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"Showrunner Showdown" was an article published in DWM 551. In an unprecedented stunt, it consisted of the then-only two retired showrunners of the BBC Wales Doctor Who, Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat, interviewing each other about their Doctor Who work. A pseudo-narrative cover depicting the event as a boxing match between the two (which mentioned that "the winner would have to take on Chris Chibnall") accompanied the lengthy feature.
How to do it
Russell T Davies is first asked by Steven Moffat to elaborate on his primary directive, when he relaunched Doctor Who in 2005, to not have a "posh" Doctor. Davies, while noting that he would have dropped this idea had Hugh Grant been cast (a what-might-have-been about which he still wonders), explains that in his opinion, it was difference enough from Rose Tyler that the Doctor was 900 years old and an alien; adding an implicit class divided on top of everything else would have made the contrast too great and lessened the impact of their interplay as a result.
This leads to Moffat being asked by Davies how he would have relaunched Doctor Who — what his first episode of Series 1 would have been like. After complimenting Rose, which he holds to be pretty much perfect, Moffat answered that he "fancied" copying the plot structure of Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks.
The young couple on a foggy night, meeting a mysterious stranger and following him into the blue box. Twenty minutes in, you're on some lush alien planet, defending some innocents from ugly robots (not actually the Daleks, but mimicking the structure of that story, because it's kind of all Doctor Who at once).
It would either have been feature length or a two-parter. For the first half the Doctor would be funny but scary and you wouldn't trust him at all. And ripping off Terry Nation again, remember that scene where Ian tries to rally the Thals to defend themselves against the Daleks? He pretends he's going to kidnap one of the women and give her to the Daleks to experiment on. I liked the idea of giving some version of that scene to the Doctor – really convince the audience he's going to do it, and then boom! "So there 'is something you'd fight for!" And then everyone realises he's the hero, and he leads them all to victory!
So yeah, basically I'd have remade The Daleks. And it would have been about a tenth as relatable and grounded as Rose. So thank God it was you and not me.
It is worth noting, though Moffat does not, that giving the "You will fight for something!" scene to the Doctor rather than Ian was a change already performed in Dr. Who and the Daleks, the Peter Cushing remake of The Daleks.
The two also discuss, at length, the place of comedy within Doctor Who, with Moffat noting how much more comedic content there is in the Welsh series than there ever was even in the supposedly über-humorous Graham Williams-era Tom Baker stories. Both agree that although it never was a concerted decision, the use of many, many gags in their Doctor Who scripts was the right choice. However, Davies does nuance the point:
It's tricky, though. I used to get annoyed with writers trying to be too funny. Not you! Dear God, we'd throw money at your funny. (Although we didn't actually throw money at you at all.) But most first drafts would have the Doctor and companion in the TARDIS, being funny. He'd be saying something like, "I once met Catherine the Great and it turned out she was an ostrich from outer space." Which isn't funny. I used to say, "Stop trying to be funny. They're travelling through the whole of creation – give them something real to say." And usually, the scene would be cut. So it's tricky. Funny becomes glib. On the very first episode, Rose, I spent a long time after the line "Lots of planet have a north," adding the line, "But not all of them. "Funny? Too much? Too far? I never wrote it, and yet I still expect him to say it every time I watch it! Strangely, I now think it's more of a Tenth Doctor line.
What might have been
Davies reminds Moffat about several scripts that never were and dropped ideas. Firstly, as part of another question, Davies reminds Moffat about a Series 2 script pitched by Moffat where the Doctor ended up being judged by "Time Gods" for his interferences in Time. Davies liked the script but rejected it due to being too similar to the very reason he ditched the Time Lords from his era's status quo — he didn't want a universe with active gods within it.
Later, Davies asks Moffat about the original outline Moffat had emailed him of The Magician's Apprentice back when he hoped Davies would agree to write it himself; the finished story as written by Moffat was, according to Davies, "almost unrecognisable" from this original plan and featured Davros once again on trial. Moffat reminisced about the possibility of the Doctor and Davros's talks being publicised, with an attempt by each to gain the Dalek crowd's favour — reminiscent, perhaps, of the trial of Davros and his debate with the Dalek Prime at the climax of War of the Daleks.
I can't remember much, but the element I regret losing is having some sort of audience for the Davros/ Doctor scenes. You know, at first Davros does better than expected, gets the crowd on his side. But then the Doctor gets smart, turns the crowd against him – which, of course, just makes him feel sorry for Davros and sort of understand him. Some version of that could've worked.
Asking each other what they would change about their stories with the benefit of hindsight, Moffat regrets playing the ending of Flesh and Stone — when Amy Pond makes a pass at the Eleventh Doctor — as a comedy. Davies, meanwhile, can't stop kicking himself for not calling Planet of the Dead something to do with "sand", what with it having been filmed in an actual desert and being followed by an episode with "water" in the title. The Sands of Death is the idea he settles upon. He also regrets never creating a direct sequel to a classic story, with the original airing on BBC Three in anticipation:
Something like Image of the Fendahl. Imagine, Return of the Fendahl! Back in the ruins of Fetch Priory. Ancient evil stirs. Wanda Ventham reincarnated. Just once, for the fun of it! I was so determined not to look back too much, I think I missed a trick there.
Best work & self-reflection
Moffat and Davies, at one point, ask each other which of their own scripts were their favorites. Davies's primary answer is Gridlock, for which Moffat also professes great affection, but he also states that at times he is inclined to answer Tooth and Claw, instead. For his part, Moffat recognises Blink as his most successful script but his "oddball choice" (as he puts it) is Listen.
Asked what his favorite line is, Moffat reveals that it might well be "The future is promised to no one – but I insist upon my past," which he originally wrote for The Girl in the Fireplace before memorably finding it a new home in the emotional climax of Series 9's Hell Bent.
Temporal mechanics & the Doctor's future
At multiple points in Showrunner Showdown, Moffat and Davies ended up elaborating on their thoughts on various events, concepts and mechanics of the Doctor Who universe. Davies' understanding of fixed points in Time as seen in Moffat's The Impossible Astronaut is stated to be that...
...when the Impossible Astronaut shoots the Doctor – which turns out to be a Teselecta Doctor – it doesn't matter that the event is seen by Amy and Rory and, complicatedly, River; the point is, the event seems to be witnessed by time. That the universe knows what has happened, and it becomes history.
Moffat's reply confirms that he sees Time — and indeed the universe — as ultimately fixed in the Doctor Who universe: on some higher-dimensional level, everything, including all time-travel, has "already happened", but even the Doctor can only perceive one slice of Time at a time. What he perceives as rewriting Time is already, itself, part of the "meta-timeline".
Moffat also restates an idea already present his Day of the Doctor novelisation that "the universe is sentient. We all know that. We are the sentient bit. What could consciousness be, except the universe witnessing itself?"
Perhaps most memorably, Davies reminds Moffat about how "when we were making Silence in the Library, [Moffat] once told [Davies] the Very Last Scene Ever of Doctor Who. Does it still stand?"
This prompted Moffat to dig up the email Davies was remembering, wherein which he revealed that the mind of the Doctor Moon was secretly that of a future incarnation of the Doctor who'd gone back in Time and uploaded himself into the Library so that River wouldn't be lonely.
In my head (and ONLY in my head, this will probably never appear on screen, or be confirmed in any way) River's not just his wife – she's his widow. Somewhere in the terrible future, on a battlefield, the 45th Doctor dies in her arms and makes her the same promise she once made him – it's not over for you, you'll see me again. So River buries her husband and off she goes to have lots of adventures with his younger selves and confuse the hell out of them. Until, of course, she ends up in the data core of the Library Planet, and realises she'll never seem him again. And then she starts to wonder why anyone would call a moon 'Doctor'. Ahhh...
Davies enthusiastically answers that he "never forgot" this idea: "Every time I watch that story, I think, it's him, it's the Doctor, and no one knows!"
- Besides the de rigueur screenshots of the discussed episodes and the aforementioned "boxing match poster" cover, "Showrunner Showdown" was adorned with photoshopped images of various characters and monsters holding up signs on which some of the more marking quotes from the interview were copied. They included Rose Tyler, the Impossible Astronaut, a Dalek, a Monk, a Weeping Angel, Nardole, The Time of Angels-era River Song, a Sontaran, one of the Flood, a Raxacoricofallapatorian, the "Fugitive" Doctor, Astrid Peth and the Vashta Nerada-gnawed skeleton-in-a-spacesuit from Silence in the Library.