The 5 Greatest Ideas from the Magic Mind of the Moff
Guest contributor Alix Marie looks at Steven Moffat’s greatest ideas.
No, this article is not part of the eternal RTD vs. Moffat debate. There will be no comparison to the Giant Welshman, no criticism, just general positivity and admiration for Steven Moffat and his brilliant ideas! Because this is what I will be focusing on: ideas that are so brilliant they deserve their own article.
The Weeping Angels and Silents
My first episode ever was The Angels Take Manhattan. I knew of those scary Weeping Angels, but I didn’t know what they could do. Well, creatures that only exist when you are looking at them? Brilliant! They can’t help it: they instantly, automatically turn to stone. Why hasn’t it been done before? The game of “Statues” has been played by all of us when we were kids! And there is more to it: I was already impressed by The Angels Take Manhattan, but then I saw Blink. Two Angels can never look at each other, because they would both be stuck in stone form. How desperate and lonely must they all be? I don’t know what would happen if two Angels touched, but I’m guessing nothing good for them: they’d probably send each other at different points or places back in time. Well… maybe I’m wrong; maybe they’re actually immune to their own touch. They did find a way to make those cherubs! But again: sad and lonely creatures – they are called Weeping Angels after all, and I don’t think that’s just because of their position – no wonder they are so evil, and look for amusement in the misfortune of others (e.g. Amy in Flesh and Stone). Let’s not forget that when you stop looking at them, even for a split-split second, they instantly, automatically turn back to their original form, so they can get you. The Angels generally kill you “nicely” by sending you back in time and letting you live your life, then feed off your potential energy. Could it be possible that the Angels are so jealous and bitter of what they can’t have (i.e. being able to look at or touch each other) that they need to take away the life one could have had in the blink of an eye? Am I going too far? See what Steven Moffat just did to my brain with his wonderful creation? They are monsters that become more amazing the more you think of them!
About the Silents, does it need saying? While writing my praise of the Weeping Angels, I might have met hundreds of them… maybe they made me write this article?! What are all these tally marks on my arms? Hmpf… be serious. Moffat took his monsters one step further: they’re not creatures that only exist when you look at them this time; they’re creatures that you know exist only when you look at them. At least when you’re not looking at a Weeping Angel, you know you’re in danger. The idea of the Silents makes you look at the world rather differently: ever entered a room and forgot why you were there? Ever tripped on nothing? Ever lost your train of thought? The Silents can be “applied” to all these situations. That is another brilliant idea of Moffat’s that I will come back to: not only does the idea of the Silents make your brain boil, but they are monsters that are perfectly consistent with the past. We saw them appear in the Doctor’s life in 2011, and yet he could have met them many times before…
This is still vague territory, so let’s be careful, but I am already astonished if this theory is true. All the Doctor’s regenerations so far have been shown on screen. All except one: Eight to Nine. And what does Moffat do? He takes advantage of it! He creates this huge plotline by introducing a hidden Doctor, and adds more layers of mystery to our favourite Time Lord! Fantastic! I was talking about consistency. Moffat looks for elements that were already there before he came: a little unexplained event here, a missing regeneration scene there, and then he writes the story making them look as if they were planned all along!
The Doctor has been travelling in time and space for hundreds of years, and yet he has hardly ever met anyone completely in the wrong order? It had to be done! There’s so much you can do with this simple idea. In her complex story arc, River has become the Doctor’s equal, his wife, his killer, partner in crime on numerous off-screen adventures, and the daughter of his companions. I‘m sure that in the future other show runners will use this idea and introduce a great variety of characters as rich as River Song.
The Clara Mystery
Time for a little show off: I worked out the Clara mystery before The Name of the Doctor! I suspected that she was a perfectly normal girl, and that it was because of the Doctor that she would end up splintered through time. So I wasn’t surprised when we saw Clara enter the Doctor’s timeline at the end of The Name of the Doctor, but that doesn’t mean that I love the solution to the mystery any less. The Clara theories were getting madder every day, from her being Susan to CAL, to Rose, to Captain Jack’s daughter, to a trap by the Great Intelligence. However, the solution was very simple but people were miles away from it: it was hidden in plain sight. Clara’s always been there to save the Doctor, and it’s consistent with the whole story, while it changes everything: it’s actually Clara that made the Doctor choose his TARDIS, yet she always had. After The Name of the Doctor, we can rewatch all of Doctor Who under a different light.
In Blink, Sally Sparrow was able to save the Doctor thanks to all the information he gave her, which he got thanks to the folder she gave him, full of the information he…was going to give her? In the TV conversation, the Doctor was reading a script from a conversation that had already happened for him, but Sally could reply without “getting it wrong”, because this conversation was actually still being shaped at that time.
Melody Pond got her name from Amy’s childhood friend Mels, who is actually Melody Pond, so she got her name from…herself. Melody starts going by the name River Song because that’s how the Doctor and the Ponds were calling her in Let’s Kill Hitler, and they called her River Song because that’s how she introduced herself to them in Silence in the Library and The Time of Angels…
In The Big Bang the Doctor was saved from the Pandorica by Rory, who had received the sonic screwdriver from a future Doctor, who was free because he had previously been saved from the Pandorica by Rory, who had received the sonic screwdriver from a future Doctor, etc.
In The Name of the Doctor, Original Clara splintered herself through the Doctor’s timeline, causing him to meet Oswin and Victorian Clara, and to start investigating the matter, leading him to London to meet Original Clara, who would then start travelling with him and end up going to Trenzalore… where she would splinter herself along the Doctor’s timeline… Ouch brain! Moffat loves using this little trick. One could say that’s cheating, but it actually isn’t: it’s taking advantage of the possibilities of time travel, and playing with them.
When a mathematician discovers a new theorem, everything changes, and everyone is in awe and says: ‘Of course! Why did I not think of that?’ Well Steven Moffat has this effect on me: he finds ideas that were just waiting to be picked up, and will practically change the world. In-story, this is how the Moff Mind works: he builds threads in his mind, plants an unexplained event there – ‘I’ll come back to it’, he thinks – starts a plotline here, creates a character with a thousand possibilities over there, goes back to the unexplained event – ‘Oh this could go well with my new character!’ – plants a new unexplained event, starts a second plotline, creates a monster with a million possibilities, ends his first plotline, etc. It doesn’t matter if some events are left unexplained when he’s done, because he has left them for future show runners to deal with, and they will seem to have been part of the new show runner’s plans all along. Steven Moffat isn’t a man at all. He’s a spider. A spider at the center of a web. A plot web with a thousand threads and he knows precisely how each and every single one of them dances.
Well there we are. I’m sure there are lots of other examples you could complete this article with, but these are the ones that impressed me the most. What do you think of the Moff Mind?