Speaking at the Hays Literary festival over the weekend, Steven Moffat has revealed that BBC executives were considering axing Doctor Who all together when both Russell T Davies and David Tennant departed the show.
Commenting on how 'quite terrifying' it was learning just how many higher ups at the BBC were unable to see Doctor Who as a success without the then monstrously popular Tenth Doctor, Moffat said:
David owned that role in a spectacular way, gave it an all-new cheeky sexy performance and became a national treasure. And he didn't do it instantly, he did it over time. So the idea that Doctor Who could go on at all in the absence of David was a huge question. I think there were plans maybe to consider ending it. It was Russell T. Davies saying, 'you are not allowed to end it'.
It's an understandable perspective, considering Tennant brought the revived show to the very heights of its popularity with mainstream viewers - but the view of the BBC axing a Tennant-less Who mustn't have been an idea that lasted very long: Moffat himself was brought on as a replacement showrunner for the series mid-way during filming the fourth series in 2007. Speaking in a DWM interview last year, Moffat revealed that he had pitched an alternative 'final year' for the Tenth Doctor if Tennant had stayed on:
I only had the roughest idea. Had David stayed for one final year, it would certainly have been his last, so my pitch was that it would start with the Tardis crashing in Amelia's back garden – as now – and a terribly battered and bruised Tenth Doctor staggering out.
Amelia finds him, feeds him fish custard (no that was for Matt, it would have been something more Davidy) and generally helps him. But we, the audience, can see he's in a truly bad way. Dying maybe. Eventually he heads back to his TARDIS, and flies off.
But when he returns – many years later for Amy – he seems perfectly fine, and indeed doesn't remember any of those events…And of course over time, we realise what we saw was the Tenth Doctor at the end of his life, about to regenerate. Events that we return to in Episode 13…
So there you have it - for what seems to have been a fleeting moment, there might have been a world without Matt Smith's Doctor, without the show on the air during its 50th Anniversary, or even Peter Capaldi to look forward to! Thankfully, Moffat's comments seem to imply that considering ending the show was merely a moment's thought for the BBC.