It will come as no surprise to Whovians that Steven Moffat has been causing some controversy among TV viewers lately. I would like to precede the argument that follows by stating that I don’t think Steven Moffat is the greatest thing to befall Doctor Who since the Daleks themselves. The Moff isn’t amazing – he isn’t even great. His tenure as show runner has indeed been plagued with problems and he has produced some questionable narratives. That said, he isn’t terrible either. He’s just different to what has come before him.
Now that we’re reaching the final run of the current series, I thought it would be a good idea to look at some of the arguments against the Moff milling around the net, and counter them somewhat.
1. The Moff is mysogynistic
I’ve read countless articles online claiming that the Moff hates women and cannot write strong women successfully. Male characters yes – just look at Sherlock, or the Doctor himself – but female ones are, purportedly, less successful.
To that, all I need say is River Song.
I know River grated on a lot of people after her reveal in series 6, but there is no denying that River Song is an exceptionally well-rounded and well-written character. She can more than stand up against the Doctor and she isn’t defined entirely by her love for the Doctor – a man. River is strong, capable, impassioned, ruthless, and simply in love. Her love drives her, but it doesn’t carry her, and as such River cannot be classified as a poorly written female. She just can’t.
And it isn’t just River. Amy too was strong. Yes, she did swoon for the Doctor upon first meeting him, but honestly – who wouldn’t? And if people argue that this is an example of poorly written feminism due to falling for a male, simply look no farther than RTD. Every single companion of his, bar Donna, fell for the Doctor. RTD isn’t amazing then, is he?
Likewise, Clara is now brilliantly written and fleshed out, which brings me nicely to the next argument…
2. Clara Who
Forget Doctor Who – the Beeb’s moneymaker is now Clara Who, apparently.
This is another argument I’ve seen a lot. The Doctor has become secondary, and Clara has stolen the limelight. What a lot of rubbish. New Who has always been characterised by an equal balance between the Doctor and his companion(s). Series one was all about Rose’s family; series three showed Martha’s family hating on the Doctor time and time again; series four showed the Doctor-Donna to be much better than the Doctor himself. And so what? The companion is as much of Doctor Who as the Doctor is.
So yes, series eight may have seen Clara become much more central, but does it really matter? Series seven, and the specials of 2013 were all about the Doctor, and rightfully so – it was his 50th birthday, after all. But that time has past, and now the Doctor must share the screen with an equal. Clara is showing much better on our screens because she is no longer a plot device and rather is simply brilliant. Get over it and embrace it.
3. Lost the plot
Back in 2010 we saw the introduction of the crack in space/time arc, one which carried on for the entirety of Matt Smith’s tenure. As such, many claimed Doctor Who was becoming too much like Lost in that it posed a multitude of questions without following up on them.
Well fuck y’all. The Moff has, for the most part, answered each and every question he has posed (some admittedly better than others) and he hasn’t left fans wondering what the hell was going on four years down the line. He’s answered them, so really this argument is moot. And yes, series eight has raised a lot of questions about Missy, Danny and the Nethersphere, but you just know they;re all going to be wrapped up in the two-part finale. It’s better to wait for answers rather than having them fed directly to you – the wondering and theorising is as much a part as the viewing of television these days.
4. Too scary
The Moff has always been labelled as too scary. His very first story introduced the gas mask zombies plaguing a war-torn London, and he followed these up with the Weeping Angels, Vashta Nerada and the Silence. Are they too scary? No, not at all.
Series eight has taken on a darker tone, but not one which alienates. He has done what RTD failed to do; he has reinvented the show twice during his time as show runner – once in 2010 and once again in 2014. RTD should have followed suit upon the departure of Christopher Eccleston, but such a change probably would have alienated people after just one series so it is understandable.
Being scared has brought Doctor Who back to its 1963 roots. The Daleks and hiding behind the sofa is a part of British culture and has been for 50 years. It was just forgotten somewhat during RTD’s turn.
5. RTD is better
RTD wrote character-driven whimsical tales of love, conquest, greed, power… the list goes on. But so does the Moff.
RTD’s tenure can be characterised by an apathy towards immaturity but the Moff has allowed Doctor Who to grow up. Is it so bad that he made a few changes? Those that claim Doctor Who is terrible now because RTD doesn’t run it cannot claim to be fans of Doctor Who. The show was around for years prior to RTD and it will be around for years after. RTD was brilliant, and his stroke of heart filled narratives were glorious in places, but he wasn’t entirely brilliant either. Need I mention ‘Fear Her’? Or ‘Love & Monsters?’ Both happened under his run.
Doctor Who is a hit-and-miss show due to its multitude of genres. Some episodes people will love, some they will loath. As a fan of futuristic science fiction, the narratives set in the past will always bore me somewhat, but that’s simply due to individual preference. Some will love ‘Fear Her’, though probably not many.
So yes, RTD was brilliant, but he certainly wasn’t better than the Moff. He was just different. Both are exceptional.