As the search continues for the 12th iteration of the Doctor, casting updates and Doctor Who season 8 details have been a scarce commodity. Confirmation that 11th Doctor Matt Smith would finish his run as the Time Lord during the 2013 Christmas Special gave way to rumors and speculation regarding which actor (or actress) might rise as the 12th incarnation of the fan-favorite time traveling alien. Back in May, a BBC official stated that the new Doctor could be announced within a month, and in the proceeding weeks Skyfall's Rory Kinnear was reported to be a frontrunner, award-winner Helen Mirren expressed interest, and we even offered our own "realistic" casting choices for the role - but no official word materialized.
Now in a new interview, showrunner and writer Steven Moffat is providing an update, and while he politely refuses to share details on who BBC is considering for the part, the producer does offer some behind-the-scenes insight into the casting process as well as the future of the series.
In a lengthy Q&A with EW, Moffat speaks about the challenge of casting the next Time Lord, asserting that he understands the stakes - especially now that the show is drawing viewers from all over the world:
“Well, it’s always just terrifying. If you’re a Doctor Who fan, as I have been all my life, you’ve been doing fantasy casting for this part for as long as you can remember. But when you’re suddenly faced with the reality that you are going to sit there and you are going to make that decision it does feel absolutely chilling. There’s a very big range of people who could play it and different ways you could go with it. We must get this right. One false move and the show’s over.”
Moffat, as usual, was very cautious about revealing any key details about who might take-on the role of the next Doctor but promised that he wouldn't keep fans in the dark once casting is finalized - asserting that, even if he wanted to hold the announcement under wraps, the news would be very hard to keep secret:
"Unless we have an insane plan, we’ll announce a new Doctor within days of finalizing the new Doctor. Because it’s very very hard to keep any kind of a secret. The last time, when we chose Matt, we had to hold over on that one, because there was a Christmas Doctor Who special called “The Next Doctor” for which Russell (T. Davies, former Doctor Who showrunner) was playing the game of pretending it was going to be David Morrissey. So we couldn’t deflate that. [Laughs]. But I think we’ll go public pretty fast."
Considering Doctor Who is more popular than ever, coupled with the rapid speed of information on the Internet, it's not a surprise to hear that BBC intends to be a bit more straightforward for this Doctor regeneration. Announcing the 12th Doctor "within days" of finalizing the casting is a smart move - especially since the new Doctor's Christmas Special debut is still 6 months away. Moffat and his team could still be in the early stages of looking for the new Time Lord, but it's much more likely that they're pretty far along in the process - especially since the showrunner claims that Matt Smith had always planned to leave after the 50th Anniversary and Christmas Special:
"We discussed ages ago that we would do three series and then he would do the 50th and then he’d do Christmas. That was Plan A for a very, very long while. That may sound cold that it was so far in advance but you’ve got to plan a career. [Laughs] The question was, 'Will I be able to talk him out of it?' We went out for lunch and he said that he’d come very close to doing another series but it was the same argument: 'If I do another series, I think I might do two more series, or three more series. I think I might never leave.'"
Finding a new Doctor is a monumental task, but based on Moffat's explanation, he presumably had some idea of a direction for the show post-Matt Smith. Meaning that, while searching for a new Doctor is understandably "terrifying," it's doubtful that Smith's exit came as a surprise to Moffat or that the search for a replacement will throw an unexpected wrench in the show's season 8 plans.
Still, unlike a lot of serialized TV series, Doctor Who fans are never exactly sure when the next season will premiere. Generally, the show debuts in a summer time slot for a thirteen episode run (followed later by a standalone Christmas Special) but the most recent season was split in half (due in part to the introduction of new companion Clara), debuting in September and returning in March for Part 2. Of course in 2009, at the time of David Tennant's exit from the series, BBC forwent a traditional season altogether, delivering a set of extended "Specials" instead.
Fortunately, Moffat does not anticipate the search for the 12th Doctor to dramatically impact their scheduled return (with a new Time Lord star) in Summer 2014 for season 8. Though, he admits that things could change.
"I think that’s probably right. But these things change so often."
Previously, we had raised the question of just how long the increasingly busy producer would stick around to write and oversee Doctor Who - especially given that the recent hiring of executive producer Brian Minchin could be the first step in a potential exit by Moffat down the line. Minchin is an accomplished Doctor Who company man with writing and producing credits on Doctor Who, Torchwood, and the Sarah Jane Adventures - so could Moffat be lining up trustworthy individuals to carry the show forward in his place?
In the interview, Moffat admits that he probably won't be running Doctor Who forever but also claims that he's not ready to leave (at least not yet):
"I think a year at a time. I’ve signed up for this next year, with the new Doctor. It’s one of those jobs when you know when you’ve had enough. At the moment I haven’t had enough and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I’m very excited for the challenge of the new Doctor and establishing that new Doctor. So, no plans to leave as yet. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be here for 20 years. There will come that day when I think it’s time someone else had a go and it’s time I did something else."
Moffat covers a number of additional topics in the interview: including plans for the 50th Anniversary Special, the onscreen chemistry between Matt Smith and David Tennant, bringing back the Zygons, and much more. So make sure you check out the full article over at EW.
We'll keep you up to date as we hear more, but in the meantime, check out our Doctor Who Viewing Guide: Tips, Suggestions & Complete Episode List.
Matt Smith will return as Doctor Who on November 23rd for the 50th Anniversary Special, followed by the 2013 Christmas Special on December 25th, with season 8 of the series scheduled to start production in late 2013.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates on Doctor Who as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.