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Series 1-7 Face-Off: Moffat Specials

Doctor Who TV is running new series pitting all the revival episodes against each other to decide your dream run. Today we continue with the special episodes from Steven Moffat’s era of the show (so far).

moffat-specials-face-off

Introduction by Mark McCullough.

Today’s Candidates

  1. A Christmas Carol (2010)
  2. The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (2011)
  3. The Snowmen (2012)
  4. The Day of the Doctor (2013)
  5. The Time of the Doctor (2013)

What Makes a Good Special?

The points raised by David yesterday apply here too; regardless of who the writer is, the purpose of a special remains the same. For the Moffat specials there are a smaller pool of episodes from which to draw your choice. This is due to Moffat having only coined five of them to date. These episodes fall into one of three distinct categories: the Christmas Special; pretty self-explanatory a Christmas themed one-off episode which usually stands alone in terms of story arcs. These episodes should be highly entertaining, coherent and contain a family orientated plot. Then there is what I call a ‘The End of an Era Special’; there have only been two in the new series with The End of Time and The Time of the Doctor, featuring the Doctor’s regeneration outside of the regular format of a series. This presents a challenge to the writer, to give the Doctor a proper send-off giving his era a completed feel whilst still being strong enough to stand alone as a special story. The final type of special is “The Anniversary Special”. This is by far the hardest one to get right, to give the show a suitable tribute for its major milestone whilst in Moffat’s own words getting up the future of the show. Demands from the fans for what the fiftieth anniversary should have been are bound to have put Moffat under pressure. But he performed well, delivering not only a memorable episode, but an event that will live long in the minds of the viewers.

Predicted Winner

Featuring arguably the most impressive list of episodes thus far, you would expect that a tight contest could ensue. Most of the episodes being well received by the majority of fans with some already even being referred to as classics; it would be easy to assume the decision will be taxing. However in stark contrast to this initial assumption, it is extremely easy to see a winner. So easy in fact, that this segment of the poll is at risk of developing into a non-contest. Why is this? The answer: because it contains the Fiftieth Anniversary Special, The Day of The Doctor. Fresh from its victory in The Best of Matt Smith Polls, it would be foolish to consider anything else as our winner here. Alas, The Day of the Doctor would be a highly deserving winner.

Featuring a narrative which delved right into the core of the main character whilst adding a new incarnation and following the worst day of his life gave the story the impact needed for the occasion. In addition to featuring a strong narrative, the episode was littered with treats for long term fans of the show. I’m sure none of us will deny the euphoria of seeing all previous incarnations of the Doctor unite under one common goal. To make this moment even more sublime, the appearance of a future Doctor (even if only his eyes) is bound to have sent shivers down the spines of the viewers. To compound things further, just when you thought all the treats were over, Tom Baker returned in the role of the Curator. Despite its enormous success, The Day of the Doctor is fundamentally flawed. Featuring a strangely unresolved Zygon subplot along with some parts when observed in hindsight which do not make coherent sense (How can Capaldi’s Doctor be there?). Despite these minor flaws the episode has some of the best scenes in the history of the show, too many to name them all

The Dark Horse

I could cheat slightly in making my choice for this section as this is the first poll where all candidates have been covered in The Best of Matt Smith Polls. My predicted winner matches the results of said poll. By definition this makes the next episode in those results the Dark Horse as it has the best chance of pulling off an upset and winning the poll. However since this is head-to-head as opposed to average score, I am tempted to extend the Dark Horse category to cover Moffat at Christmas. Such is the quality of Moffat’s Christmas Specials that any of: A Christmas Carol, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, The Snowmen, and The Time of the Doctor are more than capable of pulling off a dramatic win.

However I have to pick one episode and that choice may surprise you; my choice is The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe. Realistically this one will probably receive a very low share of the vote, but I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight it as an underrated gem as opposed to the much maligned episode it is made out to be. Admittedly, on first viewing it was an episode I didn’t overly enjoy. However during my Christmas Specials re-watch in December, I was surprised at just how good it was. I have no shame in saying it is the only episode in the history of the show which has had me in floods of tears. The balance of humour and poignancy within the narrative is sublime and the scene where the Doctor returns to the Ponds one of the most memorable moments of the Smith Era. One of the most common criticisms of the episode is the over-reliance of Christmas tropes, as a Christmas special I fail to see how this is a bad thing, it has very little impact on the progression of the story. The episode features what I consider one of the most inspirational quotes the show has produced: “What’s the point in them being happy now if they’re going to be sad later? …..The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later.” To reiterate, if this episode were to win it would the biggest Dark Horse of the lot.

Writer’s Pick

Perhaps The Time of the Doctor is the most likely to complete an upset by beating its preceding episode, and it certainly gets my vote. An episode which draws together all of the questions from the Matt Smith Era and delivers a satisfactory resolution is always going to be well received. Unfortunately this wasn’t entirely the case as it initially appeared to be Doctor Who’s version of Marmite. In the initial poll on the site following the episode’s initial broadcast it scored an equivalent of 8.195 (if my Maths is correct). Following this, in the Best of Matt Smith Poll it scored an 8.623. This would seem to be in agreement with my own observation that Smith’s swansong gets better on re-watch. In fact, The Time of the Doctor has grown on me so much that it is currently in my top three episodes.

The narrative effectively begins, adds to, and concludes the arcs of the previous three seasons. It offers a simple explanation whilst still respecting the viewer’s intellect and fits around the story being told within the episode itself. Supported with excellent visuals and a beautiful score, combined with a full cohort of the Doctor’s enemies, the episode has a real sense of importance about it. As a regeneration episode, it’s not all doom and gloom; humour and wonderful character moments are littered throughout the episode. Smith offers a compelling performance as the Doctor throughout the various stages of the character’s life, especially in the heart-breaking scenes with the aged Doctor. Other highlights of the episode included some much needed character development for Clara and a cameo appearance for Amy Pond. I couldn’t ask for much more from a special. The Time of the Doctor gets my vote and I sincerely hope it does as well as it deserves to here.

Vote

You’ve heard Mark’s thoughts, but what about your own? Which one tops your list? Vote below.

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160 comments
MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

In my opinion, Moffat's specials are actually better than RTD's overall:

1. Day of the doctor- 9.5/10

2. A Christmas carol- 9/10

3. Time of the doctor- 8/10

4. TDTWATW- 6/10

5. The snowmen- 5/10

gingersnapgirl
gingersnapgirl

Although I realize DOTD will almost definitely end up taking home the prize, for me personally it's gotta be A Christmas Carol. Not only is it the best Christmas special DW has ever done, it's also (IMO) one of the best Christmas specials any show has ever done. Plus, it contains so much of what Moff and Eleven do best - timey wimey plots, pop culture allusions, a sense of whimsy with an underlying darkness, and a real feeling of family and of loss. It makes you laugh and cry and hold your breath in awe, and for me personally it's one of the best standalone episodes DW has ever done. 

ThereWasAWarAndWeLost
ThereWasAWarAndWeLost

I love, love, loved Day, but A Christmas Carol really was something special too, so I went for that

chrisew
chrisew

No contest for me - Day of the Doctor. Not just because it's great, but because the others take the Christmas special concept too close to heart for my taste. I gather that shows doing Christmas specials is something of a tradition in England, but over here in the US, it just feels weird to see a science-fiction show having a Christmas themed adventure once a year, and Moffat's were the most Christmasy of them all. Even Time of the Doctor needlessly wedged some holiday stuff in.


chinnysandshoes
chinnysandshoes

Day of the Doctor. No contest for me. It was so fun! Just so much fun! I never tire of the gags. I never tire of the War Doctor's "What are you going to do??? Assemble a cabinet at them?!!", so many great lines and moments.... I laugh every time. I know I know, the criticism is that Moffat does it again. He takes something powerful and negates it. I do have some issue with his tendency to do that in his scripts. But this time is one time I have not found it to be the case. I don't see it as a negation but as an evolution of the Doctor's life going forward. Until that point, Gallifrey was to all his knowledge and belief, destroyed by his hand. This is not just my favourite Moffat special, it is my all-time favourite by a mile! Ten, Eleven and John Hurt..... Dream team. And the finale with all the Doctors flying in their Tardis and when Eleven walks out to join his other selves, always always brings a lump to my throat. 



LucasW
LucasW

Not overly fond of The Day of the Doctor. My vote goes to A Christmas Carol.

dalek WHOnews
dalek WHOnews

The widow and the wardrobe for me was the best special ever!

DaftDalek is Ceter Papaldi: Moon Lives!
DaftDalek is Ceter Papaldi: Moon Lives!

I voted for A Christmas Carol, because it doesn't get the recognition it deserves and I love it! To be honest, however I prefer Day over it, but everyone else will vote for it, so why not try something else?

DaftDalek is Ceter Papaldi: Moon Lives!
DaftDalek is Ceter Papaldi: Moon Lives!

1. The Day Of The Doctor 10/10 2. A Christmas Carol 10/10 3. The Time Of The Doctor 8/10 4. The Snowmen 8/10 5. The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe 6/10


Mati C
Mati C

Day of the Doctor of course, it was great! Time of the Doctor was BAD i hated it, te rest are ok...

Baker Street is on the Orient Express
Baker Street is on the Orient Express

"The Day of the Doctor" without a shadow of a doubt! Never have I seen 75 minutes of more tense, emotional, fun and Whovian-pleasing television, and it is still the best programme I have ever seen. It made November 23rd 2013 a very memorable day.

1. The Day of the Doctor

2. The Time of the Doctor

3. The Snowmen

4. The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe

5. A Christmas Carol

DW_girl
DW_girl

No doubt about it, The Day of the Doctor!

In order of preference:

1) The Day of the Doctor 11/10!!!

2) A Christmas Carol 10/10

3) The Snowmen 10/10

4) The Time of the Doctor 8/10

5) The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe 4/10 (One of the worst episodes to date, apart from the first and last scenes!)

tardiselliot
tardiselliot

Moffat managed to tell some pretty decent christmas style stories, Chrismas Carol was excellent and I really like the Snowmen. Day of the Doctor is great but for this I'm voting for the Snowmen.

JoopAgema
JoopAgema

Day of the Doctor is the one that stuck with me most

Liana21
Liana21

Day, Snowmen and Time.

Day because was simply epic

Snowmen because is my favourite Christmas special

And Time because even when it's the regeneration story of my sweet Matt is a great episode.

HisNameIsTheDoctor
HisNameIsTheDoctor

I voted for Time, but I really like The Snowmen; I remember it was my first episode. I thought that the TARDIS was always on a cloud, and the staircase was always there. I thought that Vastra and Jenny were regular companions, and that Strax was some sort of recurring enemy, and Clara, well, I just didn't understand her. In a all, I didn't understand the episode, but I loved it, mostly because of the Doctor and Clara's great chemistry/acting.



stargazer0118
stargazer0118

Day of the Doctor is the most fun and memorable out of the bunch for me. 

Oodkind is foretold...
Oodkind is foretold...

It kind of worries me, because it seems from the comments that people are saying, "Since Day of the Doctor is the obvious winner, I won't vote for it." It's a bit strange-- if everyone does that, it won't win. It's like when the Doctor Who cast was on The Weakest Link and everyone voted David Tennant off because they all thought no one else would vote for him.

Oodkind is foretold...
Oodkind is foretold...

Pretty obvious for me-- Day of the Doctor. I, for one, did not think the Zygon subplot was too bad. The point of the episode was the War Doctor destroying Gallifrey. He saw himself in the future making peace between Zygons and Humans, and it inspired him. We weren't meant to get attached to the subplot, it was just illustrating what the Doctor does, which I think it does very well.

That being said, none of Moffat's other specials were particularly good. I never really liked his way of turning classic novels into christmas episodes. It always seemed too cheesy, like it was a disney animation, not a show with a plot and canon. A Christmas Carol was a fine episode, but it wasn't the most interesting. It's overrated in my opinion. I liked the Snowmen the best, because it had actual plot development, not just a feeling of "It's Christmas, so let's watch the typical cheesy christmas stories retold every year." Time of the Doctor had too many flaws for me.

1) Day of the Doctor - 10/10 - Fantastic episode.

2) The Snowmen - 8.5/10 - Above average, and carried out the arc well.

3) A Christmas Carol - 6.5/10 - Kind of boring. About average.

4) Time of the Doctor - 5/10 - It is sad, because it had potential. It was just executed horribly.

5) The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe - 3/10 - People say it's better on rewatch, so I recently rewatched it, thinking it would be better this time. Matt Smith was funny, though a bit over the top, but the plot was still pretty stupid. Also, the main character (Midge, I think?) was such a bad actor, it was annoying to watch. The whole "tough mama" thing was irritating too. Not Moffat at his best.

JerikMitchell
JerikMitchell

Personally, I'd say Time of the Doctor. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED Day of the Doctor. It was the 50TH anniversary special and it tied in Doctor 10 with it plus it opened up a whole new direction for the show. However, Time of the Doctor I feel was better. It had a very significant place in the show and I feel it had the saddest regeneration moment (he dropped his bow-tie, as if to say, "time to move onto new things" but it also brought in the 12th doctor (which I have hopes for). It also had a sick Dalek destruction moment. For me, Time of the Doctor was the best episode on this list.

kreehomel
kreehomel

Although the choice is obvious ('Day'), it's not an easy one. A Christmas Carol is my favorite Christmas special and The Snowmen is a close second. And The Time of the Doctor may be my favorite regeneration story.

mgm1229
mgm1229

Day of the Doctor, for the delight of seeing it in 3D in the theater chock full of equally delighted fans. Best cinematic experience in years.

Nightmarish
Nightmarish

It's really not fair to put anything but Time of the Doctor against Day of the Doctor.



The_Ogri
The_Ogri

I feel like its cheating to put the Day of the Doctor in this poll. Seriously, whose idea was that? So I'm crossing it off the list and making my vote unbiased. 


Feel free to hate but my favorite is The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe. One of my favorite books turned into Doctor Who, what else could I ask. The characters were all well developed, and I feel like it was a better Christmas special because it didn't have any companions. 

Think about it, the best christmas specials didn't have any companions, Voyage of the Damned, The Next Doctor, and even a Christmas Carol had very little of the Companions as they were stuck on a ship. 

So for the awesome characters, the great humor ("Wrong Police Box") and some very touching scenes, my vote goes to The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe. 1) The Doctor The Widow and The Wardrobe   2) A Christmas Carol  3) The Snowmen       4) The Time of the Doctor 

Invictus12
Invictus12

While I love Day of the Doctor and Time of the Doctor, the winner for me goes to A Christmas Carol, because it was so heartfelt and had excellent twists. The Doctor had perfect reactions to Kazran's cruelty. My second is The Snowmen for it's humorous and romantic overtones.

Pockydon
Pockydon

Ooh, this is actually tougher than I expected. A Christmas Carol, The Day of the Doctor and The Time of the Doctor are all fantastic episodes, and each are deserving of a win in their own right. But it's gotta be Day, hasn't it? A fantastic anniversary celebration, which seems to get better every time I watch it.

Seaborn W Deadman
Seaborn W Deadman

Of course Day of the Doctor, no questions asked. The single most awesome thing that has ever happened in the history of Doctor Who, I don't see any room for complaint. It really bridged the often noticeable gap between classic and modern Who, and really spoiled us fans! Thirteen Doctors, Bad Wolf, Queen Elizabeth finally explained, the zygons' return, scenes from the Time War and Gallifrey, and countless exciting and nostalgic references to the past of our favourite show! Time of the Doctor is my second choice. This episode gets a lot of, in my opinion, undeserved hate. Its only fault was its time constraints, these left the episode rushed and a bit unsatisfactory at some points. But otherwise, the story is brilliant, it resolves the Matt Smith era arc beautifully with no plot holes regardless of some may say, and the performances are superb. I agree with Moffat, some of the best acting ever to come out of Matt Smith, utterly incredible. Jenna Coleman also shined, as did the Orla Brady as the marvelous Tasha Lem!

Lord Styro the Drashig
Lord Styro the Drashig

I have a feeling that Day will pull through rather strongly, so I'm going to vote for my other favorite, A Christmas Carol.

Kiki Kiki
Kiki Kiki

If TDOTD doesn't win I must scream.


VortexDan
VortexDan

Day's going to win because everyone has been sucked into the black hole of illogic and blind faith surrounding that episode, but I do hope Christmas Carol wins. Well written, well acted, good special  *cough* didn't ruin everything meaningful about several years of character development *cough*

Ninjauthor
Ninjauthor

would vote for the 50th but I think that should be considered a special for every doctor and the program as a whole rather than a smith one so, Im going with time of the doctor


Oncoming_Badger
Oncoming_Badger

Easily A Christmas Carol, sorry but a 50th with no Classics and a crap Zygon subplot, regardless of how good it still is, doesn't stand a chance for me against a brilliant fairytale come to life, just the cinematography, production design and visuals for the whole episode are stunning and plays a clever twist on the Christmas Carol with Michael Gambon owning the stage.

1. A Christmas Carol

2. The Time of the Doctor

3. The Day of the Doctor

4. The Snowmen

5. The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe

The book of spoilers
The book of spoilers

I do not know what to vote. I guess I will go with Day because it had all 13 of them.

HisNameIsTheDoctor
HisNameIsTheDoctor

@Oodkind  Did you just call Matt OVER THE TOP? I for one, think all specials from the Moffat era are great, especially TTOTD

HisNameIsTheDoctor
HisNameIsTheDoctor

@The_Ogri  In my opinion, the Christmas specials are worse w/o companions. I like The Christmas Invasion, The Snowmen, A Christmas Carol and The Time of the Doctor the best.

DW_girl
DW_girl

@VortexDan No I just loved the episode as a whole and it didn't ruin anything in my opinion.

HisNameIsTheDoctor
HisNameIsTheDoctor

@VortexDan  In my opinion, the Lost Time Lord arc was getting a bit old. Even if the Time Lords don't return, at least the Doctor isn't moaning about it *cough* Chris Eccleston and David Tennant, it got annoying *cough*

The book of spoilers
The book of spoilers

Actually now that I think about it Day of The Doctor had 14. McCoy came twice!

Oodkind is foretold...
Oodkind is foretold...

Sorry, I should have clarified. The writing for him was over the top. All the "I know" stuff, and bragging about he was strong enough, and all that. He acted it well, but the writing just made him to be a caricature.

VortexDan
VortexDan

@HisNameIsTheDoctor @VortexDan  the point is he developed past the moaning  and groaning. Because that's how good writing works. Now the moaning and groaning is meaningless and the Doctor never really developed. YAY 

Aztecs, Daleks and Cavemen
Aztecs, Daleks and Cavemen

@Seaborn W Deadman Yeah, they were all alluded to. Paul McGann appeared in a prequel and Tom Baker appeared in a different role. People should not have been expecting much more than that. 

The Whoniversal Man
The Whoniversal Man

@VortexDan @The book of spoilers  You forgot an unexpected mini-episode returnee, a Curator, and a certain disembodied voice calling the War Council of Gallifrey! I see no need to be dismissive of the delivery... how ELSE could we possibly have all the Doctors return to screen? I think it was pretty satisfyingly executed, all things considered!