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Why Steven Moffat Chose That Particular Plot For The Doctor Who Season Premiere

Spoiler: No fezzes.

CapaldiPremiereIf you watched the Doctor Who Season 8 premiere, you may be wondering why the plot was based around… well, best to leave anything even remotely close to spoilers for after the jump. Needless to say, after we saw the episode a few weeks ago, that was our first question to showrunner Steven Moffat.


“The Girl in the Fireplace” is a fan favorite written by Moffat before he began showrunning. (Many have posed that he’s much better at writing when he’s not showrunning, but that’s neither here nor there at the moment.) He returned to SS Madame de Pompadour territory by making the villains of the Season 8 premiere the same repair droids from that episode, just from a different ship. [Editor’s Note: Here’s our recap of the episode!]

During a press conference on their NYC stop for the Doctor Who World tour, The Mary Sue asked Moffat about his decision-making process of returning to familiar territory. He told us:

I wanted a quite simple menace for the first episode. I didn’t want it to be wildly complicated as it were because obviously the grandstanding at the center of it is a new Doctor and a new relationship with a companion, so you really just want the villains to be lurching around offing people now and then with quite a simple backstory. But I also just quite liked the idea. I think I actually stole this joke from Columbo that the Doctor’s completely forgotten a previous adventure. Because you would. You just would. I remember there’s a lovely moment in one of the Columbos where somebody—one of the later ones where somebody is recounting one of his previous cases, and Columbo just says, “I’m sorry, I’ve got absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.” [laughter] Because you would! He’s 2000 years old, he’s forgotten the whole thing. Just that, just that. He forgot one of my episodes so I’m very cross with him!

He seemingly lost his train of thought along the way but picked the thread back up a bit after another journalist in the room asked about the themes of transformation and appearances in the episode.

I suppose that’s why I chose those monsters, because they’ve replaced themselves continually and the Doctor is faced with the fact that he has to and he doesn’t even know where he got his face from. You could just back-date that [Editor’s Note: to our previous question]. [laughter] That’s much cleverer. Thank you! So can I now talk intelligently about that idea I forgot in my head. [laughter] Just that really—I know it seems preposterous in a way that you’re obliged to sit in a room and think seriously, what would it be like if you were Matt Smith one moment and Peter Capaldi the next, what would that be like? It’s not a general life experience. It’s not something that’s ever happened to me, for instance. But you have to take it seriously and you have to sort of think, it must be frightening. And it must be frightening when you look at your best friend in the whole world, because that’s where I put that line in about seeing. You look at your best friend in the whole world, the person on whom you are anchored, and they don’t see you. They literally look at you and look right through you and they see something else. And you still feel the same. You’re looking this way. You feel a bit different. But if someone’s looking back and not seeing you, how frightening that must be. Not to have your only basic irremovable right, the right to be yourself. The Doctor periodically has that removed from him.

What did you think of the series returing to the villains from “The Girl in the Fireplace?”

Previously in Doctor Who

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Jill Pantozzi is a pop-culture journalist and host who writes about all things nerdy and beyond! She’s Editor in Chief of the geek girl culture site The Mary Sue (Abrams Media Network), and hosts her own blog “Has Boobs, Reads Comics” ( She co-hosts the Crazy Sexy Geeks podcast along with superhero historian Alan Kistler, contributed to a book of essays titled “Chicks Read Comics,” (Mad Norwegian Press) and had her first comic book story in the IDW anthology, “Womanthology.” In 2012, she was featured on National Geographic’s "Comic Store Heroes," a documentary on the lives of comic book fans and the following year she was one of many Batman fans profiled in the documentary, "Legends of the Knight."