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Steven Moffat on Clara Becoming the Doctor in DOCTOR WHO Series 8

Steven Moffat on Clara Becoming the Doctor in DOCTOR WHO Series 8

While it’s no secret that Series 8 of Doctor Who has been divisive among the fans, I posited a few weeks ago in my postmortem wrapup of the 12 episodes that what showrunner Steven Moffat was doing was to complicate things with the main characters and actually make the season-long arc be about them and their relationships as opposed to any huge time-bendy plot thing, as had happened in his previous three series. Especially in the last few episodes, it became clear to me that, while other companions fall in love with traveling with the Doctor, or possibly fall in love with the Doctor himself, Clara had fallen in love with the idea of being the Doctor.

Last week, during a conference call interview with several publications, I got the opportunity to ask Moffat about these things and especially about why Clara was the one he felt he could turn into the Doctor over any of the others. The head writer had some enlightening things to say.

“The thing about Clara is she thinks the show is called Clara. She really does. She has no idea she’s number two in the credits, which is why we did that joke in “Death in Heaven.” She’s got a high opinion of herself, not in a conceited way, but in a correct way. She knows she’s extremely clever and capable, and she doesn’t feel like she particularly fits in the world that she lives in. She’s a bit more like the Doctor in the first place. She’s not really very good at living a normal life. The other companions, like most people, like you and me, can be quite good at living normal lives. I’m very happy living my normal life, I’m sure you are too. Going to the shops seems fine for an adventure, but Clara’s not like that.

When I first wrote Clara, I thought, “Oh, this is fun. If the Doctor were a young woman living in contemporary Britain, it’d be a bit like her.” Clever and presentable and funny but also thinking when is something interesting going to happen? The interesting thing between the Doctor and Clara is she can sort of play the same game he does. She can absolutely do that, she’s terribly clever, she’s got a wayward ego. Her botched love affair with Danny is heartbreakingly proof of that. He’s a lovely man with a traumatic secret, and she just screws it up because she doesn’t really give it enough attention. It’s just a little bit less exciting than running off in the blue box. You have to be a bit of a loony to think that way. I think for the first time, the Doctor’s traveling with someone who’s a bit of a loony like him, and that’s quite fun.”

I followed up by asking about the final scene of the series, between the Doctor and Clara in the diner, where neither of them tell the other the truth and go off alone, whether Moffat felt that the Doctor had to be a sad and lonely character and if Clara’s transformation into him could only end with that kind of melancholy goodbye. Moffat didn’t see it as a sad goodbye necessarily, but one very much in keeping with the two characters’ personalities.

“It wasn’t so much the sadness, it’s that both the Doctor and Clara are people who think they know better. That’s what they are. The Doctor always thinks he knows better; Clara always thinks she knows better. So what they do at the end is a perfect summation of their relationship. They lie and endure pain and loneliness in order to protect the other because they think they know better. Amy would never have done that; she’d have told him what happened. But, people who are more controlling than that think they know what’s good for everybody else aren’t like that. So, Clara’s not the Doctor; she’s not the same person as the Doctor, but – the traditional thing is to say the hero and the archenemy are mirrors of each other. Are they? Are they though? Not really. I think it’s more likely that friends are mirrors of each other. If you watch any close friendship, the extent to which they start to duplicate each other is quite interesting, even with Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes. While they’re different people, they have similar appetites. So, yeah, it was the perfect way to say goodbye in that episode; each one doesn’t think the other can cope with the truth.”

Perhaps this is why people felt like this series felt off; because we were watching a show that should have been called Clara and not Doctor Who. While I wasn’t sure about the series as a whole, I think from “Mummy on the Orient Express” forward, we’re getting a really interesting dynamic between Clara and the Doctor, where the companion is the most like the Doctor they’ve ever been, and whether or not that’s necessarily healthy. Two Type-A people in one TARDIS. Nothing about Series 8 was the same as it had always been, and after speaking to Moffat, it’s clear that was the whole point.

You can see how Clara and the Doctor resolve this uneasy farewell in “Last Christmas,” written by Steven Moffat, airing on December 25th at 9/8c on BBC America.

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  1. CynRyn says:

    Oh, and what’s the joke in Death in Heaven that Moffat refers to? 

  2. CynRyn says:

    Ok, if Clara is so full of herself because she’s so clever and thinks of herself as the Doctor, then why the freak out when the REAL Doctor tells her she has to decide what happens to the moon?  

  3. Dexter says:

    From a long story point of view the most cogent story line is that of Clara scattered across the doctors entire timelines 

  4. How could Moffat make it so hard to look at someone so beautiful? She was so damn annoying this season.

  5. JUS7IAN says:

    So was the interviewer just not allowed to ask the most important.  Is Clara done?  Everywhere else on the internet except Nerdist says that Clara isn’t going anywhere.

  6. arlene b says:

    and that is the problem with this season and with Steven’s writing is that Doctor Who is no longer about The Doctor. It is becoming a show where The Doctor is the minor character and who ever is the companion is more important – and that is wrong.

  7. arlene b says:

    and that is the problem with this season and with Steven’s writing is that Doctor Who is no longer about The Doctor.  It is becoming a show where The Doctor is the minor character and who ever is the companion is more important – and that is wrong.

  8. Syd says:

    My Christmas present? Clara’s LAST episode. Good riddance.

  9. Eric Reiter says:

    When was Clara clever or capable? I think I missed those episodes.
    Were they hidden between the ones where she was a useless lump? I mean, in the bank job episode they literally introduced everyone and stated what made them useful…except Clara. She literally was so useless that they didn’t even have her attempt to list her role.

    • RJ says:

      She was pretty useful in the impossible girl arc so idk if he’s referring to her as a whole, not just this series.

  10. drno says:

    was really really hoping moffat was leaving the show.  Other than flatline its been a waste of Capaldi.  He did the same with Matt Smith.  

  11. badwolf says:

    sorry for the language but after reading this it seem moffat is say clara was a bitch cuz i wrote her to be one…… im sorry this man had a prefect blue print of how to write a woman who wants to be the doctor  right in front of him and her name was Donna Noble, im sorry i get the idea, he wanted Doctor Who meets (female)Dr. house but that does not explain the bi-polarness  of this character you were aiming for sherlock homes and gave us mr bean………all i can say is bad planning/writing/execution on moffat’s part  

    • Mredom says:

      I loved Donna, but she was as dumb as a post. Clara is smart, pretty, and has changed the dynamic. Rule number 1: Clara always lies. She’s learning the lessons of the Doctor well.

  12. S says:

    I have never liked Clara. I love a strong confident companion, but she was a annoying and pushy and usually not right in her opinions. The fact that she was going to destroy all the Tardis keys, pissed me off. I am a 9 & 10 girl at heart. I did not care for Matt Smith’s 11 at all either, but 12 has really grown on me. He’s a crabby old codger and I like it. I just hope they find him a companion that’s a better fit. 

  13. Truther says:

    Season 8 is the best of New Who since a long shot. They’re taking the show back to it’s roots.

  14. gemma says:

    LOVED series 8..long live 12

  15. del says:

    “it’s clear that was the whole point”
    People are NOW just gettng this>? LOL

  16. If the new arch is every character and the writer having identity crisis at the same time… Series 8 met its goal. I’m not feeling the Clara evolution at all. I loved The Impossible Girl and could never make the leap from the adventure lover to the wishy-washy have lunch with a guy and then in love with Danny Pink.  AND THE WORST- reverting back to ’50’s girl that has to hide the time she spends with different men!

    • Erik says:

      They skipped ahead in time a lot.  There’s meant to have been a lot happening “off-screen” in the Clara-Danny relationship, that built the bond between them into love, and all that.  As for “hiding the time she’s spending with other men,” I think part of it was that she didn’t want Danny to worry about her, and lied to him the same way she lied to the Doctor, to “protect” him.  Every time she went on an adventure with the Doctor, it was dangerous (well, the ones we saw, anyway).

  17. Jeffery says:

    I loved and hated Series 8. It was… I don’t know. There is no such thing as a Doctor Who episode that I do not like, but there was much un-comfortableness in this series for me.