The big conversation that Doctor Who fans are having right now is all about Jodie Whittaker being cast as the Thirteenth Doctor and the transition from Peter Capaldi to the first female lead the show’s ever had. There’s another important changeover to keep in mind, though, as this year’s Christmas special will also be the last episode helmed by Steven Moffat as showrunner after working on the hit series for six seasons.
In an illuminating interview with Deadline, Moffat explained the process of how he’ll hand over the reigns to new showrunner, Broadchurch’s Chris Chibnall. It turns out it’s a very instant changeover, all hinging around the Doctor’s regeneration scene.
“It literally is as it was the last time, though the line is slightly more thickly drawn this time I suppose. We make sure right up into the point where Peter Capaldi explodes in a ball of flame as he starts to regenerate, and they come in and the last set, the best very small set, is written by Chris Chibnall and features the new Doctor recovering from the regeneration. That’s exactly what we did the last time with David Tennant in “The End Of Time.”
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Moffat then went on to say that it’s not “quite as dramatic” a process as it sounds.
At that point, the remaining page was written by me, and we shot it all in the same day on that occasion because the scheduling was slightly different. Russell Davies handed me headphones and wandered off, and I sat there and watched the monitor instead of Russell. So like that, it wasn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds because in fact, David Tennant still had I think two or three more days to shoot as the Doctor on that show after the regeneration was filmed. In this case, Peter Capaldi’s very last moment is his moment where he starts to regenerate, and there was a gap between filming one bit and filming the next.”
It’s also interesting to note that the final thing Peter Capaldi filmed as the Doctor was his “death” scene. We know from previous Doctors that filming the regeneration is a hugely emotional experience, but it must have been even more so for Capaldi if it was the last time he’ll play the character.
Moffat also gave his glowing opinion on Chibnall’s choice of Whittaker for the next Doctor, calling her “inspiring choice” and “never less than brilliant in everything she does.”
Doctor Who returns for “Twice Upon A Time” on Christmas Day.