The Moffat Co-writing Conundrum

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Guest contributor Dan Steadman examines the updated Series 8 writing line-up.

capaldi-moffat-2013

As we’ve recently found out, Steven Moffat has had input on a total of seven out of twelve stories for Series 8: he’s written four individually and has done three collaborations with other writers. I personally feel that this is a great move, as I love Moffat’s writing and believe that he has produced several of the best episodes ever – The Day of the Doctor and Blink were recently voted the first and second best stories of all time, respectively, by the readers of DWM. On the other hand, I know that some people will not view this in such a positive way. But that’s fine; we’re all entitled to our own opinions. The question is, why has Moffat actually apparently spent more time collaborating with these other writers, as opposed to having just a little bit of input (as he is the head writer) as he normally would? And will this make the series better or worse? Well, let’s take a look.

“A little credit wouldn’t irretrievably damage my ego.”

Oh, come on, what’s the use of a good quotation if you can’t change it? The first possibility is that Moffat hasn’t done much more than normal when it comes to collaborating, but just felt that he deserved a little credit. But, let’s face it, that’s pretty unlikely. If this were the case, surely his name would be on every episode? This means that this isn’t the case, and I must move swiftly on.

“My time is running out.”

And maybe for the Moff it was. Maybe Moffat wanted to write all seven episodes, but simply didn’t have the time. It’s a possibility. We know Moffat is a busy man – hey, he seems to be interviewed by one magazine or another every day! Okay, not every day. Every other day. And he writes Sherlock – a special of which is due to go into production in late 2014/early 2015. Maybe that’s taken up his time? Although, I suppose that too is pretty unlikely. But as a wise man once said, who knows? It’s a possibility that Moffat wanted to write all seven of the episodes so that he has more control over what happens in Capaldi’s first series (similar to RTD in Eccleston’s series). But, hang on, maybe that’s it! Kind of.

“Six episodes of absolute power. That’s what it takes to be really well-developed.”

A brilliant article recently asked whether Doctor Who history was repeating itself, and suggested that the development of Capaldi’s Doctor could be similar to what was supposed to happen for poor old Colin Baker. This, I believe, is really why Moffat has been collaborating with Phil Ford, Stephen Thompson and Gareth Roberts on their respective episodes.

If Capaldi’s Doctor is meant to be darker, more alien and “less user-friendly”, then the character development needs to be clear and handled well. The problem with Colin’s Doctor was the sudden change in personality that just became worse and worse. Five was gentle and kind, whilst Six was angry and erratic. However, this shouldn’t really have been a problem; it just required some clever thinking and co-operation between writers to make sure that Six was mellowed out over time. Instead, there was very little co-operation between the writers and therefore no significant character development, meaning that Six’s constant aggression became the norm and Colin Baker was soon out of the role.

Thankfully there is much more of an awareness of series arcs nowadays, which, in essence, is what the “am I a good man?” idea looks to be – a series arc, albeit only the first half of the series (or it could even be the whole series, I don’t know). In a recent post about Capaldi’s future we got treated to this:

“Capaldi did say he thinks it’ll take until around episode 6 or 7 of Series 8 until fans will really know who this new Doctor is, what he was like and where he was going…”

This really hits the nail on the head for me. I believe that the first, say, six episodes will have a clear subplot about whether this incarnation is a good man. Episode 1 is written by Moffat, episode 2 by Phil Ford and Moffat, episode 3 by Mark Gatiss only (I’ll come to that in a minute), episode 4 by Moffat, episode 5 by Stephen Thompson and Moffat, and episode 6 by Gareth Roberts and Moffat. See a theme there? Moffat has significant input on five out of the first six episodes, and the third is written by Gatiss, who we know is a close friend of Moffat’s and could be ‘trusted’ with handling the ‘good man’ arc after just a few pointers from Moffat. Maybe “trusted” isn’t the best word to use, but you know what I mean. Unless I’m babbling. I might be babbling. I probably am. I’ll move on.

Conclusion

To conclude, I believe that Moffat is co-writing three episodes to make sure that the “am I a good man?” arc in the first half of the series is clear and well-developed. I also believe that this is a brilliant move, which will ensure Capaldi’s incarnation is developed well; this is essential, otherwise the interesting move of giving us a darker, more alien Doctor could be another Colin Baker-esque disaster. Do I think it will make the series better? To be honest, I don’t think it’ll have much of an impact on the episodes, as I think it’ll be more of an engaging subplot. Do I think it’s a good idea? Absolutely – as Moffat himself said, things need shaking up a bit, and Capaldi’s Doctor is shaping up to be stellar, in my opinion. Do I think he’ll be a good man? I don’t know. But as long as he’s the Doctor, I don’t care. Thanks for reading, and please feel free to leave your own ideas in the comments.

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