that the show is now playing internationally - it is shown in 94 countries across six continents, and dubbed and subtitled into 15 languages - was there any worry from executives about a backlash in certain areas?
"Not a heartbeat. But then I think when I talked about the character of Bill to the execs at the BBC, I probably forgot to mention that she was gay," Moffat says with a laugh.
He feels the show is the ideal platform to show many aspects of life.
"I think getting better at representation from all points of view is something we all need to do. I always feel we are behind the curve on these matters."
"You can't expect it in a show like Downton Abbey, it would make no sense. But you can and should get it in Doctor Who."
For fans of the science-fiction show, the upcoming season, which starts on April 16 in Singapore, is already significant as it is both Capaldi's and Moffat's swansong.
The show began in 1963 and was relaunched in 2005.
Before becoming head writer, Moffat had written fan favourite episodes such as The Empty Child, The Girl In The Fireplace and one of the most highly-regarded episodes, Blink.
Each featured Moffat's signature skill of making the innocuous - in Blink's case it was statues - incredibly sinister.
When it was announced that he would take over as showrunner from Russel T Davis, he was the obvious choice.
Since taking over in 2010, Moffat has emboldened the show's position as one of the BBC's top exports, including finally breaking the US market.
He also found time to create another hit with Sherlock which made Benedict Cumberbatch a star.
"I'm surprised I've lasted so long. It's a wonderful job but there was never a time I contemplated staying indefinitely."
He first told his bosses two years ago and had planned the last series as his farewell.
"And then for various reasons I did another year," he says.
He says that will some of the BBC heads appeared startled at the announcement, there was no panic at there not being a clear heir to the role.
But then he says that he did ask his boss each year if they wanted him to "b***** off and get someone else", as he puts it.
But Moffat has no regrets leaving, happy to be a temporary custodian.
"With a show like Doctor Who, you know you are entirely dispensable. You will be shed like the scale of a dragon as the mighty beast goes forward. And that's fine."
"I only felt that it was my show in the sense that you think the taxi you get into is yours.
"The specialness of this job is that it is a like a great monument that you have been given the care of. It's a great privilege. You never feel privileged to work on a show that you created - it's just that thing you do. But if you take over this pre-existing national institution then you feel very honoured."
Moffat will happily hand the reins to Chris Chibnall, a Doctor Who writer and creator of hit UK crime drama Broadchurch, after this Christmas special.
"I'm thrilled to hand over to him. In series 11, to get one of the hottest names in drama is extraordinary."
There is another reason Moffat is happy to be able to pass the torch.
"The one thing that I dreaded was I didn't want to be the one that ended it. So I feel genuine relief that I am passing it on."
What he may not miss is the more rabid areas of fandom any fantasy show can attract. While social media has had a huge part to play in the show's international success, fandom can turn nasty online and is often aimed at Moffat himself.
"The unrestrained hatred of complete strangers is going to affect any rational person. I keep away from it, but my son has been harassed on Twitter," he explains.
"I think some people are far too casual about the amount of hate put forward. I don't know how people so full of hate could love a show like Doctor Who. But they are not the majority. They aren't even a sizeable minority. They're just bullies."
With the show's different story styles and 13 different actors having occupied the lead role, the show continues to gain new fans as there is something for everyone.
Though which episodes from his tenure he would use to introduce people to the show proves a difficult question.
After some brain-racking, he mentions his first show in charge The Eleventh Hour, Vampires Of Venice and even though it is not a fan favourite, Robots Of Sherwood.
"Vincent And The Doctor (written by Love Actually creator Richard Curtis) is one of the best, maybe the best ever. I'd worry about using as an introductory show though as maybe it sets the bar too high."
While the shows basis is simple - the Doctor and friends fly through time and space in a blue box called the Tardis and get into danger - 54 years of back-story can appear daunting.
"The bizarre thing is that for the 50th anniversary, some of my snobby intellectual friends who don't watch the show told me they would be tuning in for the special (The Day Of The Doctor)," Moffat explains, saying he thought the concepts - including 73-year-old guest star John Hurt playing a younger version of the Doctor - may be "impenetrable".
"I was like, 'Really? Well, good luck."
But then, "they loved it and started watching the show. So you never know."
The subject did bring Moffat back to the upcoming season opener where Bill will meet The Doctor for the first time.
"Actually, the first episode of the new series is created as an ideal jumping on point. It's even called The Pilot as a sort of joke because of that."
And next year the show will start again with a new Doctor and a new showrunner.
Moffat has been sure to not get too involved in what will come for Chris Chibnall.
"I have no advice for Chris on running the show. I've worked with him before, I know what he thinks. He must do it his way, not my way."
He has offered some other sage words.
"The advice I tended to give was on how to life your life. The thing about Doctor Who is that it occupies every day of your life. Every day gets railroaded by the show. So how you handle it is mostly what I talked about."
So with no Doctor Who and Sherlock on indefinite hiatus, what will Moffat do with his time in 2018? The answer is short and simple.
"...Go on holiday."
Doctor Who premieres immediately after the UK telecast exclusively on BBC Player on Sunday at 3.10am (Singapore time). It will then be available on the BBC First (StarHub Channel 552) at 1pm.