Steven Moffat: Peter Capaldi saved Doctor Who

TV shows die when they become predictable, says the showrunner who also defends the series 8 ratings of the BBC sci-fi show

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Alien hero the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is well-known for his hobby of saving the universe – but according to Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat, the recent off-piste casting of the Time Lord rescued the series itself from possibly stagnating.

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“A show dies when it’s reliable like a pair of old slippers,” he explained earlier this week at a Royal Television Society event. “If any reviewer says that about a show that show is gone within a year.” 

“Shows die when people say: ‘Oh, it’s quite good. I quite like it.’ And the ‘new show’ is old now, so this had to be a reinvention.”

Capaldi’s colder and more ruthless take on the Time Lord has been a hit with RadioTimes.com readers (who considered the actor the best in the role in a poll conducted over the last few weeks, below) as well as fans and critics who have been almost universal in their praise.

However, Moffat acknowledged that some might have found it harder to warm to this darker Doctor, and said it was all part of the plan.

“This has been different and designed to make you go: ‘I don’t trust him yet, I don’t know what he’s like – what’s he going to do next?’” he said. “It’s exciting and makes the show new again.”

“If people say: ‘I’m appalled by the new Doctor!’ I say: ‘Yeah, yeah, and you’re watching it every week.’”

Moffat also defended the series’ apparent falling ratings this series, which saw Peter Capaldi’s debut episode watched by fewer people than the first appearances of previous Doctors Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant or Matt Smith.

“Indisputably, without doubt, exactly the same number of people watch Doctor Who now as they ever did,” he insisted.

“There is no drop off in the ratings but the way people watch it has changed.”

He added: “They watch it on catch-up to a far higher degree. In the time I have been doing Doctor Who the number of people who watch it on iPlayer has trebled.

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“And even if our overnight ratings were our final rating it would still count as a hit.”