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Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat and the team share their personal modern Doctor Who highlights

The showrunners and writers Mark Gatiss, Chris Chibnall, Toby Whithouse, Gareth Roberts and Peter Harness, and directors Douglas Mackinnon and Rachel Talalay reflect on a decade of adventures in space and time

Published: Thursday, 26th March 2015 at 7:25 am

To mark ten years since the relaunch of Doctor Who on 26 March 2005, has invited the people who make the series to choose their own personal highlights from the past decade – a request they can interpret however they wish…


Steven Moffat
Oh, so many highlights, when I look back over all that time – sometimes I wish I could remember any of them. The truth is, as anyone who’s ever had this job will confirm, there are just too many emergencies going on to actually notice anything. It’s hard to enjoy the view, when you’re falling out of a plane.

But here’s a thing. At the end of last year my wife got a new computer (this will get relevant) and I was charged with uploading all the family photographs to it. At the time I was feeling more than usually grumpy, genuinely miserable, and, as the year ended, a bit of a failure. And then something amazing happened. The photos uploaded and all of 2014 flickerbooked past on the computer screen. And even though I’m Scottish, I realised something – I’d just had an AMAZING year.

There was Peter arriving on the Who set for the first time. Now he was finalising his costume. Now he was fighting Daleks, then a mummy on train, then Cybermen. Before I knew it, there was a world tour, and I was in New York and Mexico and Rio. Then there was the first night at the Leicester Square Odeon, and straight after I was on plane to LA where Sherlock (yeah, I mentioned the other one, shoot me) did rather well at the Emmys. Best year ever, I thought – still grumpily, because one’s essential nature is not so easily overthrown.

So to be honest, I don’t know what my highlight of the last ten years really ought to be because it feels like it’s all still happening. Ask me in another ten years, when I’m grumping that I should have paid more attention at the time. But for now, last year was pretty damned great!
[Steven Moffat has been a Doctor Who writer since 2005's The Empty Child, and executive producer and lead writer since 2010]

Mark Gatiss
I can’t believe the Doctor has already been back ten years. I suppose my personal highlight would still have to be getting the phone call from Russell asking me to write what became The Unquiet Dead. All my Christmasses came at once, with Charles Dickens, ghosts and Cardiff thrown in!

I'm beyond thrilled that our wonderful old Doctor Who has found an entirely new audience and is more popular than ever. God bless us. Every one! X
[Mark Gatiss has been a Doctor Who writer since 2005’s The Unquiet Dead; guest-starred in The Lazarus Experiment in 2007; and wrote and executive-produced An Adventure in Space and Time in 2013]

Toby Whithouse
I’ve been lucky enough to write six episodes of Doctor Who, for three different Doctors. This show has given me so many happy experiences and memories. Ranging from going with Matt and Karen to the San Diego Comic-Con one year and hearing the roar of the crowd as we stumbled on stage, to the simple act of sitting down and writing INT. TARDIS at the top of a scene. I don’t believe there is a show, anywhere in the world, that commands the affection and devotion that Doctor Who does and I’m very privileged to have been a part of that for many years.

But OK, one memory still makes me laugh. We were in Venice filming the Doctor Who Confidential episode for The Vampires of Venice. Our guide and host was Francesco da Mosto. I knew him from his fascinating series about Venice (it’s my favourite city In The World – hence setting an episode of Doctor Who there). I don’t know why, but I expected him to be grumpy and surly. I think because in the last episode of his series he was bemoaning the fact that Venice was becoming a pastiche of itself, sinking under the weight of tourists and mask shops and plastic gondolas. Instead he was one of the most charming and welcoming people I’ve ever met.

One day we were filming on one of the little islands in the lagoon. But the plan was to film us sailing over there. So myself and Matt Smith clambered into Francesco’s little motor boat. There was only one seat, so the producer told Matt to take that and told me to sit on the side. I put my hand up and asked why Matt got the seat, while I – an elderly and distinguished writer – had to balance on the side. The producer shrugged and said, “There’s no nice way to say this, Toby, but you’ve finished your script, whereas Matt is still filming. Frankly, you’re more expendable.”

So anyway, we sailed across the lagoon, and Francesco turned to me and said, “You wanna drive the boat?” My English reserve kicked in and I said, “Oh no, I couldn't possibly...” And then I thought, “What are you saying, you idiot?” So I quickly backtracked and said, “Yes of course I’d be delighted.”

I still have the photo – taken by the crew in the little boat following us – of me driving Francesco da Mosto’s boat across the Venetian lagoon, with Doctor Who in the back seat. It’s like one of those random dreams you have, when you find yourself playing badminton with Ringo Starr and the Duchess of Argyle.
[Toby Whithouse has been a Doctor Who writer since 2006’s School Reunion and is writing a two-parter in the 2015 series. His new spy drama series The Game is coming to BBC2 soon]

Chris Chibnall
My personal highlight from the past decade of Doctor Who? OK, it could be seeing that Dalek come out of the shadows in 2005’s Dalek. No wait, the Tenth Doctor’s appearance out of the Tardis doors 45 minutes into The Christmas Invasion. Or possibly the creeping horror of The Impossible Planet — no, the stonking half-regeneration cliffhanger from The Stolen Earth. Or the tear-filled last 15 minutes of The End of Time.

Actually, it might be Matt Smith’s triumphant, funny, vigorous claiming of the role in The Eleventh Hour, or maybe Missy’s terrifying destruction of Osgood in Death in Heaven.

It’s definitely being able to share a show I loved as a child with my own children. That’s a massive thrill for me, like so many other parents.

Oh look, why do I have to choose? It’s just all of it. And all of it still to come.
[Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall has been a Doctor Who writer since the 2007 episode 42]

Peter Harness
Um… it’s quite difficult to choose a highlight. But maybe it’s “From the Doctor to my son Thomas”: the short YouTube video that Peter Capaldi made for a little boy called Thomas Goodall who’d just lost his grandmother.

Quite apart from the fact that it illustrates the tremendous kindness of Peter Capaldi (although I know that all of the other Doctors have done similar things), it reminds me that Doctor Who exists not only to be entertaining, but to help children understand the world and its difficulties, and by extension, to remind us all to be a bit kinder, more imaginative and more human.
[Peter Harness wrote last year’s Doctor Who episode Kill the Moon; his adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is coming to BBC1 soon]

Douglas Mackinnon
Favourite memory:The first day that I filmed on the Tardis, I must have looked a bit funny, as David Tennant put his arm round me and said,"We've all felt what you're feeling, that you're eight years old in a spaceship and yet have to be a grown-up as well. I'd start with a wide shot and take it from there!"
[Douglas Mackinnon has directed Doctor Who since 2008]

Rachel Talalay
My personal highlight? The day filming at St Paul’s Cathedral [in July 2014] – figuring out how best to re-create the classic shots from The Invasion [1968], cursing the building of the Millennium Bridge in the way of the perfect angle, and thinking, “This is my job?!” … Watching Peter Capaldi and Michelle Gomez goof Mary Poppins’s Feed the Birds on the steps... Standing alone inside the cathedral with just one guard and the actors. (Thank you, Christopher Wren.) … Finally, the Doctor, Missy and the Cybermen exiting the Royal Doors of the cathedral – and watching the crowd react. Epic Doctor Who!

My daughter had spent the previous day on the set of Avengers 2 and said, “It’s not possible but this beats Avengers 2!”
[Rachel Talalay directed the 2014 season finale, Dark Water / Death in Heaven]

And finally, a word from the wonderful man who restarted it all back in 2005…

Russell T Davies
It’s hard to think of one personal highlight after ten years – that’s like saying to me, “What’s your favourite bit of life?” And I genuinely think of a different favourite thing every day.


[Russell T Davies was Doctor Who’s executive producer and lead writer 2005–2010]


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