The BBC has released a set of interviews with showrunner Steven Moffat
and the stars of the 2014 Christmas special Last Christmas
The Doctor and Clara face their last Christmas.
Trapped on an arctic base, under attack from terrifying creatures, who are you going to call?
Steven Moffat - Q&AWhat can you tell us about the plot of this year’s Christmas special?
Well obviously as everyone knows from the end of Death In Heaven, it’s the ultimate meeting of Christmas heroes - Santa Claus meets Doctor Who. The buddy movie you’ve always wanted. In addition to that, it’s quite surprising - it won’t be what some people expect because it’s a thriller of an episode. The Christmas element is covered in the fairly notable form of Santa Claus and the elves and their sleigh. But the rest of it is very much Doctor Who – scary, in a polar ice cap base, scientists under threat. I keep describing it as Miracle On 34th Street meets Alien. Viewers will be thrilled to see the Doctor and Clara brought together again - what can we expect from this and what can you say about what brings them together?
They’re brought together by a crisis that returns the Doctor to Earth to help Clara. The stuff that separated them, the lies they told each other – all of that will be addressed in this episode. We don’t just ignore it for the sake of Christmas. It is properly addressed and forms the emotional core of the episode. Nick Frost seems an inspired choice for Santa Claus – how did that casting come about?
As ever with Doctor Who we’re very lucky to have Andy Pryor casting for us and he suggested Nick Frost. The moment you think of Nick Frost as Santa Claus you just know he’s exactly right – he has the right style, has the right attitude and more than that he seems like a slightly 'funky' Santa Claus – the sort of Santa Claus that OUGHT to turn up in Doctor Who. Simultaneously he subverts the role of Santa Claus and affirms it very definitively. He’s a truly great Santa. It’s hard to think of anyone else for the role once you’ve seen him. Will we see the traditional Santa we know and love, or should we expect a different side to him?
Santa Claus will be real, and definitely not evil. Parents shouldn't worry, Santa is presented, as he is in real life, as a great Christmas hero. How do the Doctor and Clara become involved with Santa Claus?
As was shown in the Children In Need clip, Clara encounters Santa Claus on a rooftop with a crashed sleigh and a couple of grumpy elves. Then the Doctor turns up too. Did you also have Dan (Starkey) in mind as one of the elves?
Obviously we know Dan really well because he plays Strax, and we’ve been thinking that he should play a part without all the prosthetics on. We needed elves with attitude and real comic timing and Dan is a brilliantly funny actor. So if Dan will forgive me, it’s fair to say he’s the right height, genuinely funny and we just thought he’d be perfect for that role. How does writing and filming the Christmas special differ from the series?
The Christmas special is an oddity because it’s on its own. As a matter of production, we don’t have episodes either side of it. We just have a few weeks where we shoot that one episode so certain pressures are removed from us – we’re not prepping another show. You should also be slightly aware that there will be more people than usual who don’t usually watch it by virtue of the fact it’s on at Christmas time. It’s become a bit of a Christmas tradition to watch Doctor Who so there will be a number of people who maybe haven’t seen it since the last Christmas special. What is it about Peter’s Doctor that you think fans are enjoying the most?
What Peter triumphs in is that he is bracing. We’ve been used to a particular kind of Doctor across three very different actors – Chris (Eccleston), David (Tennant) and Matt (Smith). The Doctor has been younger, blokier, slightly more modern, you might say more approachable. We’ve now thrown that into reverse. There are moments with the other three actors where you can see a spiky, scary older man inside him and now we’re seeing more of that man. Peter is bracing – he’s a reminder that the Doctor isn’t your best mate or your big brother; he is in fact a quite scary man from outer space who nonetheless will save your life. He makes you look for the heroism more which I think is exciting - it throws you off balance. It’s almost like going from Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig as James Bond. Making the Doctor older has inadvertently made the show feel new again. He’s different and different is good. The show is now a global phenomenon. How was it this year to see the reactions of fans in different countries?
We’re quite used to seeing Doctor Who launched in the UK and it’s always fun, but essentially people here are used to it. Seeing the extraordinary reactions when we arrived at various airports on the world tour when people were chanting our names and shouting like we mattered was very exciting. We had no idea that it would happen and that people who lived in other parts of the world were so invested in it. The increasing world significance of the show is something that we don’t really see most of the time. We just go to Wales and make our show, we’re not thinking about the people in Rio or America who seem to be hanging on our every word. It’s been great to see how it plays out on the world stage.
Peter Capaldi - Q&AEveryone will be pleased to see the Doctor and Clara brought together again for this Christmas special. What does bring them together?
A terrifying festive dilemma forces the Doctor back to Earth to help Clara. Then a story unfolds which is quite unexpected – I can’t really say more than that. How does filming the Christmas special differ from the series?
It’s all very festive and even though you’re shooting in October it does lull you into the festive spirit, because there are lots of Christmassy things around. There are snow machines all the time which is lovely but they’re noisy like lawnmowers or concrete mixers. We have Christmas lights, polystyrene icebergs - which is classic piece of set dressing on Doctor Who. There’s a roast dinner going on in Clara’s house and a big Christmas tree. There were also lots of tangerines! What was your reaction to Nick Frost being cast as Santa? What sort of Santa does he play?
I was delighted when Nick was cast, I’m a big fan of his. I love Hot Fuzz and Shaun Of The Dead. He’s actually quite a traditional Santa but with a comic undertone. He is the real Santa – he’s not a robot or an alien, but he is a little bit cantankerous. He’s a little bit like the Doctor and at first they don’t really get on together. How do the Doctor and Clara become involved with Santa?
Santa appears on the roof of Clara’s house and only the Doctor knows the danger of it. What can viewers expect from this episode?
It’s both really scary and really festive. It manages to be quite frightening and still have Santa Claus in it. It is extremely Christmassy but there is a plot line in it that is quite dark and I think Steven (Moffat) has done a brilliant job at balancing those two things. It’s perfect for Christmas viewing – it supplies everything that Doctor Who should supply at Christmas. It’s scary but it leaves you feeling warm and cheerful. What have been your fondest memories of your first year as the Doctor?
It’s difficult to say what specific moments were significant to me because the whole thing has just been amazing. So many things have been fantastic. The first time you go onto the set, the first time you meet a Dalek or even the first time the TARDIS wobbles when you shut the door. I know it won’t last forever so I’m just enjoying it all. The show is now a global phenomenon – how was it to see the reactions of fans in different countries earlier this year? What is it about your Doctor that you think they’re enjoying?
It was extraordinary to see how popular the show is all over the world. I’ve had the great benefit of riding the wave of success that Matt (Smith), David (Tennant) and Chris (Eccleston) had started. I myself was fascinated by what made the show so popular abroad. To me it seems a particularly British thing. However, it seems that the themes of escapism and adventure are universal. Fans of Doctor Who are usually so warm-hearted and creative. It’s quite moving to see how much they love it. You don’t realise when you’re making the programme that it’s reaching out to so many people in Latin America or Asia or Australia. Obviously the character is so popular now and the concept is so clever, so I think that is what they’re responding to rather than me. What will you be doing this Christmas and is there anything you want from Santa?
I’ll be watching the Christmas Special and I want a tangerine and a Doctor Who annual because that’s what I had as a kid.
Jenna Coleman - Q&AWhat’s it like for Clara to be reunited with the Doctor in the Christmas Special?
She’s just really glad to be back with him. She’s dealing with the death of Danny Pink but happy to be back in the arms of the TARDIS again, and meeting Santa. A lot of the episode is about telling that adventure, and it’s about the Doctor and Clara resolving what they’ve just been through. What was it like coming back to film the Christmas Special?
It was good because we’d had the build up to filming the finale, and then Peter and I went off on the World Tour, so we were obviously tired but we were rejuvenated having had a break. We had such a big reaction from around the world and then you get back to filming and back to what feels like your home really. It’s always like that when you’re filming the Christmas Special, and you’re surrounded by tinsel and mince pies and all of that on set every day. Even though it’s October you get a bit of Christmas spirit. It’s a very Christmassy theme this year. What did you think when you heard there was going to be a real Santa Claus, and played by Nick Frost no less?
Genius. And it’s like Steven (Moffat) said in the read-through - his name is actually ‘Frost’ so it couldn’t be more perfect. Nick really pitches Santa Claus so well between being the Santa as we know him and being very traditional, and then also cutting the act and giving quite a contemporary feel. So it works really well within the context of the episode and he has got the right tone. He’s really nice to have around on set, very funny in between takes and on camera. You must have had a lot of fun filming the Christmas episode with Nick?
I keep using the word funny to describe Nick but what I mean is he can take anything and make it hilarious. You can give him any line and he’ll just do something with it and I don’t even know how he does it. I’ve never seen Peter (Capaldi) corpse as much as when we were working with Nick. Even in make-up every morning before you get ready to go on set he would have you cracking up. What does Clara make of Santa Claus?
When she meets him she can’t quite believe he’s there, because bumping into Santa Claus on your roof is quite a weird way to wake up. Deep down she has always wanted to see him, and so when he materialises it’s really a nice thing. And working with the fabulous elves played by Dan Starkey and Nathan McMullen?
It was like they’d been working together for years. I thought they must have been rehearsing in their trailers because the timing and the double act between the two of them is like they’ve grown up together almost. But they’d only just met! What can viewers expect from the Christmas special
It makes you question reality. You can’t quite figure it out. It makes you question what is real and what isn’t, but with a thriller and psychological element. It’s very Doctor Who - it’s got all of the traditional elements as well, and the one sequence we have with the sleigh is so magical. It’s what you want to sit down and watch at Christmas. How do you like to spend Christmas?
With my family eating lots of food, surrounded by grandparents and nieces and lots of good TV, and going for nice big country walks. I really embrace Christmas. I love it.
Nick Frost - Q&AHow much of a Doctor Who fan are you?
On a scale of one to ten I’m probably a seven, if I’m being honest. I suppose most actors would just say ten. I was a big Tom Baker fan and I liked Sylvester McCoy, and Peter Davison. Then I missed out on that Saturday evening TV for a long time. I lived abroad and I travelled and I worked most Saturdays, so it just drifted out of my consciousness. Matt Smith reignited my love of the show and my love for that special feeling you get on Saturday when you can put your feet up and watch. There’s so little original sci-fi on British television, and to get something like Doctor Who that’s prime time Saturday night is something really special I think, as a science fiction fan. When Matt left and Peter came in I thought ‘he’s perfect’. It’s like James Bond. If you love Connery more than Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan more than Timothy Dalton – they’re still James Bond. They just bring different things to it. I love what Peter’s doing with it – I think it’s great. How did the part come about?
It was just offered to me which was fantastic. I was in the pub on a Friday afternoon. It was about 5 o’clock and I had about two percent battery left on my phone. My agent phoned me and all I heard was ‘they’re going to offer you a part as the guest lead in the Christmas special on Doctor…’ I thought Doctor what? Doctor Kildare?! So then I had to wait until I got home to get the message and I was thrilled. It’s a big deal to be a guest lead in Doctor Who for the Christmas special. It’s the most popular show in the world right now essentially, and with this one feature in this one episode, more people will probably see that than all things I’ve done combined. Was it fun playing Santa and being part of the production?
I’ve loved it. I felt quite bereft that I wouldn’t get to put on my beard once we’d wrapped. I think the real secret of Doctor Who is the fact that people presume and assume that they have essentially a bottomless budget – but they don’t. It’s just that the people who work on the show make it seem like they have because of their inventiveness and ingenuity. It’s great to watch, and everyone made me feel welcome. It’s a place where you can do some good work because you trust everyone and like everyone. How would you describe your Santa?
There’s a percentage of ‘Ho Ho Ho’ as every good Santa needs, but that’s all people ever see of Santa. They never see him day to day or when he’s a bit grumpy, or when he’s in a playful mood or if he’s a bit cross. I’ve tried to get all those sides to him. Hopefully he’s funny. I wanted him to be funny and I wanted him to be like what he is essentially – and that’s the spirit of Christmas. How does he get on with his two elves (played by Dan Starkey and Nathan McMullen)?
It’s fairly fractious. They take any chance they can to undermine him in front of people, and it makes Santa very cross but at the same time he’s very protective. I’m not sure if they’re his sons or not? What’s the relationship between the elves and Santa Claus? Are they just friends or are they just employees? Is there some kind of blood line? I’m not sure… What would you say viewers can look forward to from this Christmas special?
There’s going to be a nice combination of comedy and terror, and cool creatures – and Christmas fun. There’s a sleigh ride and snow. It’s going to be beautiful!