Steven Moffat: “We Wasted Olivia Colman on Doctor Who”

Former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat has revealed one of his biggest regrets from his time as executive producer of the show, and it comes from way back in his very first episode at the helm: The Eleventh Hour.

During the serial, in which Matt Smith also made his debut as the Eleventh Doctor, there is a cameo role for Olivia Colman as Prisoner Zero, masquerading as a mother in a coma. It’s confusing.

And with Colman now a global superstar and in contention for an Oscar in her role as Queen Anne in the film The Favourite, Moffat has serious qualms about how little she appeared in her sole Doctor Who TV appearance. Moffat says:

“In my first series there was Olivia Colman… just a heartbeat before she was stratospheric. I think, ‘Oh we wasted that, didn’t we!’ Bloody hell.”

Colman has made one further appearance in the Doctor Who universe, appearing in the BBC Red Button comedy spoof special The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot alongside Sean Pertwee, son of Jon Pertwee, none other than the Third Doctor himself. The Doctor Who connections don’t end there for Colman though as she featured in three series of Broadchurch, written by current Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall and starring David Tennant (The Tenth Doctor) and Jodie Whittaker (The Thirteenth Doctor) as Colman’s detective partner and a grieving mother.

Moffat’s frequent television collaborator Mark Gatiss, who has written for and appeared in Doctor Who and is currently working with Moffat on a new TV adaptation of Dracula, also had thoughts on acting talent that had appeared in one of the episodes he had penned. Gatiss reminisces:

“There are some funny ones aren’t there, like in Cold War, my story on a submarine. Peter, who’s killed off in the opening titles, is Josh O’Connor from [2017 move] God’s Own Country; he’s a big star now. And [Black Mirror’s] James Norton is one of the sailors, and [The Night Manager’s] Tobias Menzies. It’s an amazing submarine of stars now.”

Without spoiling the plot of Gatiss’s submarine-based episode, none of the cast drowned during filming, enabling them to continue their acting careers. Unlike Colman, who was actually hoovered up by the Atraxi at the end of The Eleventh Hour and whisked into prison. She clearly used her acting chops to convince her prison wardens to let her free again and back onto our TVs.