Not another Davies vs Moffat Debate

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Guest writer, G. F. Roberts makes the case for greater tolerance amongst Doctor Who fans.

Like most of you, I really enjoyed Doctor Who TV’s recent ‘Ultimate’ polls. Such events always help gauge the diversity of opinion amongst fandom, and allow us the opportunity to articulate our varying likes and dislikes. By and large, the overall tone was celebratory, and it was encouraging to see people passionately describe what inspires them most about the programme.

Sadly, it was equally disheartening to witness the animosity displayed by some posters, and the unnecessary, supercilious disdain shown towards certain features of the NuWho world. Or, more precisely, certain figures. Namely one Mr Davies, and one Mr Moffat.

It appears some people can’t praise either of Doctor Who’s most recent show runners, without also making haughty, disparaging remarks about the other. Or their admirers.

Heated debate is a great thing! Condescension… not so good!

Firstly, I believe the revived show has been blessed in having had both Steven Moffat and Russell T Davies at its helm. RTD took a franchise that was broadly viewed as a bit of a joke and shaped it into one of the hottest properties on television. Almost against the odds, he made it a critical and ratings hit and created a whole new generation of eager fans. Moffat, meanwhile, has taken the ‘Who’ baton and run with it, reinforcing the shows fan base and spearheading ‘Doctor Who’s growing popularity Stateside.  Each has successfully brought their own distinctive dynamic to the programme. Their separate approaches may not be to everyone’s taste, but its unfair of either man’s detractors to accuse them of producing sub standard drama, or, at the very least, failing to capture the ‘true nature of ‘Who’.

Whatever that is!

The shows initial format evolved and changed as quickly as the character of the Doctor himself, with the dark, slightly untrustworthy stranger we first met soon growing into the altruistic, hero figure we all know and love. Its educational remit was hastily phased out, as were the pure historical epics, which were eventually replaced by out and out sci-fi adventures. Of course a change of lead actor brought about one of the programmes most fundamental alterations, and near cancellation in 1969 obligated the introduction of new layers of mythology, and an unfortunate amount of demystification.  The ensuring fifty years have merely seen a number of variations on a theme; ‘the central figure of the Doctor, with his companion(s), in the TARDIS‘. How they’re rendered, where they go, and what they meet, have been dictated by the vision and tastes of each subsequent producer.

Now, each of us has our own favourite 21st century variation, but neither one in my opinion, can be considered any purer in its ‘Whoness‘. They each address a different facet of the shows traditions, be it the scope of time travel, or the thrill of adventure. RTD was happiest when playing to the gallery; confidently producing epic, imaginative, and often quite affecting crowd pleasers. Moffat is definitely more at home tinkering with the temporal mechanics of the format, regularly stimulating our fan gene with his intriguing, knotty plots.

Using my ‘Clunky Analogy 3000‘, it could be said Moffat is perhaps the Tim Burton to Davies’ Steven Spielberg. Like Tim Burton’s oeuvre, Moffat’s ‘Who’ is more individual, with darker tones, stranger shapes, and stronger sci-fi concepts. Davies, like the more mainstream Spielberg, knew exactly how to draw an audience into a fantastical ‘Who’ adventure by keeping it character based, identifiable and emotionally grounded. Both men also found the ideal Doctor’s to carry their vision of the show. Davies had Tennant, all vibrant, emotional, contemporary cool, while Smith, with his anachronistic, unpredictable, cerebral charm is the perfect Time Lord for Moffat.

Fortunately I enjoy the films of both Spielberg and Burton, in much the same way that I appreciate the work of Davies and Moffat. I’m not saying they‘re perfect. Davies, perhaps had weaker sci-fi sensibilities, was prone to over egging the pudding, and occasionally produced the odd cop out ending. Moffat meanwhile, can sometimes be a tad too convoluted for his own good, is maybe a touch insincere in the drama department, and is sporadically anaemic with characterisation. And both men could definitely be accused of overusing their own favourite themes and ideas.

But minor faults aside, both are patently talented writers, who clearly know the medium, and the show, inside out. Now I’m not advocating a uniform opinion on these matters, I just think its unnecessary to make overly derogatory, belittling comments about devotees of either man or era. As we all know, personal taste is a subjective thing, and some people should realise that, on some occasions, there is no right or wrong, intellectually superior, viewpoint.

Only a vast selection of differing opinions, and a common love of the show.