After a year preparing for Doctor Who's 50th anniversary as well as the departure of fan-favorite Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, news of the show's upcoming season 8 has been in comparative short supply. While set photos and casting announcements have been trickling out at a steady pace, it's been a long time since a major Doctor Who update has slipped through Steven Moffat's well-guarded production. Even the season 8 teaser, announcing an August 2014 premiere for the next chapter, stayed true to its name - and did little more than tease the show's return (as well as its new Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi).
Still the secrecy is understandable. In spite of major casting changes on the horizon, the run up to season 7 resulted in a number of key details leaking ahead of official reveals. As a result, Moffat and his team have been tight-lipped about season 8 - apparently for good reason. In a recent appearance, the writer/showrunner promised big things for the upcoming run of episodes, outright asserting that he wants to reestablish a sense of surprise in the series.
Speaking at the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts in Wales, Moffat opened up about both the casting of Capaldi (once again praising the new Doctor) as well as what fans might see in season 8. Below we've highlighted a few excerpts from the Hay Festival interview and embedded a mid-conversation clip (courtesy of BBC).
On the process of casting Peter Capaldi:
"To keep it completely secret I got him around to my house and we auditioned him there. I wrote these daft little scenes for him. And he carried them off. And, of course, he was brilliant, because he’s Peter Capaldi and he’s always brilliant!"
On Moffat's approach to season 8:
"We haven’t made much of change to Doctor Who since it came back in 2005. I just felt it needs to be a bit more different now. It’s needs to be surprising again!"
Of course, Moffat is never one to spill secrets ahead of schedule, relying instead of vague hints to whet fan appetites, but his comments suggest that BBC isn't afraid to take some risks - even with a new actor in the title role.
While the showrunner has discussed the hiring of Capaldi multiple times, Moffat's comments offer a fun behind-the-scenes glimpse at how hard it is to keep secrets from Doctor Who fans, not to mention British tabloids. We've heard prior rumors suggesting that multiple actors had been considered (not auditioned) for the part but it's interesting to discover that Moffat's process for testing Capaldi was, overall, pretty informal. No doubt, there was more to it than Moffat is likely implying but The Doctor is one of the most iconic TV roles in the world - and it's amusing to think such a massive decision was (mostly) made in Moffat's living room after a few "daft" line readings.
Without a doubt, many fans were hoping for a Doctor that ushered in a more diverse era for the doctor (either by gender or race) but even though Capaldi is older and whiter than some might have wanted, there's no denying that the veteran actor has the potential to be "brilliant" as The Doctor. Still, Moffat's other comment implies that the show isn't simply going to coast on post-50th Anniversary goodwill - with the showrunner suggesting that season 8 will see major changes (Capaldi being the first one) in order to make the series "more different" and "surprising."
It's an interesting quote - especially since Doctor Who has changed quite a bit over the years since it was reintroduced in 2005. Beyond the coming and going of three Doctors (and one War Doctor) as well as a handful of companions, the series has evolved from monster of the week mysteries to heavily serialized (and at times quite serious) story arcs. Moffat doesn't offer much room for speculation on what else might change, beyond the casting of Capaldi, but he does seem to indicate that the upcoming season could be somewhat different from what has come before. Whether changes are merely cosmetic or a more involved course-correction for Doctor Who going forward remains to be seen but Moffat has previously indicated (and reiterates the point again in the extended interview) that he opted for an older Doctor this time to help show viewers a new side of the character as well as open up fresh storytelling possibilities.
To that end, with most side characters and narrative arcs from the Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith eras sewed-up, Moffat and his team have a relatively clean slate. After all, Doctor Who has always been a story about regeneration - and subsequently reinvention.
We'll keep you up to date as the BBC begins the marketing run up for season 8 in the coming weeks.
Doctor Who season 8 will premiere this August on BBC and BBC America.
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