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Daleks, Cybermen and children … what the Doctor ordered

When Daleks and Cybermen turned up at Gavinburn Primary School in Old Kilpatrick, West Dunbartonshire, yesterday, the 250 pupils who had gathered to see them didn’t move a muscle.

There were a few screams and gasps, but they didn’t move a muscle.

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The Doctor Who baddies were on patrol at the school ahead of a question-and-answer session with Steven Moffat, Doctor Who’s lead writer and executive producer, and his younger sister Gillian Penny, who is headmistress at Gavinburn.

Moffat, who is from Paisley and worked as a teacher for three years in Greenock, was in Scotland to launch the latest free online game based on the show.

He and Penny took questions from pupils at Gavinburn and other schools via e-mail. Moffat told the audience that he had written Doctor Who stories for Gillian when they were children.

“I would read the stories to

my sister and they’d always be about monsters,” he said. “I have a feeling my dad still has those stories somewhere. I dread to think what he would get for them on eBay.”

Penny added that she had noticed some of the things that her brother had been afraid of as a child, including masks and clockwork dolls, turning up in his writing for Doctor Who. “He wrote stories about spheres and discs that melted your brain and that went on for quite a number of nights. He also made a film, Doctor Who meets Sherlock Holmes, in which my sister Vicki and I played the main parts.”

Moffat said using memories of things that frightened him was something he was doing consciously. “I’m always saying Doctor takes place under your bed and at the back of your bedroom cupboard. It’s not like Star Trek. There is something very domestic, even when it’s big and mad.

“If menace really does seem like it could visit your bedroom that’s much more frightening than thinking it’s on the planet Zedron.”

He said the crack in the wall, a running theme of this year’s series, was inspired by a crack on the wall of the bedroom of his 10-year-old son, Louis.

Penny said she had never been jealous of her brother’s more glamorous career. “Just before I started teaching I was offered a job as a production assistant and I turned it down and I’ve never regretted it. I’ll take you round my school and show the children and all the work they’re doing. You can do anything here.”

Penny also said she was not concerned that the show her brother was running was too frightening or dark. “My pupils love Doctor Who because they become part of the story when they’re watching it. Children also love dark stuff. You don’t get much darker than fairy tales; children don’t have a problem with it as long as there’s a resolution.”

Moffat said it was important the game, which can be downloaded from www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho, was not violent and reflected the ethos of the show.

“We couldn’t have a violent Doctor Who game. He couldn’t be running around with a gun, that would be unacceptable. It’s about problem solving and getting away from things.”

He also told the children who had come to see him – and the Cybermen and Daleks – that they should be ambitious: he was a boy from Paisley who grew up to run the show he loved. “It happened,” he said.

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