Many celebrated. Some discovered a new-found love for the Moff. But it’s official, and there’s nothing you can do about it – yes, Steven Moffat is stepping down as show runner of Doctor Who, and Chris Chibnall (of Broadchurch fame) is taking over the reigns.
Now I want to make it clear that I don’t hate the Moff – far from it, I love him in fact – but I am glad that we’re getting somebody new in charge. This gives the show, like the titular character, the chance to regenerate and bring about fresh ideas.
This two-part article will first explore why fans will (or should) miss the Moff, and secondly ponder what Chibnall may bring to Doctor Who. It’s all guesswork, of course.
Steven Moffat pre-show runner days
Say what you want about Steven Moffat, but there is simply no denying that the five episodes he wrote prior to him being appointed show runner back in 2010 were acclaimed for their ingenuity and darkness.
‘The Empty Child’ and ‘The Doctor Dances’ (2005) were the highlight of series one for many, due to Moffat’s creepy ability to make the everyday scary. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at a gas mask in the same way again.
It was in these episodes that his so-called ‘gay agenda’ surfaced, as he formally introduced the omnisexual swaggering anti-hero, Captain Jack Harkness.
His next offering was equally captivating. In ‘The Girl in the Fire Place’ (2006) we saw the Doctor fall in love, and have his hearts broken. This was more a story about the Doctor, and less so about the monsters and, as such, it was perhaps Moffat’s first example of shaking up what viewers expected to find in Doctor Who. It was certainly not his last stab though.
2007’s ‘Blink’ has countless times been lauded as the best episode of Doctor Who ever. Is it? Probably not. But it is good.
Moffat introduced his now iconic creation the Weeping Angels in a Doctor-lite episode that shouldn’t have been good due to the Doctor barely featuring. but yet miraculously it was. The Weeping Angels have been done to death, now, but their first story is glorious.
His final offering prior to his promotion introduced the marmite character of River Song, played with aplomb by Alex Kingston. Kingston did not know of Moffat’s plans with River, but it’s undeniable the impact that she’s had on Doctor Who – whether you think it’s good or bad. (As a side note, PLEASE, Chibnall, bring back River Song).
Moffat managed to do what Russell T. Davies never quite managed (or dared) to do: he bridged the gap successfully between the classic series and new series of Doctor Who.
Davies hinted numerous times, of course, and he even resurrected several old foes, but it’s undeniable that since Moffat took over the helm Doctor Who has been a fanboys wet dream. We can barely go an episode without a reference to something from way back when, and this is most definitely a good thing.
Moffat has also managed to do what many thought should never happen – after 50 years, he has shaken up the very mythology of Doctor Who. We’ve seen the First Doctor as a child. We’ve learned the true reason why the Doctor fled Gallifrey.
Moffat has extended a Time Lord’s life. He has shown a Time Lord changing gender and skin colour when regenerating, and he has introduced a new, previously unknown, Doctor. And the best thing of all? He’s done all of this without so much as an apology.
The Moff’s in charge – he can do what the hell he wants. Each shake up has annoyed some, but pleased so many more. And for that Moffat should be applauded.
Under Moffat’s reign, Doctor Who hasn’t been afraid of taking what fans already knew, and mixing it up. We’ve seen countless foes resurrected under his guidance, and many of them have done something surprising.
Firstly he (unsuccessfully) offed the Time War-era Daleks, before bringing them back and hoping that nobody would notice. Next, he unshelled an Ice Warrior, made an Sontaran nice, had the Master regenerate into the Mistress, radically redesigned the Silurians, killed off the Great Intelligence, humanised the Zygons and uprooted Davros.
Why? Because he could. Because we fully expected the Ice Warriors to never be truly shown, because we never dared believe that Doctor Who would ever change the gender of an already established Time Lord.
Moffat has been brave, and for the most part it’s all worked exceptionally.
But it’s not just old monsters that Moffat has brought to our screens. He’s also ingeniously created several which could, if they recur, join the ranks of the iconic.
We’ve already mentioned the Weeping Angels, but the Moff also created the Silence, the Whispermen, the Vashta Nerada and the Veil. All of these are creepy as hell, and all of them arise from very familiar fears: darkness, being watched, stories we’re told as children.
Moffat has an ingenious way of creeping out the fans, and for that he’ll undoubtedly be missed. I hope that he, unlike Davies, continues to write for the show.
Under Davies’ tenure, we’ve had 13 companions for two Doctors. Under Moffat’s tenure we’ve had five (soon to be six) companions for two Doctors. And this change is very much a good thing.
Doctor Who is as much about the companions as it is the Doctor, and I think it’s safe to say that most fans would have loved a second series with Donna Noble. When the chemistry is right, Doctor Who is on top form.
The chemistry of David Tennant and Catherine Tate is rivalled only by that of Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. Jenna never quite worked with Matt Smith as greatly as she does with Capaldi, much like Billie Piper worked better with Christopher Eccleston than she ever did with David Tennant.
And Moffat managed this twice – Amy Pond and the Eleventh Doctor worked. They just did. Which is why she never outstayed her welcome. Just like Coleman didn’t… well, aside from her final two appearances.
But I guess I’ll always be bitter about her drawn-out death.
Young and old
Prior to Moffat, Doctor Who was generally stuck with a middle-aged man in the lead. There have been a few anomalies, but on the whole this is the case.
Not with the Moff, however. He introduced the youngest and oldest ever Doctors, and both have been exceptional in their roles. Both times, fans said it wouldn’t work. Matt Smith? Matt Smith who? many scoffed.
Matt Smith is perhaps the best ever decision Moffat made – Smith was able to play both young and old simultaneously, capturing the very essence of the Doctor. He was superb in every episode – even if some of the material dealt to him was a bit questionable…
What we want from series 10
And so we come to Moffat’s final series. Given how long he has to plan it, I’m predicting a series-long swan song, much in the same vein as ‘The End of Time’.
This is Moffat’s final chance to do what he wants. If there are any old foes he wants to resurrect, this is his time. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see and old monster pop up. The Daleks will be back, too, undoubtedly, and I hope Davros pops along for the ride.
I think Missy will be back too. I’m not sure whether Chibnall will want to continue with a female incarnation of the Master and, if not, I hope we see Missy regenerate. If Chibnall wants to keep her, then by all means.
I think the only hanging thread of the Moff’s era is the hybrid arc, which was never fully explained. I want an answer to that. And I want many more adventures on or involving Gallifrey.
And, I fully expect to see Amy Pond, River Song, the Weeping Angels and the Silence. These are the Moff’s creations – his playthings need to be played with one final time.
Join Vada next time as we look to the new, and hypothesise what we expect to see from Chibnall’s reign.