Addressing the Most Common Complaints of Moffat’s Era
Guest contributors K-Ci Williams and Amy Luna tackle the subject.
I enjoy reading the comments on articles, they make for an entertaining night when fans debate over different things. One thing I can’t stand though is when I see some people constantly trash-talking Steven Moffat for absolutely anything they can find. It prompted me to write this article, which features some of the criticisms that people have with his apparently bad era of Doctor Who. I will explain these perceived problems and will justify why I don’t see them as problems, with a few thoughts from fellow contributor Amy Luna later on…
River Song is one of the most divisive characters among the fandom. Most probably the constant teasing early on only to have her be the Ponds’ daughter may have ticked a few off to start, but I feel that her appearances show what needed to be told. Yes, she regenerated from Mels into River Song in the episode directly after her big reveal, and some find this a rushed storyline but I find it suitable as, in hindsight, the seventh series took on a different story route with Clara. With Clara’s series in the 50th year, having major developments with River would only set more people off mad that she was getting screen time in the anniversary year.
However, I think that another major reason why fans don’t enjoy River Song any more is because of how she was developed, with the ideas coming forward being much too overwhelming and too fast for those not receptive enough to keep an open mind. And for those who have kept an open mind, River was probably fleshed out in an unlikeable manner. There is not much that I can do to alleviate the hatred some feel for River, but I can say that I think that she should be brought back a couple of times in Capaldi’s tenure. But only if the story has a really strong sense for the character’s need. Basically so that she might be redeemed in the eyes of some fans due to a different dynamic with Capaldi.
Story Arcs / Unresolved plots
As some on this site have pointed out, I think the Moff actually thought about his story arc for all of Smith’s tenure from the very beginning, and added things along the way (with the John Hurt being a fabrication that means either Moffat planned it or didn’t from the start – you choose). I think he’s more like J.K Rowling in the way that his brain holds the complexities of his tenure all figured out, just as Rowling has an origin story for characters like McGonagall.
Common complaints entail unsatisfying and lacklustre conclusions from his episodes and the fact that we always get more questions than answers. I refuse to accept these claims until Moffat departs the show, because he always leaves plot threads open and comes back to them later on.
As for the conclusions, I do concede that things like the Tesselecta were a bit far-fetched, but nevertheless it was established before the reveal that the Doctor was using it to stay alive, so it was still a plausible idea. The single mass story arc with the Silence is not over yet, we still have Christmas to go. Until then, I’m not making a choice on whether I have enjoyed the arc or not. Thus far though, I think it has been amazing.
Series 5 was for some the best of Moffat’s tenure as head writer, but some fans blame him for the later splits of Series 6 and Series 7. I don’t know how much input he had in this matter, but we certainly cannot blame him entirely.
Series 6 was split for a reason: the internal logistics of his storytelling. The mid-series finale was meant to leave you with the information of River’s reveal, and then you could ponder for a few months about what this meant for past appearances of River with Amy. Then when the second part of Series 6 was broadcast, he would open it with another River-centric story, explaining how she came to be. These internal plot logistics make sense for a Series 6 split: it would be much more enjoyable for the cliffhanger to be before a long break rather than having Let’s Kill Hitler air a week after, as it would be anti-climactic.
As for Series 7, I believe it was also for both the internal and external logistics. Firstly, preceding the broadcast of the 2011 Christmas special it was announced that Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill were to leave the show. The actors themselves didn’t want to stay for another whole series, and in actual fact there were originally four episodes planned for their final appearances. Chris Chibnall’s penultimate The Power of Three was added to production when he pitched the idea to Steven Moffat, hence there were now five episodes. It was a logical split between those five stories and a Christmas special before introducing the new companion in 2013.
Of course the episodes could have been broadcast earlier, but as production was heading to the 50th special, there would not be any more broadcast after Series 7 Part 2, and the BBC needed to show Who early in the year to at least have something to show for the 50th anniversary year. Hence the external logistics of the BBC and actors meant that there was the split, and it wasn’t Moffat’s doing this time.
Storywise, it made sense that while we waited months for The Snowmen to air, the Doctor was becoming a Scrooge, and while we awaited The Bells of Saint John, the Doctor was busy searching for Clara and eventually isolating himself in a monastery. All in all, Steven Moffat has made the best of the situations that have befallen him.
The Regeneration Limit
Some claim Moffat is only addressing the regeneration limit at Christmas so that he alone gets to be the writer to tackle the issue. But he has every right; he is the head writer of the show! And he makes a fair case for doing it now. There are 12 regenerations, and each of those has been fulfilled, which leaves this Christmas as the story which will hopefully address it. In all honesty, I think that in some way, this always formed the basis of what he had planned for Matt Smith’s tenure, and that it would end with him being the last of this first cycle. It also allows Matt to act his heart(s) out in his last performance, with the potential acknowledgement of being on his last life hopefully bringing out the very best of the Doctor that we’ve grown to love over the last four years. Ultimately, it makes sense. What some view as a cop-out in the form of the Meta-Crisis Doctor is now being given a more significant existence than simply popping off to Pete’s World to have babies with Rose Tyler.
The Doctor Numbering
Is Moffat making you confused? If so, isn’t it good you want to think about it a lot? It shows that Doctor Who is stuck in your mind which means that Moffat has done his job. He actually has a fair point and I think that some say he’s a bad writer only because of the fact that they are confused. Here is a linear numbering scheme:
- William Hartnell – First Doctor
- Patrick Troughton – Second Doctor and First Regeneration used
- Jon Pertwee – Third Doctor and Second Regeneration used
- Tom Baker – Fourth Doctor and Third Regeneration used
- Peter Davison – Fifth Doctor and Fourth Regeneration used
- Colin Baker – Sixth Doctor and Fifth Regeneration used
- Sylvester McCoy – Seventh Doctor and Sixth Regeneration used
- Paul McGann – Eighth Doctor and Seventh Regeneration used
- John Hurt – The War Doctor who despite drinking the Elixir from the Sisterhood of Karn as the Eighth Doctor, still used a regeneration, as Ohila says that it can trigger his regeneration. Hence, he is the War Doctor (so as to not confuse the next incarnation numbers) and Eighth Regeneration used.
- Christopher Eccleston – Ninth Doctor and Ninth Regeneration used
- David Tennant – Tenth Doctor and Tenth Regeneration used
- Meta Crisis – Human Doctor, and through the biological Meta Crisis, the regeneration energy that would’ve been fully used for Tennant to change, was “siphoned” into the spare hand which grew into the Human Doctor, hence the Eleventh Regeneration used
- Matt Smith – Eleventh Doctor and Twelfth Regeneration used.
The customs of regeneration have made it that there are only twelve regenerations, hence the Doctor’s lives are up. When you have a proper think about it, it’s not very complicated.
Above all, I dislike the little nitpicks that people make. Of course everybody is afforded the right to have an opinion and to have it respected, but it doesn’t justify mass hate for the fact that the last three episodes of 2013 are regarded as a trilogy with Name, Day and The Time of the Doctor. Some people claim that he has no originality or creativity, when in actual fact, the creative idea to keep Matt Smith’s last stories as a similarly named trilogy is ingenious. And is the Tesselecta not a genius idea? Is Trenzalore not completely creative? I’ve never seen it anywhere else so Steven Moffat must be creative.
By Amy Luna
It is fine to dislike Moffat’s writing; that is what opinions are for after all. What bothers me is when people hate on him simply because what he is doing is different, as if every showrunner before him has stuck to one uniform style. It should be very clear that Doctor Who, throughout all of its eras, is the “same show with a different face.” What Moffat does is, at its core, no better or worse than what every other showrunner has done and will do. He just writes the show as he sees fit, as any head writer should do. There is no one “right” way to do Doctor Who – it just isn’t that kind of show.
I would expect that most Doctor Who fans would be used to this, but I can say from personal experience that it would be rather jarring for anybody who started with the reboot series and had no prior knowledge of the many different versions of the show that came before. As I said, personal experience – I used to be in that position. Moffat’s change in direction came as a big shock to me, and I was extremely critical of it at first (although I was also very naive at that time in my life, which probably had a hand in it). But after a while, I adjusted, and now look at me. While I may like the Moffat era more now in terms of personal preference (particularly him hitting on my love of temporal paradoxes), I can recognize that both the RTD and Moffat eras have their strengths and weaknesses.
Here are some general handy guidelines for the Doctor Who fanbase:
1. Do not fear change. Try to embrace it as it comes, for change is hard-wired into the genetic code of Doctor Who.
2. Learn to admit when you are wrong.
3. If you are confused or unsure about something, do not react with hostility – seek out and consider other perspectives.
4. Beans are evil – bad, bad beans.
Another common issue that I see is that some people simply do not pay attention. Be it intentional or by mistake – in some cases, they genuinely missed out on something, and I do try to be as informative as I can in order to help. But in other cases, people are just so desperate to hate on Moffat and his work that they base their arguments on misconceptions and non-issues and then get defensive when they are corrected because they do not want to acknowledge that their hatred may be unfounded – it really is disappointing, in a way, that some people cannot be more mature about their criticisms. I can admit when I am wrong, and I find that life is much more insightful that way. I don’t even necessarily have to change my overall views just because a few details have been altered – I just gain a new perspective.
Although I do think that people get way too hissy about Moffat using time travel to write out parts of the show – even if they never happened historically, the pure and simple fact of the matter is that such events still happened causally, because they could have never been erased in the first place if they hadn’t occurred once before. Generally, the Doctor lived through said events and can remember them as they happened, and that should be adequate, erasure from history at large or otherwise. Just like when Amy felt bad about killing Kovarian in “The Wedding of River Song”. She could remember it, so for her, it still happened and still had an impact on her as a person, regardless of the alternate timeline in which it happened having been undone.
Is Moffat Trolling?
Amy: Moffat uses vague statements and tricky wordplay in order to preserve surprises. Only rarely does he actually lie outright about something. The problem is that people have a tendency to misconstrue his comments to be promising something that they are not, and then those people get frustrated when the one-sided promise that they were expecting is not made good upon. With Moffat, all that you really have to do is consider the context and read in between the lines a little.
K-Ci: Fans say he is a liar, but I would deem him as a twister. He twists words to suggest the unexpected. Honestly, I would rather him twist words and trick us into thinking something entirely out of the question so that he can keep surprises for the episode. Would you really like him to tell you the truth? I find it very entertaining when he teases us; it makes the experience of Doctor Who the best it can be.
Comparisons with RTD
Because inevitably a debate will erupt regarding who out of RTD and Moffat is the better writer, I will say that Moffat will always be my favourite writer because I started the show in 2010 along with his showrunner tenure (so essentially I’m biased), but in terms of being the head writer of Doctor Who, both have their merits.
RTD will always be known as the man who brought back Doctor Who, and who kept it going for years. I always enjoyed how each of Russell’s series would have small hints at the story arc for that series, and I equally enjoy how under Moffat’s direction, there have been three series with an ongoing story arc with loose threads to be picked up later.
Another one of my criticisms is that people tend to use statistics to prove one or the other is the best writer. While Moffat might be my favourite, he isn’t the best, as both have pros and cons. Apparently, Russell T Davies is a better showrunner because in his time of five years he was able to produce four series each with a festive special, and a series of specials which accumulates to sixty episodes from him, whereas in four years, Steven Moffat has produced three series each with Christmas specials and the 50th Special accumulating to forty four episodes including The Time of the Doctor. It’s disheartening as a fan of the show to see others trash talking Moffat and comparing him to RTD rather than just enjoying his work. I mean, both of them have strong points and weak points. We’ve all met the Abzorbaloff – you decide whether that’s a strong or weak point.
I must give a huge thank you to Amy Luna for sharing a few thoughts on the matter. Overall, I plead with others to stop trash-talking Steven Moffat and his direction of the show. To conclude, there are some very wise words that did not come from me, but from Doctor Who TV contributor Gustaff Behr, which he wrote in the comments section a while back:
“We are not in charge of the show. We can’t do anything about it, except enjoy it. Be happy there is Doctor Who. That’s my philosophy.”