Five Reasons To Thank Steven Moffat

Remember when the Internet was a force for good? Remember when fandom was made up of, y’know, fans who loved the show, whatever anyone said?

He gets a lot of stick, but it’s not called for. We’ve a lot to be thankful for.

Steven Moffat has heralded everyone’s favourite TV show for over four years now, and before that, wrote some of the most memorable Ninth and Tenth Doctor stories including The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances, Blink, and Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. He was an obvious successor to RTD’s showrunner mantle and I personally don’t think he gets enough credit for what he’s done.

Detractors are always the most vocal – but he still has plenty of fans, including Extant scribe, Mickey Fisher, who had a post-it note by his computer screen reading: WWSMD. What Would Steven Moffat Do? And his answer, according to Fisher was always the same: “He would just write it better!”

With the 50th anniversary just behind us and a new series (and Doctor!) on the horizon, it’s time to thank Mr. Moffat for the extensive work he’s put in. Here are just a few things to be grateful about.

5. Paul McGann IS The Doctor

The Night of the Doctor - feat

What a birthday treat for Doctor Who – not just having McGann return to the role he spent woefully little time in on screen (nonetheless, a job he loved so much, he carried it on in audio form many years later), but also finally seeing the Eighth Doctor regenerate.

The Night of the Doctor was a particular 50th anniversary highlight for the majority of fans. It came as such a lovely surprise, like a Christmas present you get to open early. And this present was a last-minute addition to the celebrations… at least, that’s what McGann thinks: “I felt when I arrived in Cardiff that [Moffat] had probably written it the day before. That was the only gap he had, on that Sunday, because they were trying to finish the big 50th!”

Suddenly, the world was victim to McGann Fever.

Thanks to Steven, we got five-or-so minutes more of the Doctor with the least airtime, but a Doctor who is deservedly loved. And that’s not all Night of the Doctor gave us…

4. Big Finish is Canon

Dark Eyes 2 - cover

Oh, canon is a grumpy beast. You’ll finally sooth everything out in your head and then suddenly, one comment can make it all change. Reading a novel, poring through a comic, watching charity specials: they’re all great, of course, but lingering at the back of many fans’ heads is one simple question. The oldest question in the universe, hidden in plain sight. Is this canon?

Thanks to one simple line, Moffat made sure that those brilliant audio adventures are about as in-continuity as they can be without Evelyn popping up on screen: “Charley, C’rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, Molly, friends, companions I’ve known: I salute you.”

Making many hours’ worth of entertainment canon? Moffat, I salute you!

3. Expanding Our Horizons

The Impossible Astronaut

It’s easy to underrate the importance of conquering America.

Kasterborous has always had American contributors (they’re the ones who spell ‘flavour,’ ‘grey’ and ‘maths’ wrong), but without Moffat, we probably wouldn’t have so many. But that’s a very small example of why succeeding where the 1996 TV Movie didn’t is so important.

Frankly, any expansion of fandom is a good thing, but it’s deeper than that.

With stories like The Impossible Astronaut/ Day of the Moon and A Town Called Mercy, Moffat grabbed the attention of fans and filmmakers across America. More importantly, Doctor Who was taken to the USA and retained its intangible Britishness – and I think that’s why Americans fell in love with the crazy show about a man with two hearts and a big blue box.

When Russell T. Davies brought the show back, he ensured its future, a place in the hearts of whole new generations; when Moffat took the show to vast landscapes to the West (then reeled it back in, taking it to the streets of England once more), he ensured a passion for the show internationally. Because Doctor Who can go anywhere, land on anyone’s doorstep. It always could, in theory. Now, it really can.

2. Matt Smith IS The Doctor

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor

A massive reason to thank Steven Moffat is, alongside Andy Pryor, for casting the perfect actor as the Doctor.

Matt had massive sand-shoes to fill, but he did it. And then some.

Just watch The Eleventh Hour… No, actually, just watch The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone. This was the first story the new team filmed and straight away, Matt knows who his Doctor is. He’s got the patter, the alienness, and the confidence – even though Matt must’ve been anything but confident back in those days.

All the previous Doctors loved him too. Watching Doctors Ten and Eleven together in The Day of the Doctor was a dream come true. And when the time came, Matt stepped down at the height of his powers, breaking the hearts of fandom. We have to thank Moffat for seeing Matt as the Doctor through and through, and I’m sure we’ll thank the showrunner, too, when Peter Capaldi makes his full debut in Deep Breath. Nonetheless, we’ll never forget Matt.

Matt simply is the Doctor. And he always will be.

1. Storytelling

The Zygons return in The Day of the Doctor!

I don’t care what detractors say: Moffat’s tenure has been full of the most incredible storytelling. That includes not just the Eleventh Doctor era, but also his work since 2005. Blink is widely celebrated as one of the best stories ever. The Girl in the Fireplace is an overlooked classic. The highlight of Series 1 was, arguably, seeing the Doctor come face-to-face with a scared little boy looking for his mummy. In Silence in the Library, we met an enigmatic new character from the Doctor’s future. And in Forest of the Dead, she died.

Take another look at Series 5, 6 and 7. Matt, Karen and Arthur’s first series remains my favourite, but it faces tough competition from the subsequent two.

The storytelling is not solely down to Moffat, of course: further writers like Tom MacRae, Toby Whithouse, Gareth Roberts, Mark Gatiss, and Neil Cross have delivered us some sublime tales, but all have been nurtured and encouraged by Steven; all have been given that canvas, confidence and bravery.

The amazing thing is, Doctor Who remains exactly the same show as it was in 1963 – but now, I genuinely feel that it could do anything. Absolutely anything. It will never fail to surprise, to scare, to upset, to (yes, at times) annoy, to please, to make you feel warm inside. To be Doctor Who, basically!

Thank you, Steven Moffat.
This is the tip of the iceberg. What are you grateful for…?

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  1. Terry Cooper says:

    But…but what about those awesome multicoloured Daleks?

    lol, I kid. He’s done a lot of good for the most part.

  2. Mobius64 says:

    I personally didn’t like his style of story telling because things either seemed jammed in at the last minute, like the crack appearing in ToTD (which I don’t think was really planned from series 5), or they seemed kind of cheap, like the Doctor ‘not dying but dying’ of series 6. I agree that he is a good writer of single stories, or two part stories even, and Girl in the Fireplace is one of my favourites but I don’t think he is as good at writing story arcs, or maybe he isn’t given enough freedom of time within Doctor Who to do what he wants to do properly.
    I also don’t think he is the best at creating characters in Doctor Who. Or rather, he isn’t the best at doing character development, looking at you Amy and Clara. But again, maybe he didn’t get enough time for Clara yet. I also wasn’t big on Gallifrey being saved because I did quite like The Doctor having that streak of guilt, shame and darkness within him. But that would appear to be gone now since he no longer committed double genocide (well, he has committed genocide just not on this occasion), although new trailers are changing my mind.
    Hopefully, series 8 and beyond have more planned story arcs and better character development.

  3. yoyo says:

    Oh my god, a positive Doctor Who fan?! Towards Moffat?! Is gravity still online?
    More seriously: Thank you, Philip, for articulating why I love Moffat’s era so much. I would also like to add: Moffat gave us great and complex characters like River, the Ponds, Clara, the War Doctor, Jenny and Vastra. Plus, of course, the Doctor himself. I can’t wait to see what Capaldi’s Doctor (and era) will be like.

  4. joesiegler says:

    Re #4..

    Did we ever find out why he never mentioned Grace in that list of names? I always thought it was down to some legal reason that the “proper BBC show” didn’t own the rights to the character or some such crap like that.

    Anyone know – FOR REAL? and just just guesswork?

    • Mobius64 says:

      The 8th Doctor only mentions them because *Spoilers* they have died or he feels like he caused their death. Grace didn’t die she just didn’t go.

    • Mike Chen says:

      Fox owns the rights to Grace and Chang Lee. That’s why they can’t even do Big Finish audio with those characters, though the actors have voiced different characters and are at a lot of cons.

      • calliarcale says:

        I think they could get away with just mentioning their names, under the Fair Use Doctrine. But I can see not wanting to risk the expense of defending a lawsuit. More to the point, though, I don’t think either really counts as a companion. Grace declined to follow him. Chang really never did; if he was anyone’s companion, he was the Master’s. They certainly would’ve become proper companions had Fox picked up the series. But that’s in the “might-have-been” bucket.

        • quigonj2014 says:

          Paul McGann and producer Phil Segal discussed this at a Gally a few years back. It’s Universal who owns those rights, but what Mike says is correct. Universal has been very clear that those characters are off-limits unless they get a very big check, a check that is more than the Beeb is able to pay. That’s why Big Finish has used Daphne and Yee Jee Tso, but not as those characters.

  5. Cynthia says:

    The one thing I’m quite iffy about is the storytelling. I was quite disappointed with most of Matt Smith’s era. Don’t get me wrong, Matt Smith played a great Doctor. I like him as the Doctor – but not his era. However, the writing wasn’t up to par (in my opinion) with Matt Smith’s caliber. I would’ve enjoyed Matt Smith’s era even more if the storytelling was better. Maybe it’s because I had such high expectations. I love Sherlock and I love the the individual episodes Moffat wrote during RTD’s era but unfortunately the last 4 seasons have been a bit of a disappointment to me. If I take apart the stories and just look at each individual characters and plots I can appreciate them, but I couldn’t grasp how everything fit with each other. My reasoning behind this is probably due to the fact that Moffat knows the entire Doctor Who serials like the back of his hand so he just went right to the references without taking the time to educate his audience. RTD spent some time educating the audience about Doctor Who (by explaining the TARDIS etc etc) – and frankly that eventually became bothersome as RTD did that more often than necessary. For a New Who like, I can’t really understand the references that he made from Classic Who so I was actually quite lost and confused.

    One thing I am truly thankful for Moffat is he did away with the whole romance thing. I like how he poked fun at it – with Rory being jealous about the relationship between Amy and the Doctor. And bringing the show across the pond by actually filming it here is also a big deal.

    Now with all that being said, after having caught up with Classic Who, I may perhaps appreciate Matt Smith’s era even more. I’m actually looking forward to Capaldi’s era. If Moffat meant what he said, I want the Doctor to be darker, wiser, older, crankier and Classic-er (lol).

    Finally, in regards to a comment about the Doctor bringing back Gallifrey. I actually think this will be worse for the Doctor – he now owes the High Council something because they gave him a new regeneration cycle. The High Council are not all moral like they make themselves to be – so will the High Council force the Doctor to do things he doesn’t want? Attempts for his life has been made several times by other Time Lords…no? They gave the Doctor a new regeneration cycle, they can easily take it away no?

    • Taz says:

      I guess we are going to ignore the fact that the only reason Galifrey was around was because The Doctor put them in the pocket Universe (like a cup of soup). I don’t mean this as a negative, but it always seems the people who complain the most about Moffat’s storytelling always seem to miss his subtle points when giving their arguments.

      • James Mclean says:

        Could you expand on the subtle points? I see very few in Moffat’s era. Subtlety and character depth aren’t his area imo. Fairy tale and glib comedy are more what I think he carries strength in. And no, that wasn’t a negative attack, I genuinely think he carries a lot of strength in Fairy Tale narrative – which is why his Xmas episodes are usually rather charming.

  6. Christopher Martin says:

    Not sure I agree with everything here (I have my own views of the Moffat era), but what a great article and a lovely positive read reminding even those of us who are less than positive about Moffat, of some of the positive directions he has taken the show in.

    It ain’t all bad and it ain’t all good, but it is what it is and I’m glad we’re in the position where I can dislike parts of it because the alternative is what? No more Doctor Who.

  7. Solonor says:

    Thank you for this. The Moffat bashing is almost as tiresome as the RTD bashing or even the JNT bashing. Each producer and show runner has tried to make the best show with what they’ve got at hand, and by a combination of their work (and a little luck) we’ve had 35 or so years worth of an amazing show.

    Think on this: there have been 14 actors to play the same man across this time (6 of them associated in some way with Moffat), and every single one of them has inhabited the role so perfectly that the “favorite Doctor” polls are like selecting your favorite child. Each of them is special in his own way. That doesn’t just happen by itself, no matter how good the actors are. And even if it’s all down to the actor, who the hell had the smarts to cast him in the first place!

    • You are spot on, personally I can’t stand RTD, but he did bring back my favourite show…and helped make it successful. I love Moff, made a few mistakes along the way…ruining Neil’s script for’ Nightmare is Silver’ for one. I think Moff will be stepping down next year. They are bound to ask Toby Whitehouse to take over, as he has a proven track record.

      • Paul Morris says:

        How do you know it was Moffat that ruined Nightmare in Silver? Gaiman could have just written an awful script!

        • It’s a difficult one to judge, but we do know that at the very least Gaiman had to work with the two kids that were originally the Victorian Clara’s charges (she was to have been the companion early in the plan for the run) and who appeared in no other writer’s scripts other than The Bells of St John. There is one rumour that Moffat insisted on them being kept in, and let’s face it, the episode doesn’t need them, does it?

  8. The 2.5th Doctor says:

    The only problem I have with Moffat is that the show hasn’t stepped up it’s narrative/character writing with shows like True Detective, Game of Thrones, and Breaking Bad.

    • CosmicDebris says:

      I don’t believe Doctor Who will ever be like those shows. It’s always going to be aimed at a family audience, as it was meant to be.

    • simon magellan says:

      Totally different kind of show – some of the writing on the new series (Vincent and the Doctor, Blink, Human Nature just off the top of my head) has been amongst the best on British TV.

      • The 2.5th Doctor says:

        But those shows are great because they are very consistent and hardly ever have bad episodes. Series 7 had at least 6 episodes that I found boring and I felt could have been improved on if there was a writer’s room.

        • simon magellan says:

          Which you found boring – it doesn’t mean everyone did. Personally, in 7B at any rate, I only really disliked one ep. The shows you mention may be brilliant, but they are totally different types of shows, and to try to compare DW with them is pointless.

          • The 2.5th Doctor says:

            That’s the argument I always get but I still don’t accept it. Doctor Who hasn’t been written that well in the last few years. Alas, here’s to the future.

          • James Mclean says:

            I think 2.5 is referring to character drama, as characteristation, imo, brings consistency more than theme, tone or narrative. Doctor Who doesn’t have to be, or should be, like the above examples, but I do think the are certainly improvements that could be made in characterisation that could be learned rather than defended. I don’t think River, Amy or even Clara, are examples of broad characters where their motivation, choices or backgrounds really embellish the show in an honest and evocative manner.
            That all being said, the stuff that makes Doctor Who unique, and that is in the rich, eccentric dialogue and sheer scope/variety of concept, in all eras, should never go un-appreciated.

  9. TimeChaser says:

    One thing I will always love Moffat for is steering us away from the whole Doctor/Rose story, since I did and still do find it hard to swallow. Davies basically had the Doctor steal someone else’s girlfriend and make no apologies for it. But when the Doctor put the brakes on Amy’s attempt at seduction and bent over backwards to keep her and Rory together, I breathed a huge sigh of relief that we wouldn’t have to go down that particular road again.

  10. Lucas W says:

    I’ve never been that much of a Moffat fan, in fact 2013 really tested my faith in him. However, having gone back and watched the Smith era all over again, I’m warming to it. I think, more than any other, Steven Moffat’s era is a slow burner. One to go back and watch again, so you understand where everything is coming from.
    Unfortunately, I think my main frustration comes from the fact that there is so much potential in some of Moffat’s stories that is never reached. He’s brimming with ideas, so we end up with three or four in one episode that could easily hold up a two parter individually. Some of the ideas are also poorly handled, for example the reveal about River Song where we are left wondering how Amy got over losing her baby so quickly. And if you look at the recent “Of The Doctor” trilogy, yeah, it’s good, but it could be absolutely brilliant. It’s just full of so many great ideas that they end up fighting for the screen time!
    In this instance, I’m afraid I must disagree with the recent DWM poll. Although the Day of the Doctor is great, I don’t think it is the best episode EVER. This predominantly springs from “too many ideas, too little time” syndrome. Although, I have to say that I’m not too keen on Gallifrey returning, but that’s a personal preference. The point I’m trying to make (with a very longwinded and superfluous example so apologies for that) is that lots of fantastic ideas do not a fantastic episode make.
    However, being a huge fan of the show, I am going to twist this into a positive thing. So here’s what I want to thank Moffat for: bringing so many brilliant ideas into the show, even if they don’t always create an episode equal to the sum of its parts.
    Oh, and also being brave enough to try something new and different instead of following the norm. Say what you like the man (everyone always does) but he’s nothing if not ambitious and adventurous.

    • Lucas W says:

      Sorry about that oppressively long comment. I may have gone a bit OTT, that can happen when I have Cheerios (he he HE) but what I just wanted to clarify was… Thank you, Steven Moffat, for keeping the flame burning and giving us some more Doctor Who. I am and always will be a Doctor Who fan. Why do we have to be broken down into RTD fans and Moff fans and Classic fans, etc. Can we not just be united by our love for the show rather than favouring a particular era? My favourite Doctor is Pat Troughton, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love Colin Baker or Chris Eccleston.

      • joesiegler says:

        I’ve found most of this comes from the fact that people get their panties in a knot because Doctor Who isn’t doing what THEY want it to be. So it “sucks” if it’s not what THEY want it to be.

        I’m not that narrow minded. I started watching back when Davison was the incubment, and have seen many changes. I like all of them. Of course I like some bits better than others.

        But it’s foolish to pick it apart and say “this era sucks”, and “taht era was awesome”.

        I dislike most of the early Tom Baker stuff – an era that most people consider golden. But you don’t hear me mouth off about it. I just don’t talk about it much.

        • Lucas W says:

          I think you’ve hit the nail on the head! After the 2013 run, I despised everything Steven Moffat. I found it all too whimsical, and I wanted it to be darker, more scary. But over the past few months, I’ve carefully reassessed it to the point where I think something along the lines of “sure, it’s not the way I’d like it to be. But if everything was the way I wanted it, where would the fun be? And anyway, Moffat knows his stuff when it comes to writing TV. I don’t. He knows what works best for the show.” So I’m appreciating the Moffat era for being Something Different.

  11. microtoast says:

    I understand that bashing is tiresome. Really, I do. But can we also allow people to not like things without saying they’re not REAL fans, and without just dismissing them as spiteful haters? I have not at all enjoyed the Moffat era as a whole, but I am as much a fan of the show as ever. I’m not jumping ship. I’m glad other people seem to like it, and I’m ecstatic about #4 and #5 up above. I also think he wrote great episodes before he took over as showrunner. But the Matt Smith run is not at all my cup of tea, and that’s okay.

    • Paul Morris says:

      I love the Classic series (with all its faults), I hate NuWho!

    • Castellan Spandrel says:

      You’d hope so.

      But it gets difficult when certain fans fling personal insults and accusations at people making the programme. “You killed my childhood, Moffat!” “Moffat hates the classic series, that’s why he never uses any of the people from that era in the modern series.” etc. Real fans maybe, but spiteful haters? Apparently yes.

      Then there’s the reasonable others, like yourself, who clearly don’t like many aspects of his tenure, but who don’t talk about it like it’s a war trial or a murder case.

      I much prefer the latter.

    • Castellan Spandrel says:

      Sorry, my last post was in reply to Microtoast.

    • DonnaM says:

      There’s constructive criticism and then there’s rank abuse as I see it. “I hate Moffat” is a different kettle of fish to “I’m not a fan of his because I don’t like the way he does X Y and Z”. We all have “our” Doctor Who. Mine hasn’t gelled with the Matt Smith version any more than it did the Chris Eccleston or Colin Baker ones. I can still say they’re all fine actors, and still acknowledge there are good points in all three Doctor eras.

      Does that make me less of a real fan? I don’t think so, and I’ve never been accused of that in these pages, but if “fandom” requires either uncritical adoration or vitriolic abuse, then count me out 🙂

  12. Pantz says:

    Does anyone here honestly think that Riversong’s backstory makes any sense? She becomes a quasi Timelord because Amy and Rory conceived her while travelling in the Tardis. WHAT?!! Why did the Silence even bother to create this psychotic killer when she ultimately gets put inside that robotic Astronaut suit that makes her kill the Doctor against her will? They could have built a robot with no free will to do this or hijacked a Teselecta and killed him themselves. Heck, does Night of The Doctor even make sense? Why didn’t the Doctor use the Tardis to stop that ship from crashing? He was able to stop Captain Jack’s ship from exploding in The Doctor Dances; pulled a ship away from a black hole in The Satan Pit and towed the Earth back to its orbit in Journey’s End. How would Moffat answer this I wonder?

    • calliarcale says:

      He didn’t stop Captain Jack’s ship from exploding. He gave Jack an escape route off of it. I think it’s safe to say that the TARDIS doesn’t always do what the Doctor wants it to. If your’e going to quibble over inconsistencies in rescue missions, well, you’re gonna have to take that quibble back a lot further than Moffatt. Back to at least . . . oh, at least Hinchcliffe for sure. And I don’t think that’s even far enough.

  13. Patrick says:

    Yeah…..we spell words wrong. Grey is correct but flavour makes no sense and maths? Wtf? Do you take maths class over there?

    • Donna says:

      We study mathematics at school; hence maths classes. To British ears, “You do the math” is as odd as “maths” is to you. Divided by a common language and all that stuff… 🙂

  14. Chronomalix says:

    I wouldn’t call “The Girl in the Fireplace” overlooked. Its ending is just so heartbreaking that people try not to look back on it because it makes them sad.

    And I have to give Moffat props for putting Hitler of all people, in a cupboard. The mad Reich needed to be locked away somewhere equally loony, and being placed among tea cozies is as hilarious as it gets.

    • Simon Magellan says:

      The Hitler ep was one of the low points for me. While I accept that comedy and satire can be used against evils such as Nazism (and has been), I’m afraid this sort of Chuckle a Brothers humour was just hit the wrong note for me.

      • Totally trivialized the who Hitler and the Nazis were for me. Doctor Who is not ‘Allo ‘Allo, it should be doing better than that, especially in today’s world.

        • James Mclean says:

          I think if they’d “put Hitler in a cupboard”, then gone onto a WWII adventure that focused on the unknown soliders fight, and thus suggested that the focus on Hitler in WWII is a predictable trope that ignores the power, courage and determination of the common man, that would have been smart.
          In the end it played out like a “funny idea I had in the shower moment” then onto a story about River Song that just ignores one of the most powerful and story rich eras of the 20th Century..

  15. Paul Morris says:

    Utter rubbish.
    What about the love interests?
    The over complex story arcs?
    The unanswered questions, answered in one sentence?
    The sexual innuendos?
    The nudity?
    The inability to kill anyone?
    The use of emotion to defeat the Cybermen?
    The pathetic deathbed of the Brigiader?

    • Castellan Spandrel says:

      I find it hard to disagree with a lot of those points, except the last one.

      But all of them could equally apply to the Russell T Davies era (except the last one!).

    • CosmicDebris says:

      Most of those aspects have all occurred at some point or another in the classic series as well. (mmmm Pertwee in the shower). Not sure what you’re trying to say about the Brig, though. He had just died. It was actually a rather sweet tribute.

      • Paul Morris says:

        Would you rather he showered in his clothes?
        The nudity in NuWho is gratuitous!
        I don’t seem to remember the Doctor falling in love with a companion, and vise versa, nor the sexual innuendos, nor the inability to kill, nor the overly complex story arc, nor the unanswered questions, nor using emotion to destroy and army of Cybermen in Classic Who!

        • CosmicDebris says:

          1) Of course not. Pertwee was a sexy man.
          2) No, it isn’t. There’s no true nudity, just cut-off from the chest nudity done entirely for humor, which we had in classic who as well (I think you forgot the Sergeant Benton nude scene)
          3) The third doctor clearly fell in love in Jo, the end of the Green Death was massive, sulking heartbreak.
          Both Nyssa and Tegan rather fancied the 5th Doctor, but it was a lot more subtle.
          4) Sexual innuendos are far more rare than you make it out to be. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with them in the first place.
          5) There was a strong push for non-killing during the latter half of Tom Baker’s run, which led to K-9 mostly harmlessly stunning everything. There has been quite a lot of death to minor characters in NuWho, but not major characters, but how many major characters died in classic Who, other than Katarina and Adric?
          6) What’s overly complex? Just having a hard time understanding? Clearly you’ve forgotten stuff like The Warrior’s Gate, Kinda, and Ghost Light. All of season 18, actually. Weird stuff.
          7) If you want me to list unanswered questions from Classic Who, this would get really long.
          8) More interesting than just shoving gold up the Cybermens’ grill.

        • CosmicDebris says:

          Oh, and one other thing…speaking of sexual innuendos, The Creature From the Pit. Need I say more?

          • James Mclean says:

            I find both your comments interesting.

            Paul, your point of perspective suggests nu-Who concepts as critically invalid to the show, which is erroneous as Doctor Who never suggested the Doctor had to be loveless, lacking sexuality, or social focused drama. It was a beast of its time, held by the conventions of its audience expectations. I love the classic series for what it is, but even that is a grand gesture wedging over quarter of a century of television into one category. Far too vast and different between 63 and 89 to really assess as one show.

            That being said Cosmic, I think you’re placing personal opinion in some of your comparisons. I don’t think the 3rd Doctor was in love with Jo in the context you suggest, no different to his love of Jamie, or Sarah Jane. His role back then was more of an affectionate parent. The Green Death has him having to let this one girl he relied on for attention and affection go to another man, as a father has to release his daughter from his bond to another man. There was never any romantic tension there suggested. Not that I saw or have read.

            Nyssa and Tegan, again I don’t think there is any suggestion of fancying the fifth Doctor, beyond what one reads into it. It wasn’t it the show’s remit and JNT was very dicey over such notions. (And yes, I think people who read the chemistry between Ward and Baker as being sexual between Romana and the Doctor, again are reading what isn’t there).

            I think we have to accept before McGann, the Doctor wasn’t a character who falls in love. Even the Aztecs, it’s not romance, it’s romantic farce played sensitively. He’s awkward because he’s lead a very pleasant and honest lady to believe he’s in love with her. He’s not, and that along with his need to use her, and her genuinely lovely nature makes him feel decidedly uncomfortable.

            I think death has been abundant in both Who. I think nu-Who’s error is the companions/Doctor treat such death as a roller-coaster ride, which belittles it. I think classic Who did sometimes become structurally predictable – those who were considered fallible in a tale could only redeem themselves by death and those who antagonise, also. Nu Who is a little less predictable.

            As for complexity, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Logopolis, Ghost Light, Warriors Gate are made wonderful by their over complexity. That’s not a problem. I think when it’s a problem is when complexity is generated unintentionally. Moff’s era ended with a giant tie-up of many arcs that I don’t believe were true when they were originally written. It was a good tie-up, but if it had been planned, I think it would have been neater and more digestible. Over-complexity to me is when a show doesn’t put enough thought or time into an arc/structure and it fails to be coherent. I’d say Classic Who didn’t suffer from that, but that’s because it never really tried such tricks due to its broadcast nature.

            As for unanswered questions… based on television alone, what happened to Ace, how did Mel meet the Doctor? What happened with the Valeyard? Who is the Watcher? What did Peinforte know? How did the Master escape the Cat-Planet? What happened to Dodo? When did Gallifrey buy solely from Ikea? There is a lot. But that’s the nature of the format back then. You didn’t dwaddle, you moved on.

            Doctor Who in itself hasn’t changed much. Even the romance stuff isn’t really major – good lord, even River Song doesn’t play out as a typical romance. It’s all kept very ambiguous. The rest is Doctor Who, just with different conventions based on how television tells stories, just as Unearthly Child has a different convention to Curse of Fenric. Neither old Who nor Nu Who is right nor wrong, in fact, I’d rather we lost those tags as old Who is not a singular beast, and to be honest, I’d say even Nu Who RTD/Moff have been pretty different in emphasis as well!

          • CosmicDebris says:

            Here is a quote from Steve Moffat, since this article is about him after all:
            “I recently watched, again, the final scene of The Green Death, and – apart from being just stunningly good, as good as you get, just gorgeous – that’s not a paternal goodbye. It’s not! It just isn’t! He can’t even look the other bloke in the face, and off he sulks in his car. He’s a man absolutely in love. There is a sort of a fan conception of the Doctor as being emotionally aloof and distant, but I don’t see any of it on television. When has he been aloof and distant? I can’t think of an emotion, from the petty to the epic, that he hasn’t expressed. He’s emotionally incontinent – he loses his temper, he has ridiculous affections for idiots. At what point is this man Sherlock Holmes or Mr. Spock? And when has he ever turned round and said he has no interest in the opposite sex?”

            I didn’t read that before I watched the story; it’s interesting that he saw the same thing.

            The show runners back in the day didn’t really want to bring romance into the story for a lot of reasons, but the movie wasn’t the first time it ever occurred with outside media, and certainly after that point, it’s been retroactively refitted quite a bit with books and audio dramas which feature the original actors in the roles. As for other companions in the context of the show, going through examples would get a bit tedious, but I’ll add that I never did see anything to suggest Four and Romana were anything but friends. Maybe you’re thinking I’m suggesting there are things happening behind the scenes with some characters, which I am not.

            But anyway, thanks for your post, you elaborated much better on the unfair comparisons with classic/new Who.

  16. David F says:

    A lovely, positive article.

    The reference to Big Finish companions tells us only that the Doctor has had those companions, but it doesn’t mean all those audio stories happened. Just as we know from TV that the Doctor had a companion called (say) Peri, but it doesn’t mean all those audio adventures happened to her,

    Or maybe it does. Rather than confirming Big Finish as being canonical (yes, the adjective is canonical, and I’ll fight to defend it), the great thing about the Night of the Doctor reference is that it gives us the license to argue it to whatever degree we want without any of us being wrong.

  17. rickjlundeen says:

    One important note: the article starts off thinking back to when the internet was “A force for good”. It was NEVER that. It was something people almost immediately started abusing with their snarky comments behind assumed names.

    I guess my point is that the net has always been like this. There are just more people doing it.

    I like Moffat but I think with this and Sherlock, he’s stretched a bit thin and he’s a better writer than show runner. That being said, he still does a good job and I fear who will replace him.

  18. DonnaM says:

    There’s good and bad in every era. Personally I like Moffat’s narrative style, am a little more iffy on his characterisation (especially with “strong women” – too samey-samey in the way they’re portrayed for my taste) and have registered my issues with the Eleventh Doctor’s tone so many times I’m almost boring myself :-).

    I disliked some of RTD’s storytelling tactics – and I detested the whole “love story” element with Rose in particular. However, I could appreciate that he wrote well-rounded, credible characters. In neither era did I stop watching, because I am rational enough ( I hope) to know that what I find tedious, tiresome or even downright cringe-inducing, many other people will actually like. Does that make them wrong and me right? No, it makes us different.

    Moffat, RTD and every other writer have to cater for a wide audience and you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Parts of t’internet community don’t get that, but I tend to view the problem as theirs, not the show’s 🙂

    So overall – thanks Mr Moffat, and Mr Davies too. Quality may vary in my eyes, but you’ve kept Doctor Who on my television since 2005 and that at least deserves a round of applause!

    • Simon Magellan says:

      When I was active in fandom in the 80s we had the same kind of “fan” – I use the term loosely- but then they just had low circulation fanzines to spout off in. Now they can reach millions via the net, and being unpleasant makes them feel important.

      What really annoys me is those who have an opinion which has no basis in fact but won’t acknowledge any contrary argument (ie “the new series has turned it’s back on the classic series” or “new fans don’t appreciate the old show and aren’t really fans at all”).

  19. Ranger says:

    Moffatt, like every other producer/writer involved with DW, has got some things spectacularly right (Blink, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, TDOTD) and some things hideously wrong (Amy, River Song), but we should thank him for continuing to make DW thrive around the world.

    But one thing I can’t forgive him for is casting Matt Smith. Though this is offset by him casting Peter Capaldi, who even from just the trailers I can tell is going to be brilliant.

    • James Mclean says:

      I think that a positive slant is always healthy.

      That said, I think I think casting is something Moffat takes full credit for which I think from my understanding, is somewhat a little simplistic and self-focused. Neither the casting of Smith nor Capaldi were solely his choices, and as with all productions around the world, final approval does not sit with him, even if he’d like to suggest it does. Add to that, you’ve got casting directors brought in specifically to deal with casting which again don’t get a mention. I’ve even heard it said he wasn’t initially as keen on Smith as again, legend has it, though all being said there, I have heard he was VERY keen on Capaldi, and dropped talks with another actor as soon as he got word Peter was in the offering.

  20. Andrew says:

    I’ve been a staunch supporter of Steven Moffat, and frequently get into heated debates with friends and on forums. Whilst I have enjoyed many episodes over the last 4 years, I do find the Moffat era on the whole to be somewhat underwhelming and full of missed opportunities.

    From what I gather, from people who are most against what Moffat is doing, there are a great many who believe that his era is one of the weakest.

    This is largely because it has disappeared up the dramatic blind alley of paradoxes, re-written events and perpetual resets. Nothing actually matters because it’s all just going to be re-written or undone in the finale anyway.

    And that’s if you even managed to find yourself caring about the characters in the first place, which is difficult because they’re almost all “fesity” or “sassy” or “in your face” two-dimensional facades to begin with.

    I think he’s VERY good at writing TV programmes.

    He’s just not very good at showrunning this particular one.

    He’s said in the past that, basically, everyone else who ever produced Doctor Who had failed to realise the potential of its time traveling remit.

    He was wrong.

    He is the one who has failed to see the pitfalls in his own approach.

    You CANNOT give the Doctor 100% control of a 100% reliable TARDIS in a Universe in which time can be re-written and still expect there to be any potential whatsoever for drama. Even if he can’t immediately access the TARDIS, you need an explanation for why he can’t change things when he eventually does.

    It’s like Superman – he’s just too powerful with all of those elements in place and you constantly have to keep inventing different colours of Kryptonite, or different types of magic, in order to even begin to tell a story with any consequences.

    You NEED to remove at least one of those elements – either the Doctor forgets how to pilot the TARDIS, the TARDIS become inherently unreliable through some mechanical breakdown, or you go back to “you cannot rewrite history – not one line” from The Aztecs.

    Ideally, you remove all three and go back to a random wanderer in the vast expanse of space and time who couldn’t change history even if he wanted to.

  21. Castellan Spandrel says:

    I agree, Andrew, though I have enjoyed a lot of the last 4 years of stories.

    The resolution of ‘The Big Bang’ is particularly thorny – basically, the Doctor shows Godlike powers by rebooting the entire universe.

    It bothers me that no one significant dies, despite the idea of them died being played out a lot (Rory, et al), and that essentially good people possessed by ‘evil’ (Auton Rory, Dalek-Tasha Lem) can be talked into being nice again, thereby diminishing the threat and again, making the Doctor too powerful for the drama to be tense.

    I saw the Doctor’s ‘wedding’ scene last night by accident (Matt Smith tribute extra on TIme of the Doctor DVD) and cringed at River’s “You are loved by so many…” speech. Real jump-the- shark stuff. I preferred it when he wandered time and space, got involved, helped out, then shuffled away to his next adventure.

  22. Castellan Spandrel says:

    On the other hand… as this is a thread in response to a nice positive overview of the Moffat era:

    The Eleventh Hour

    Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

    The God Complex

    The Girl Who Waited

    The Name of the Doctor

    The Day of the Doctor

    The Crimson Horror…. (this isn’t the full list, just what springs immediately to mind)

    They’re not too shabby, are they?

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks, Castellan Spandrel. I agree with those you’ve listed. I’d also add The Snowmen, The Bells of St. John, Hide, Vincent and the Doctor to name but three. I do think Clara is a big improvement over Amy Pond, however I’d say that is more down to the brilliance of Jenna Colman’s performances.

      I’m also hoping (thought somehow doubt it unfortunately), that we have seen the last of River Song. The hole approach to having the 11th having this cougar fetish I thought was sickly and totally inappropriate. RTD touched on this notion of the Doctor being romantic, but 10s love over Rose was more understandable, and surprisingly innocent.

      I also laugh at those who say Moffat has done away with the soap opera elements that was apparently prevalent during RTDs era. With Amy and Rory conceiving Melody in the TARDIS, the Doctor marrying her and his other flirtations with the likes of Tasha Lem was as like Hollyoaks with roundels on the wall.

      I just feel that Doctor Who is somewhat lagging behind other sci-fi shows like Stargate, Heroes and Farscape. And whilst the likes of Game of Thrones and 24 may be totally different shows, for different target audiences you can watch any episode of these programs and understand the whole story arch, or at least get a gist of the plot, without having to back track. These shows are particularly good at making you actually want to go back to the previous episodes and seasons. Overcomplicated story arcs, that are constantly contradicted must make it very off putting to casual viewers.

      I am however optimistic for the future. Peter Capaldi has the potential to be the best Doctor yet. I really hope the changes promised are substantial enough to allow great scripts to show his real talents. You can have the best actors in the world in your show, but if the scripts don’t cut it, you have nothing of any real substance.

      • Castellan Spandrel says:

        “I also laugh at those who say Moffat has done away with the soap opera elements that was apparently prevalent during RTDs era. With Amy and Rory conceiving Melody in the TARDIS, the Doctor marrying her and his other flirtations with the likes of Tasha Lem was as like Hollyoaks with roundels on the wall.”

        -RTD, in an interview while he was showrunner, defended the programme against ‘soap’ accusations by saying something like, “If the Doctor revealed he was Rose’s father, that would make it a soap opera rather than a drama.”

        For me, that’s why A Good Man Goes to War was one of the poorest stories of the past decade. It hinged on a soap opera revelation – namely that River is Rory and Amy’s daughter.

        By contrast, I enjoyed Let’s Kill Hitler, the following story. I understand people’s issues with the comedic portrayal of Hitler, but I found the introduction of Mels and her change into River Song (who I’m not a huge fan of) satisfying, because that was a clever surprise, more than the revelation of who her parents were.

  1. July 23, 2014

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