Steven Moffat: 10 Triumphs
K-Ci Williams lists ten Steven Moffat triumphs.
Doctor Who has been an inspiration to me; since I sat down to watch an odd floppy-haired man charge past a duck pond followed by a fiery, very Scottish and very ginger woman – one man has kept the spark alive. One man has always made me feel happy, sad, angry, to the point where Ron Weasley’s emotional range ain’t got nothing on me. Maybe it’s biased that I love all this work, he never fails in my book. I will defend him to the ends of the Earth. This man has inspired me for years, and today it is my honour to celebrate his work on his birthday.
So join me in expelling all thoughts of negativity and welcoming the positives; Steven Moffat has contributed excellent episodes to Doctor Who since it returned in 2005. While I said that the Five Favourites were over, the concept of Ten Triumphs is just beginning. This article will focus on the writing of Moffat; whether it be timey-wimey stuff or clever plotting. Let’s press on as we examine my favourite ten triumphs from Steven Moffat.
Chilling Dialogue – The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
Moffat’s use of a chilling dialogue motif is what sets this story apart from others. I call them dialogue motifs because they are symbolic of an idea but are conveyed only through dialogue. You know them as catchphrases. “Are you my mummy?” is one of Moffat’s most creepy sayings ever. His structure of the plot fits the two part concept perfectly, he introduces characters – proves he can develop them – and makes us fall in love with them. Captain Jack Harkness is introduced in this story and isn’t he just great. Moffat never fails to make me love this story. His use of dialogue, clever plotting and significant ending force this story to the list. “Just this once, everybody lives” is a touching sentiment, and while it is used commonly nowadays, Moffat really proves to us that he knows what he is doing because it fits the story perfectly.
Clever Concepts – The Girl in the Fireplace
Clockwork robots! Madame de Pompadour! This episode will have a special place in my heart because of the timey wimey stuff it accomplishes. What is merely minutes on one side of the time window is years for Madame de Pompadour. I think it’s this concept that really intrigued me while watching. The setting is beautiful too, and while Moffat is clearly always ambitious, it pays off here. His offerings before he took over have all been 100% unique and important to me.
Timey wimey – Blink
This is where it gets interesting. Weeping Angels! DVD Easter eggs! It’s not linear, it’s a wobbly wobbly, timey wimey bunch of stuff. Steven Moffat, you brilliant genius. When Kathy sends a letter to Sally moments after she disappeared it’s all a bit much. But you really understand the gravity of the situation, these monsters are cruel, lonely assassins. The timey wimey plot is essentially, in a nutshell: Sally Sparrow responds to the Doctor on DVD Easter eggs that are transcribed to tell the Doctor everything she says in reply, which he responds to and records it as Easter eggs, which Sally responds to by saying her original dialogue but is actually being recorded for the Doctor. So the Doctor only responds to Sally because he knows what she is saying while watching, but Sally only responds because the Doctor talks to her because he knows exactly what she says. It’s complicated. I’m confused. Great work Moff!
River Song – Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
River Song! All I’m going to say. River Song – before it all got confusing! I adore Steven’s writing here. He creates mystery, he develops an intriguing plot and again establishes yet another creepy villain in the Doctor Who universe: the Vashta Nerada. Wherever does he come up with these ideas, honestly his mind is a working factory of weird. Good weird though, it’s absolutely mesmerising the stuff he churns out. His dialogue is really emotional at times, his resolution is clever and his concepts are as Steven Moffat-ish as ever. A key scene would have to be when Miss Evangelista dies, with her team surrounding her corpse as she is “ghosting.” I found it terrible that she died knowing her team laughed at her, at least it made them feel bad because they deserved it. It was nice to see Donna shine with Miss Evangelista, and River Song was perfectly written. There was not a qualm for me to have with the way she was written, she was intriguing and mysterious but Moffat gave her heart. A top triumph for the Moff!
Eleven – The Eleventh Hour
Moffat was given the arduous and difficult task of not writing for an already established Doctor, but to develop his own. He succeeds with flying colours. Perfectly paced, well written, fluid dialogue – these are all aspects of Moffat’s writing that supersede his previous and successive works. His voice is distinct in each character; the Doctor speaks differently to Amy. It features a not-so-evil-enemy in the Atraxi that allows that Doctor-defining moment on the rooftop. There is not much else to say except that Moffat finds his true calling as a writer of Doctor Who in the final moments of this story. He injects the perfect amount of humour, drama and suspense into this story that it will stand the test of time as an incredible first outing for Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor.
Pure Epic – The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang
When you ask for the head writer to tie up major plot threads from the series and end on a high, you get this story! This two part legend is probably my favourite finale of the show. Everything is just so…EPIC! That’s the word. We revisit the Cabinet War Rooms, the gallery of Liz 10, Vincent Van Gogh’s troubled life – all the places we visited over the series. It makes it one cohesive series overall. I love the Pandorica concept; the return of Rory (the Roman) and everything about it. A major theme Moffat laid groundwork for was fairy tales. Apart from the badass River Song forcing a Dalek to beg for mercy, my favourite scene is actually the final one. Moffat pushes Amy and Rory together and they have their first dance together at their wedding. It makes me real emotional; the boy does get the girl. They’ve been through a hell of a lot, but they always come out on top. A stunning finale to a stunning first series Moff, give yourself a pat on the back.
The Ponds – The Angels Take Manhattan
Ignoring what people call plot holes and terrible storytelling, let’s examine why I love this episode. If you’ve been reading this site since the Ponds departed you’ll know how I feel about this. I cried more than I care to admit. There were several emotional moments from this story that I was sitting in a puddle by the end of it. It is a testament to the great cleverness and wit of the Moff that he was able to bring me through a range of emotions. I may be the only one but I loved the Angel of Liberty, it brought a certain high stakes sense to the story. I don’t think we can doubt his ideas are superb. I cried when Winter Quay became their death spot. I cried again when Amy left the Doctor for Rory. But of course with Steven Moffat being Steven Moffat – the afterword was actually a letter from Amy to the Doctor. Apart from Listen, for me that final scene is the most beautiful thing he has written.
Monstrous Suspense – The Name of the Doctor
What a groundbreaking finale! I thought it was perfectly paced, the drama was real, the suspense killed me (but thanks to Strax I was restored back to life). Moffat never ends with his concepts. The conference call was intriguing, and his passion for the show is unquestionable. Who else would have thought to digitally splice Clara into stock/old footage to celebrate the Doctors? I was pleased with the resolution to the Impossible Girl arc, his send-off for River was perfect and characterised her well. I’m all for more River but after that I don’t think I want her back it would ruin the goodbye. Moffat excels when he has the time to really think things through and get it right. He’s done it before, he can do it again. He’s proven it with this episode.
Modern Classic – The Day of the Doctor
The fiftieth anniversary special must have been so difficult to write. I can’t imagine the countless nights with no sleep Moffat had to endure to get it right. Luckily he did – but not without adding in some timey wimey payoffs, time portals, Time Lords and everything to do with time. He added a bit of spice to it (Thyme…I’ll leave now). His pacing was on top form, his dialogue was perfect for each Doctor’s individual voice and he nailed the surprises with Tom Baker and Peter Capaldi. This special gave me the most memorable and emotional Doctor Who experience, so thank you Steven Moffat.
Fear Factor – Listen
This is my favourite Moffat episode of all time. That’s a tough trophy to claim too, seeing that Blink is also in this list but it slightly falls short. I love Listen because it harkens back all the way to the very first story of Doctor Who. William Hartnell once said “fear makes companions of all of us” and here we have both Capaldi and Coleman saying “fear makes companions of us all.” It’s touching and lovely and it makes me respect Steven Moffat even more. His idea was ambitious, but his structure really works for the better. Act I features exposition of the dinner date while taking a trip to meet Rupert Pink; Act II features a return to the date and a trip to meet Orson Pink; Act III features the Doctor’s past. It all makes sense that the Doctor became who he is today with Clara’s help – which Moffat clearly highlights. But also think about it this way, Clara is only who she is because the Doctor helped her. So essentially he was helping himself in a way. Moffat is a genius! Finally, that last piece of dialogue from Clara is my FAVOURITE from all Doctor Who I have ever seen. His discussion of fear really hit me, I even used it as insight in my examination essays. Thank you Steven Moffat you are truly amazing.
The Curse of Fatal Death
An amazing Children in Need special; I wonder if the female Doctor idea has stuck with him since?
I wonder if when David Tennant tells Peter Davison that “you were my Doctor” it was really Steven Moffat admitting his love for him? A great and emotional story, a true triumph.
Night of the Doctor
Oh how proud I am of the Moff for succeeding and pulling off this surprise! A great script and a great performance from McGann.
“Hello old friend, and here we are. You and me, on the last page. By the time you read these words, your showrunning time will be long gone. So know that I loved the show, and was very happy. And above all else, know that I will love you, always. Sometimes I do worry about you, though. I think, once you’re gone, you won’t have a creative outlet for a while, and you might be eccentric, which you should never be. Don’t be eccentric, Steven. And do one more thing for me. There’s a little boy waiting in a bedroom. He’s going to wait a long while, so he’s going to need a lot of hope. Go to him. Tell him a story. Tell him that if he’s patient, the days are coming that he’ll never forget. Tell him he’ll write for years and fight the media. He’ll fall in love with a man who will help him through everything. Tell him he’ll bring joy to the greatest fan base that ever lived, and save people struggling in life. Tell him, this is the story of Steven Moffat. And this is how it ends.”
Happy Birthday Moff! You’re amazingly talented and you’re a great addition to the Doctor Who universe. Thank you!