The Scottish actor, 43, departed the sci-fi drama in 2009 after first joining four years earlier. He helped take Doctor Who to new heights by establishing a dedicated following, leading BBC producers to doubt the series’ future once he left.
“David owned that role in a spectacular way, he gave it an all-new cheeky, sexy performance and became a national treasure,” Moffat told the Hay Literary Festival.
“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.”
Moffat revealed his suspicion that there were “plans maybe to consider ending it”, noting that Russell T Davies, who led the show’s 2005 revival, was the driving force behind its continuation.
“I didn’t realise how many people though it wouldn’t succeed at all,” Moffat added. “That was quite terrifying when I found out about it later.”
Clearly Davies’ insistence that Doctor Who cast a new lead under Moffat’s tenure proved fruitful. Matt Smith took over from Tennant to be welcomed by fans and soon, Peter Capaldi will take the Time Lord’s reins for the eighth series.