Friday, 18 November 2011

How Steven Moffat ruined Doctor Who

(update here: )

River Song is right: this is the Doctor's darkest hour. Doctor Who has been many things in its 48 years - including terrible - but now under Steven Moffat it is suffering the worst fate of all: it's become static. Moffat, having already written for all four seasons of the Russell T Davies-led version of the show, has discovered what the public, TV critics and Doctor Who fandom will accept, and unlike the show's 1980s producer John Nathan-Turner, who sporadically tried to do the same thing, he's competent enough to get away with it. You won't find any episodes that will embarrass some viewers or unsettle fandom, but neither will you be confounded, disturbed or challenged.

This version, week after week, is exactly what we expect from Doctor Who: darkly-lit "spooky" sets, monsters, hurried technobabble, the claim that the whole universe will be destroyed, and the cutest, safest, most unsurprising and least interesting Doctor ever devised, with his zany hats, his adorable little bowtie, his comedy catchphrases and his funny little stories about all the famous historical people he's met. Congratulations are due to all those fans who complained that 2006's Love and Monsters was too silly (and perhaps too idiosyncratic, too different, too affecting, too interesting?) and that Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor took it too seriously and didn't look right: you've won, and those of us who like intelligent tv have lost.

Almost everything that went wrong with Doctor Who in 2010 was detectable in the 2005-2009 version. Some weren't necessarily bad things to begin with, but have merely atrophied through lack of movement, and an unwillingness to bring things forward. There is perhaps one difference. A strength and also a weakness of Russell T Davies's version was his lack of interest in science fiction. Guest star Timothy Dalton described his aesthetic particularly well as 2001 one moment, Coronation Street the next. Scenes of alien invasion and monsters would be countered by nicely-observed details about mothers who check you've got the receipt when thanking you for a Christmas present. At its best, this technique adds verisimilitude, increases our affection for these characters and helps with the suspension of disbelief. At its worst, it can result in sloppy plotting. Stories like The Parting of the Ways and The End of Time felt right emotionally, with the characters, sacrifices and departures well-handled, but on a second viewing it is hard to tolerate the contemptuous way Davies handles the unconvincing McGuffins and the Doctor's breezy way of explaining how they work. For better and for worse, Davies was more interested in people than in science fiction. Moffat, on the other hand, is a geek. Let's clarify these terms. A major disservice done to SF/Fantasy is the way it is frequently confused with its duller brother, Geekery. SF/Fantasy is about the universe, the human race's responsibilities, morality, life, death, fear, wonder, (proper) science and different ways of seeing things. Geekery is about things which not only don't exist literally, but have no metaphorical value: bullshit science, people who come back to life after being killed off, different versions of time-travellers bumping into each other in different timelines and CGI "energy" emanating from people when the plot requires it.

In a work of Geekery, the text itself is fetishised: it might not raise any questions, tax the intellect or interest anyone other than fans, but at least geeks can watch it, and discuss who River Song really is, whether Batman and the Joker are mirror opposites of one another, what would happen if the Enterprise's transporters malfunctioned and what Yoda's midichlorian count is. It's a lovely way for nice, often wonderful people to meet, but that's that's the sole value. Few could argue convincingly that The Impossible Astronaut/The Day of the Moon or The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang have anything to stimulate the intellect, anything in the way of coherent, structured narrative, or a smidgeon of originality, but fans can enjoy debating who River Song is, whether the dead future Doctor can be saved, what caused the cracks in time, and why Amy's pregnancy is in a state of temporal flux.

These questions have nothing to do with drama. Let's not delude ourselves that we're talking about complexity here, either: admitting "I had no idea what was going on" carries an implication that this is because the scriptwriter was cleverer than than you, but as Chris Weston pointed out in Emine Saner's fine discussion of the show in The Guardian recently, a child's scribble may be hard to decode, but hardly complex. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Mulholland Drive, Memento and Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian are difficult because they're rich: there's more going on aesthetically than can be understood literally, hence the rewards gained by subsequent viewings or readings. The Big Bang, The Day of the Moon and The Wedding of River Song may be hard to follow, but they are also predictable, contrived, vacuous and full of plot holes. Guy Ritchie's notorious film Revolver is pretty hard to follow too, but that's hardly a case of more things going on in Ritchie's head than one can take in on the first viewing.

If Moffat has another idea, it's his wearisome take on Doctor Who as a fairy tale. He argues that Doctor Who isn't really science fiction, but a story that takes place "under children's beds". The supposedly subversive juxtaposition of fairy tales and modernity, and all those cute little truisms about how children prefer fairy tales dark, because it's the parents that want them expurgated, has been around for long enough now. In the years since Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment and the ascension of writers of "dark fairy tales" like Neil Gaiman into the mainstream, this has changed from a juxtaposition to a given. Is it really subversive to put monsters in a child's bedroom any more? Otherwise, Moffat has kept everything from Russell T Davies's version that so desperately needed to be jettisoned. . Let's look past the music that drowns out the dialogue, the desperate reliance on the sonic screwdriver as a magic wand, the need for triumphant endings in which the monster is humilated as the music swells (The Day of the Moon was a big offender here) the rushed nature of the 45-minute format, the constant claim the whole universe will be destroyed only for a reset button to put if off until the next series and the dependence on monsters. Its biggest hindrance is the reliance on arc plotting. In the first Russell T Davies series, the words “Bad Wolf” were hidden in several episodes. This wasn't intrusive, even if it did hamper the end of the series with too much expectation upon one phrase. By the time of Davies's final full season this had grown out of control. Each episode would contain references to the fact that "all the bees have disappeared", disappearing planets and something called the "Medusa Cascade", and in the season finale the lucky viewers were told what these things meant. This "Sesame Street was brought to you today by the letter A" style of television is a serious menace to quality drama, and the art of fiction itself. It's flourished in America, with shows like Desperate Housewives, Flashforward, Heroes, Lost and 24 teaching viewers to judge tv in terms of how good the thing they think might happen in the next episode will be, rather than how good the episode they just watched was. Obviously, we are setting ourselves up for a fall by convincing ourselves that these questions will be answered satisfactorily, but more worrying is the way that we tolerate mediocrity because we convince ourselves the finale will be triumphant.

It breaks my heart to think that while viewers of such 1970s season-closing Doctor Who stories like Inferno or The Talons of Weng-Chiang would be saying to one another excitedly "wasn't that good?", the current generation say to one another "what have we learnt so far?". Moffat has gone a step further than Davies by giving this arc fetish a face, in the form of River Song. River exists to tell us something more exciting will happen later on. She even uses "Spoilers!" as an intolerably smug catchphrase. When we first meet her, she is at the end of her life (though Moffat even fudges that by having the Doctor 'save' her consciousness and upload it to a virtual reality world where she can live forever - how did that get past the first draft?). The Doctor subsequently meets her at earlier and earlier points in her life. There's much emphasis on who she is, how often she's met the Doctor, what role she will play in his future, but is there really a character there?

Instead we get a lot of adolescent scenes of a vaguely vampish woman with a laser gun shooting people while exchanging cutesy flirtatious banter (her other catchphrase is the truly vile "Hello sweetie!"). Is there a single reason to care about her? What has she done except shoot people, flirt in a way that Moffat seems to think evokes Lauren Bacall but comes across like someone's drunken aunt at a wedding, and occasionally claim to be an archaeologist? It builds up to the single most disastrous plot twist ever devised: the revelation that River is Amy Pond's baby daughter grown up. Its meaningless is spectacular: it's too remote to make any emotional or metaphorical impact, and it doesn't actually alter this drab character or raise any questions. Even Amy's loss of the baby, abducted not long after birth, turns out to carry no emotional weight. Amy and her husband Rory go through whole episodes barely mentioning it, including the episode The Girl Who Waited where we meet a future Amy abandoned for 36 years: clearly post-natal depression isn't a factor in Moffat's universe. That this is supposedly because they've met River as a grown-up and know she'll survive is an extraordinary indictment of just how little interest in character motivation Moffat has, making a nonsense of the recent defence by one of his writers, Gareth Roberts, that the show was only a challenge for viewers to follow because of its "emotional complexity". Moffatt warned that this would be a "game-changing" cliffhanger, splitting the season into two while we supposedly waited in suspense, but what kind of game was this before, and how is this any different now?

When Moffat isn't focusing on what will happen at the end of the series, he's relying on cliches to sustain stand-alone episodes by other writers. Let's have a pirate episode. Let's have a vampire episode. Let's have a spooky hotel like in The Shining. Let's meet Churchill. This is the now rather congealed template laid down by Davies, who would present his writers with what he called a "Shopping list", believing that a cliche can sustain the atmosphere, characters and plot of a whole episode. The Lazarus Experiment in series three is the result of Davies specifying "Marvel comics" and "mad scientist" (the best of Davies's and Moffat's own earlier episodes, by contrast, delighted by creating their own tropes: rhino police on the Moon, clockwork robots obsessed with Madame De Pompadour, people whose faces turn into gasmasks, Ardal O'Hanlon as a catperson in flying goggles stuck in a traffic jam of flying cars. You've never seen any of those things before).By the time of The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People on Moffat's watch, we've reached the stage where the show is too cliche-encrusted to have anything to say. This episode tackles cloning. A group of cloned "flesh avatars" of factory workers - used like fork-lift trucks for hazardous work - are inadvertently rendered sentient. Consider this heartfelt monologue by one of them:

My name is Jennifer Lucas. I'm not a factory part. I had toast for my breakfast, I wrote a letter to my mum [...] I am Jennifer Lucas. I remember everything that happened in her entire life. Every birthday, every childhood illness. I feel everything she's ever felt, and more. I'm not a monster! I am me!Me! Me! Me!

There's little verisimilitude here: The obvious points that any piece of science fiction on the subject of cloning have had to deal with are regurgitated. Blade Runner and Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go found more provocative, moving and artistically innovative ways of exploring this (even the trashy film Total Recall did far more interesting things with the concept of memories as the source of identity), but in MoffatWorld these films and books are as good as unread and unwatched. Without any interest in what has been done in this field before, or any desire to tackle it from a fresh perspective, all the show can do is run through a series of stock questions, supposed dilemmas and would-be surprise revelations for each subgenre - in this case, that a clone would have the same memories, that a clone would regard themselves as the same person , and a twist regarding who is the clone and who is the original. One can predict the same plodding results for any 'issue' the show tackles.

As for Vampires of Venice and The Curse of the Black Spot, what could one possibly find to say about them? These are episodes forged from solid cliche. Regarding the former, the first misgivings I experienced about Moffat's tenure were upon seeing a clip from it on a chatshow. We see standard Hammer-Horror vampire babes in the white night-dresses we all know they have to wear (because they're vampires, right?) , and the Doctor notices they have no reflection. Amazingly this is strung out, with the Doctor checking the mirror several times, as if it were genuinely shocking and dramatic, rather than a given. The latter is a pirate story. We know this because it's got pirate hats, and cutlass fights, and treasure, and a enchanting sea-siren, and pirates doing evil laughs, and a scene where the characters have to walk the plank. And the Doctor gets to say "Yo-ho-ho!". As for the tired "revelations"' in both these episodes that they're not really vampires or sirens after all, but aliens and a spacecraft's malfunctioning Medical computer respectively, one wonders how much longer series is going to rely on that cyber-Scooby Doo routine, done brilliantly in The Empty Child and The Girl In the Fireplace - Moffat's excellent first two stories for Davies's version - but now so predictable.

Why, then, are we hearing so little about this desecration, as one of the greatest tv series ever devised is reduced to something so snarmy, battery-farmed and philistine? Firstly, it's because there's a common assumption throughout all media that popular culture, unlike literature, is not worth intelligent critique - a problem exacerbated by the death of tv criticism. When Philip Roth publishes a novel, it's subjected to a plethora of reviews of widely varying opinions, and despite Roth's reputation few critics seem afraid to voice dissent. Mark Kermode and Kim Newman recently made the same point about this within days of each other. Newman observed on Twitter that when he expressed disappointment with the latest Conan the Barbarian movie, he was met with admonishments of the familiar "what were you expecting, Citizen Kane?" variety, while Kermode, promoting his book on the declining quality of Hollywood blockbusters, also observed that this excuse is used for the era of Michael Bay. Doctor Who fans face the same quandary: if we point out the script's limitations, the stock response is that it's only for children, it's only a bit of fun, what did we expect? The Wire? Dennis Potter? Stephen Fry, a fan of modern Who, unintentionally demonstrated this with his comments in the Q and A following his delivery of the 2010 BAFTA Annual Television Lecture:

The only drama the BBC will boast about are Merlin and Doctor Who, which are fine, but they're children's programmes. They're not for adults.[...] like a chicken nugget. Every now and again we all like it … But if you are an adult you want something surprising, savoury, sharp, unusual, cosmopolitan, alien, challenging, complex, ambiguous, possibly even slightly disturbing and wrong.

What's interesting is not merely that Fry sees no gulf between Doctor Who and Merlin, but that even a fan of the show is under no illusions as to how far it is from intelligent drama. It's curious that it doesn't seem to strike him that Doctor Who might be surprising, savoury, sharp, unusual, cosmopolitan, alien, challenging, complex, ambiguous, possibly even slightly disturbing and wrong if it were better-written. The myth that you can't have ambiguity, depth and decent plotting because it might put off the kiddies should surely have been disproved after decades of the extraordinary work of Lewis Carroll, Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett and Alan Garner.

The second reason is that Moffat is a cynic rather than an incompetent. Nathan-Turner's worst decisions: putting question marks on the Doctor's clothes to denote mystery, giving Colin Baker's Doctor a multicoloured costume, casting Dolores Gray as a 'celebrity' cameo for the 25th anniversary, bringing back a Cyberleader from a 1960s story with an unrecognisable costume and an unrecognisable voice but the same actor squeezed inside - alienated the public as much as the fans, hence the three seasons from 1986 to 1988 that saw the the entire show retooled and reformatted three times to try and counter the unpopularity of the previous season.

Moffat, however, knows how to push buttons. His Doctor is so carefully, almost admirably, tailor-made, it could be a brand name. Following the David Tennant model, it's the same mixture of cute good looks, with a patina of geek chic, vaguely professorish but not so much it would alienate the girls and still with the hint of an action hero beneath the foppish lock of hair (looking at Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock in Moffat's other "take a tried-and-tested character and do it safely and cutely" show, one wonders if Moffat is growing thousands of these guys in a vat somewhere), the costume with its reassuring resemblance to Tennant's, the bowtie to remind us that he's eccentric without rendering him unattractive or unusual.

The Hartnell-to Eccleston Doctor (perhaps with the exception of Paul McGann in the 1996 American tv movie, a forerunner of Matt Smith's focus-group Doctor, both of them personifying the vaguest Platonic conception of Doctorishness) was a figure who embraced, represented and investigated the different. He wasn't always comforting, didn't always win everyone around, and wasn't a galactic celebrity. There's a terrific moment in 1970's Inferno when, during an ever-mounting crisis, someone says "That's not what the Doctor says", to which another character sneers "who cares what he thinks?", and the first speaker roars "I do: he talks a lot of good sense!" This moment is exciting and emotionally involving precisely because the audience has not been sated with details of the Doctor's nobility, and not that many of the cast have had kind words for the Doctor: the viewer feels an emotional pull as something important but largely ignored is acknowledged.

From Tennant onwards, the Doctor became a much more conventional, sanitised figure: an action hero, and a pin-up. When Moffat cast the 11th Doctor, after publicly hinting he would cast an older actor, he cast a younger version of Tennant, and built the the whole programme around the Doctor's ability to kick arse and monsters' realisations that they'd messed with the wrong guy. "If you value your continued existence, if you have any plans about seeing tomorrow, there's one thing you never, ever put in a trap... ME!!" he sneers at one point. It sounds like the Incredible Hulk (you won't like the Doctor when he's angry) and Liam Neeson in Taken, but not much like a non-violent, xenophiliac Timelord who regards fighting fire with fire as a contemptible human delusion.

The very first episode of Moffat's reign, The Eleventh Hour, ended with the Doctor defeating alien opponents by reminding them who he was, a bizarre moment of creative hubris Moffat previously succumbed to in Forest of the Dead, his last episode for Davies's version. And yet turning the Doctor into a cute but macho figure who might as well flash a badge to scare all disagreeables away makes a horrible kind of sense. When producer Piers Wenger, promoting the 2011 season, named Twilight as an influence, he knew what he was doing. It may have made your teeth grind if you cared about quality tv, but by God he knew what he was doing. The original Doctor Who was the show that tried. With no CGI, little time for reshoots and largely studio-bound resources, it attempted to create worlds inside your living room. It wanted its viewers to use their imaginations, not only to improve on the variable special effects illustrating compelling concepts (Robert Shearman, who wrote for the show in 2005, commented on a DVD feature for 1981's Kinda that it wasn't let down for him as a child viewer by the extremely poor giant snake because he could see that it represented a much more powerful concept of Evil. I prefer that to a piece of CGI that represents nothing, like Prisoner Zero in The Eleventh Hour) but to extend their empathy, to embrace the alien and reject the parochial. After making you believe that the secrets of the universe could be concealed in a police box in a junkyard, it tried to convince you that a race of intelligent reptiles found hibernating in a cave in Derbyshire were no more aliens than the human race were, that patriotism can blind as well as strengthen, that the world is more important than a country, that science beats superstition and that you should never be afraid of changing, learning, disobeying and growing. That's the little show that tried. Moffat's Doctor Who is the big show that doesn't need to try. If you don't believe me, get hold of a DVD of Carnival of Monsters, a Doctor Who story from 1973, and see how writer Robert Holmes relies on a protagonist and an audience with enquiring minds, rather than a macho action hero who scares away anything uncozy and an audience the writer is frightened of boring. Instead of reassuring pop-culture jokes every five minutes, loud incidental music to tell us what to feel and action-movie setpieces to keep the audience from watching ITV1, this story cares about atmosphere.

First the Doctor and his companion Jo arrive onboard the SS Bernice in the early 20th Century, only to find the crew's memory is affected and they are repeating the same actions Groundhog Day-style, while on an alien planet we a see a bunch of bureaucratic aliens bicker with a couple of travelling carnival performers as they attempt to bring a "miniscope", which miniaturises lifeforms and displays them in a zoological peepshow, through customs. The SS Bernice is attacked by a dinosaur. After escaping through a hatch in the ship, the Doctor and Jo find themselves in open marshland surrounded by ferocious wild alien beasts known as Drashigs, and realise they are in the Miniscope. The bureaucratic aliens squabble about the threat of infection posed by the lifeforms in the miniscope, only for one of one of the little creatures (the Doctor, of course) to break free from it, grow to full-size and berate them. This imperishable story creates worlds within worlds inside the viewer's head which will always be with them. It uses a child viewer's imaginative potential to question what's outside - not merely regarding Drashigs, but what's outside the realms of bureaucracy, xenophobia and cruelty to what seem to blinkered minds smaller creatures.

Try also 1977's The Talons of Weng-Chiang, a story which should, by rights, be disposable, being a mixture of every Victorian pulp cliche imaginable: a Fu Manchu style villain, a phantom beneath the opera (or theatre on this occasion) an evil ventrioquist's dummy, a killer praying on ladies of the night, a giant Rat, the Doctor in a deerstalker, a pathologist acting as an amiable Watson figure, a music-hall proprieter with a love of alliterative vernacular. Instead, our affection for the latter two characters - Litefoot and Jago - is allowed to increase, so that the story takes on a new dimension when they finally meet, and the explanation of who the shadowy Weng-Chiang really is (Magnus Greel, 51st Century war criminal, failed time traveller and "The Butcher of Brisbane") is allowed to let the story glide into a genuinely evocative and solidly imagined vision of the future. Magnus Greel, Jago and Litefoot are the heart and soul of the story, not the rat or the running around, and the sonic screwdriver is nowhere to be seen. One of the greatest scenes in Talons is the scene where Litefoot has been left alone with the Doctor's companion Leela, a savage from another world. The two have supper. Leela hurls herself upon the cold collation left out by Litefoot's housekeeper with the ferocity of her tribe. Litefoot stares, stunned but too polite to complain. Leela notices: "aren't you going to eat?" Smiling nervously, Litefoot delicately copies her eating habits, and attempts to offer her cutlery. Leela takes only the knife: "It's a good knife". No loud music is used to tell us this is funny and charming because it clearly is. Actors Louise Jameson and Trevor Baxter underplay the comedy, and the dialogue doesn't need to spell out the parallels with Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. We're in the quiet atmosphere of a Victorian drawing room getting to know these characters. If The Talons of Weng-Chiang had been done by Moffat and his team, none of these things would be so, but the giant rat would look better.

A third recommendation would be 1979's City of Death by Douglas Adams, possibly the greatest Doctor Who story: watch it and experience how a piece of writing so frothy and unashamedly light and funny is plotted, structured, acted, designed and directed with such attention, intelligence and respect, and how a frivolous little comedy can be so nuanced, so aesthetically rich and so full of ideas, patterns and rhythms that it never fades no matter how often you see it. This most tongue-In-cheek of all Doctor Who stories (though Douglas Adams hated that phrase: he worked at his comedy) seals off the excuse so commonly used for The Curse of the Black Spot and Vampires of Venice: "but it's only a bit of fun." That didn't stop Douglas Adams and Robert Holmes from writing brilliantly.

But while Adams and Holmes obviously outstrip anything from the Moffat era, let's remember something more surprising: Nathan-Turner trumps him too. Oh, his reign saw far more laughable stories than Moffat's, I admit, but, to adapt another piece of trailerspeak from River Song, he fell so much further and rose so much higher. His Doctor Who was brilliant one week, terrible the next, and I prefer that to the consistent standard of inoffensive, solidly-made mediocrity which distinguishes the current version. Nathan-Turner is best seen as the crazy old uncle who bequeathed you some wonderful stuff up in the attic - it hardly matters there's a load of broken coat-hangers up there as well. Years later, the best stories of Nathan-Turner's era - Ghost Light, The Caves of Androzani, Kinda, Remembrance Of the Daleks, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, Survival, Revelation of the Daleks, The Curse of Fenric - continue to delight and surprise in fresh ways, whilst we're forgotting about Vampires Of Venice and Night Terrors as we speak (and who remembers the plot of The Eleventh Hour?)

Should Doctor Who be scrapped? Never: what's the point of replacing it with any other science fiction or fantasy series when it has the most versatile format imaginable: no fixed cast, a craft small enough to fit anywhere that can travel in space and time, and no limitations on genre. Its one recurring theme is the power of the imagination, both in its potential for creating new worlds in the head that linger, and for creating new ways of empathising, understanding and seeing. Doctor Who at is best was an anthology show: a gritty thriller about petty warfare and gunrunning (Caves of Androzani), a complex Buddhist parable on colonialism and evil with feminist undertones (Kinda), a blackly comic story about evolution and late Victorian Britain (Ghost Light), a witty tale of two conmen who pretend to sell people planets (The Ribos Operation): this show could give us everything. People often love their country the most when they're struggling under the dictator. One day, when Moffat's gone, a new version of Doctor Who will be made. It will be the best tv show of all time. It was before.


  1. After two years of Moffat in control, I'm actually looking back on the Russell T Davies era with a feeling of nostalgia.

  2. Yes, his heart was in the right place. Moffat's been much lazier.

    1. I saw that this year was in trouble when as a Dalek, Clara was saying mercy, and the Dr was all, "how does a Dalek know that word." When in the Big Bang A Dalek is pleading for mercy, and Into the Dalek one expressed knowledge of the concept of beauty, beyond killing. But finale nail in the coffin. Zombie Clara flying Slartibartfast's Starship Bistro-math in the finale. Dr. Who in this incarnation has reached Syar Yrek Voyager/Enterprise levels of bad sci fic. Time for a new show runner. Or at least a script editor that'll tell Steven to stop once in awhile.

  3. Can I say that this is the most intelligent, informative and truthful description of Moffats madness I have ever read. Sooner he's gone the better.
    I would put myself forward; I doubt I could do worse.

  4. This is brilliant. Thank you for writing it.

  5. Absolutely cracking comments and spot on the money. I was yearning for RTD to leave and now I'm yearning for him to come back.

    The problem with Docton Who is that all the power lies with one man, and, as with American tv, there's no great debate on whether something is actually good. In Moffat's case, so long as it's good enough it's good enough.

    But that's not nearly a good enough benchmark for me.

    Moffat has complained bitterly of the comments his time as showrunner has received, but I say this: write good tv and only a few will complain, write great tv and only the dweebs will complain. Moffat has done neither, and until he quits or gives the role to someone who cares and understands the show, it will continue to underwhelm and fail spectacularly to impress.

  6. You make some really excellent arguments here, and as a life-long fan of the classic series, I can appreciate them and I understand where you're coming from.

    I think one of the things that's also changed the dynamic is how much of a commercial success the new series has been, rather than the quirky cult show we grew up with (at least over here in America). It's become a brand of sorts and, in my mind, that always brings the unwelcome element of selling out in some respects, because you have to keep the show commercially viable in order for it to remain on the air. The classic series would never have seen the light of day in today's TV world.

    And one thing I will say in Moffat's defense, despite the presence of River Song, is that he's returned the Doctor to a more classic form; somewhat asexual, rather than the Captain Kirk-ish Tennant, who had to kiss all of the females in his orbit (that's been a particular sticking point for me). Not that Smith's Doctor hasn't done that, now that I think about it, but Moffat takes a different approach to that than Davies did.

    For Davies, he turned the Doctor into this grand, romantic figure; whereas Moffat, I think, has tried to accentuate the awkward alien-ness of the Doctor. And while his stories may lack the depth of some of the classic stories you highlighted here, like "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" and "Carnival of Monsters," I appreciate the complexity they *do* have, however vague, as opposed to some of the Davies stories that felt like he just sat back and said, 'I don't know how to end this, so let's just do x, y and z and make it easy.'

    I do miss some of the emotional heft of Davies -- nobody can write a gut-wrenching, emotional scene better than him -- and I miss some of the character development from his era -- I think Moffat lacks that in some respects, because his characters do tend to be more two-dimensional plot points than fully realized -- but I don't miss the sort of randy space traveler caricature that Tennant's Doctor became, I don't miss the Rose story line, and I do think that Moffat has tried to knock it up a notch on the maturity scale.

    Yeah, it's not perfect for some of us old-timers, but it's better than no Who at all. And to be quite frank, as much as I love the new Who, it still cannot compare to the classic, even with all of its camp and cheesy-ness.

    Fortunately, for us old-timers, we have that core to fall back on, as opposed to the newbies, who are just now discovering the show.

  7. May I add my voice to those saying a big Thank You for such a well written critique. When such comments are written on Who based forums, the writers tend to be told "don't watch it then!", which rather stifles discussion.
    A friend of mine sent me a link to this article with the comment "See - we're not alone!"
    Thank you for reminding me that it's OK to expect better, and for helping explain why so many of my contemporaries seem to enjoy these episodes, while I am unable to.

  8. Jon: what a nice thing to hear for the New Year: delighted you and your friend felt that way. One of the reasons I write is to provoke that "I'm not alone after all" reaction.
    Ravenwytch: Interesting points. I agree that the RTD Doctor's love for Rose was too conventional, something Rona Munro took issue with. It was disastrous for poor Martha as a character, and indicated an unwillingness to imagine any love other than the Earth-bound. I still find Smith's Doctor too cute (not just in appearance, but in his ability to answer children's wishes, and hand out toys as we saw in the special. Colin Baker said once that what sums up the Doctor is a belief in the Rightness of things, but that Right doesn't necessarily mean beautiful, and I think he nailed it. The Doctor is nothing if not a force for moral good, and morality isn't always cute or safe.
    Giddy Goose and Stuart Renton - Thanks for the kind words!

  9. Brilliant piece, my thoughts exactly. Let us pray for the final line to be in the near future.

  10. Steven Moffat is an incompetent idiot whose writing is an insult to the average 8 yr old. And his most vile creation The River Song. Gross is the only word to describe that sociopathic gross stalking puke from hades. She is the worst character ever!
    And moffat is not smart. He is a sick pervert who litters the dialogue with childish sexual innuendo's that have no place on a family show.
    River is not smart or sassy, she is dumb as a door nail and and a pain in the butt. She decides to become an archeologist not to better herself or to because she likes it BUT just so she her gross self can find the dr again. Can we say STALKER?! Then she threatens to let the whole universe die just to save the Dr?! Uh HELLLOOOO! If the universe died then so would she and the dr eventually. That's just common sense. The last character on Dr Who who pulled such a stunt was The Master in 'Logopolis' and it was done to show just how evil he was. That puke of a character river does practically the same thing and SOME fools are running around babbling what a hero this sick psycho is. and she is nothing special. Everything the puke has done has already been done by the former companions and without being a gross offensive disgusting puke about it. Everything from flying the Tardis, using weapons, talking back to the Dr. I mean that one was beyond stupid! Barbera the very first female companion outside of Susan used to talk back to the Dr ALL THE TIME!
    And don't get me started on how Moffat's stories always start out with so much promise. I start thinking, "maybe this time will be different" but alas no! He basically ruins his OWN stories by adding so much unnecessary crap that only serves to distract from how stupid and ridiculous his stories really are. I mean what kind of moron considers the MOST OBVIOUS solution to who was in the suit as being a good mystery? That was so painfully obvious that I just wanted to put my fist through the tv set.
    I'm hoping that moron moffat is fired soon and replaced by someone who actually knows how to write family friendly science fiction that is both entertaining and intelligent.

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  12. One last thing, that puke, River IS NOT THE DOCTORS WIFE! Whatever happens in alternate time lines cease to exist once the original time line is restored! DUH!!
    And I've heard a few mentally unbalanced fools prattling that they are married because "they remember".......What the(CENSORED LOL) kind of nonsense is that?! following that laughable insane "logic" then if Amy and Rory remember NOT being married in that time line would they cease to be married? Of course not! That putrid creepy marriage from Hades is now nonexistent! Thank goodness. The First Doctor on his worst day could ten times better then that gross sociopathic puke. And shame on anyone who has such a low opinion of the Dr to think that she is his perfect mate! Talk about VOMIT! She is no where close to being the Dr's "equal". Not by any stretch of the imagination. The only companion to even come close was Romana. She was a real Time Lady (not some pathetic laughable wanna-be one) and she and the Dr did have that "shared time lord history" and she talked back to the Dr, She flew the Tardis, She used several weapons, and she built her own sonic screwdriver. And she even got higher grades then the Dr at the Time Lord Academy.
    Even Rose the clingy whiner is better then River the cold-blooded killer. So no more of that rubbish. moffat can pull whatever crap he wants out of his rear-end. Just because a writer puts something out there doesn't mean we fans have to be a bunch of mindless idiots!
    Back in the 80's a normally intelligent writer decided to have Susan not be the Dr's granddaughter. THAT was soundly rejected. In the 90's the dr who movie made the silly claim that the dr was half-human even though it was established in 'The Deadly Assassin' and 'Invasion of Time' that aliens were NOT allowed on Gallifrey. So most fans reject that nonsense. This marriage to a gross sociopath belongs in that same category of stupid story line. And most of us fans have already rejected the so-called marriage to this sick gross monster. And as I pointed out, it isn't valid, no matter how you look at it anyway. So there is really nothing to accept.

  13. I know what Moffatt's problem is, and it is what annoys me the most. He is a father. Don't get me wrong, being a father isn't his crime, but he doesn't write the show as a passion or because he is a Whovian or anything. I think there are two reasons. One, he writes it for his kids, His plots lack depth as do his characters, and he clearly builds the tension to the level where the only ones who cannot see how obvious the giveaway is, are the 5 year old he is targeting. Secondly, he writes everything! He has no passion or idea what Doctor Who should be about. Over the classic series the Doctor became wiser, calmer, older and younger so many times, he is an ever changing face, and remains constant at the same time. Don't get me wrong, I loved tenants depth and emotion, and Smith's quirkiness, they are nice and excentric. But it's all boring crap. Now Moffatt is writing Doctor Who, Sherlock, the new Tin Tin movie was part of his writing creation. Didn't anyone ever tell him that's its better to do 1 thing really well, then many things just average. My opinion on Moffatt, keep writing Sherlock, keep doing your shit looking movie makeovers, and give the job of Doctor Who writing to someone who will both care about it, and do a damn bloody better job than him.

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  15. This was wonderful to read, it really was. It made me realise that Moffat is even worse than I actually thought.

    If you ever think of ranting about him again, maybe you should mention the Rory/Amy thing. Whilst Amy is a good character, their introduction to Doctor Who really made it more focussed on romance, don't you think? Along with River Song, of course. I hoped that DW would get better with them gone, but did you see that Christmas special? It was bloody awful.

  16. Thank you for this - I was beginning to feel I was the only one who could see the emperor had no clothes!

    I would suggest that the rot doesn't stop with Dr Who though. TV in general nowadays seems to be soap-opera orientated, the emphasis on hyper-emotional melodrama rather than good old-fashioned stories. TV writers now tell us specifically what to feel, not let us decide it for ourselves. When I think of some of the great creative children's TV I watched growing up, it's very sad to think that all kids have got nowadays is Merlin (burping trolls), Dr Who (farting aliens) and Hollyoaks (sex sex murder sex). Depressing

  17. I wish I had seen this when you had first posted, rather than months later.

    I can't stand Stephen Moffat. I think he comes up with very imaginative antagonists but then too-often takes the lazy way out. As you wrote: They feel contrived.

    The older series had a "slow burn" feel to them (at least, the Baker years did; I'm not very familiar with the others). He had more knowledge than we mere humans, but he wasn't omniscient; he wasn't a Christ stand-in.

    I've tried explaining this to friends, but some of them think Moffat's writing is the greatest thing since the invention of things. I don't claim to be extra-intelligent (and my friends certainly are smart), but it feels like an adult version of "The Teletubbies". Stimulus, response. Stimulus, response. Stimulus, response.

    Of course, I guess sometimes we need that break-- not everything we watch must be Shakespeare. The problem is that Doctor Who had a higher bar, but instead of jumping over it, Moffat made it a game of "Limbo".

  18. I to wish I had seen your comments earlier, but nevertheless, your write up is in tune exactly with the way I feel about the show.
    Having watched Doctor Who since the 70s, I know what works and what doesn't and Steven Moffats so called vision of the show, certainly doesn't work.
    He calls most of the classic series crap, his words not mine. Yet I can not think of one classic Doctor Who episode that is worse than the drivel he puts out.
    Trouble is, he will not accept even the smallest criticism, because his over inflated ego won't allow him to even consider that there are people who can't stand his (I hesitate to use the word) 'style' of writing.
    Unlike a lot of people I have talked to, I actually like Matt Smith in the role. Unfortunatly, his time as Doctor Who will not be remembered favourably, because of the god awful plots and the way his Doctor is written and there is only one person to blame for that.
    I have expressed my views on quite a few Doctor Who forums, only to be flamed by Moffat fans who clearly are two cards short of a full deck. Or are so blinded by his, ahem brillance, that they won't admit and never will admit that his vison is wrong for the show. What ever people feel about Russell T Davies, consider this. Has Doctor Who under Moffat reached the level of anticipation and excitement that was experienced in Stolen Earth for example, or Parting of the Ways, to name but a few. Those two episodes were talked about on TV, in the papers etc for weeks during and after broadcast. Moffat will never reproduce that excitement in an episode because he is incapable of making the public feel that involved with his characters. He tried recently with, The Impossible Astronaut and look what a failure that was. No, give it up Moffat and hand the reigns over to someone who can give energy and most importantly, soul back to Doctor Who.

  19. I completely agree with this article. I'm of the younger crowd, not having grown up watching Doctor Who. I started watching the classic Doctor Who not long before the new series began and am still finding new treasures in it (I saw the eighties first but now have been watching a mix of sixties and seventies). So, unlike what some people can claim, I don't believe I can be suggested to have a 'nostalgia filter' about the original.

    Moffat is a good writer in many respects but he is simply not fit for purpose when it comes to writing this series. He doesn't understand what Doctor Who has been. It was this brilliant, imaginative, versatile adventure series exploring possibilities of a universe we can barely comprehend. It was a show about an impressive and passionate man, using his intelligence, and relying rarely on the easier to write tools of 'sonic magic'. Does anyone else remember how the second Doctor once managed to use the sonic screwdriver to escape somewhere, by distracting his guard by using it to sonically remove screws?

    It was never a 'fairy-tale'. In fact it was a show where the monsters once gave relatively little of the drama and where being an adult gave you an entirely new appreciation for the character interactions (you can not tell me that when the Doctor and Davros discussed the possibility of a virus that could wipe out all life, that was meant for children to fully appreciate).

    It respected its audience then and it really wanted to entertain them. Moffat spends more of his time trying to hook his audience with promises of how great things are going to be rather than being great now.

    He built up the Doctor being trapped in the Pandorica by having hundreds of aliens he'd faced come up against him and having him put it an 'inescapable prison'. Then in the next episodes he easily escapes the prison (using a dramatic cheat, and one already used by Bill & Ted) and his only adversary is a single weakened Dalek.

    The next season he then outdid himself. When he promised the Doctor's darkest moment. Instead we get a moment far less dark than many examples in both the classic and the new (in fact I can think of one a Doctor at least, with the exception of the eighth). I genuinely thought when that episode was over that they were going to return there in the next episode, so we could actually have that moment.

    He shows the Doctor's death at the start of a season. He doesn't explain how the Doctor survives (and yes we all knew he was going to survive; between the Tenth Doctor's death merely indicating regeneration, Rose saying 'this is how I died' and having it turn into her being 'recorded as dead' and Donna's 'death' merely be the loss of her memories, we've come to accept that in the modern series death is not something you rely upon). Instead he stretches the plot out over an entire season, leaving the audience to speculate that it's going to be something great. Then he uses a twist (it wasn't actually the Doctor, merely an identical robot) which generally happens about a quarter of the way into a comic book, because to stretch it out too much longer would leave it a colossal let down.

    I have intentionally decided not to watch next season at the time it airs. I'm going to let other people watch it and tell me how they like it (and if Moffat finally gives his 'Silence will fall' plot some sort of resolution). If it's okay, then I'll watch it on DVD. If it's just going to be like recent episodes, I won't.

  20. For me Moffat's Who can best be compared to a cheap Poundland knock off......

    It kinda looks like Doctor Who - and there's a HELL of a lot of packaging but inside it's hollow and instantly forgettable.

  21. Thanks for the latest batch of comments. Sorry I've been a little slow in replying. A Poundland knockoff is just what it is, Darrow. Doctor Who is at its dullest when it looks just like Doctor Who.
    DoctorWhoFan: I'm glad to hear you say that because, as I was too young (born in 1984) when it was still on the air, I've also only seen the original series on DVD and video, (and the odd repeat) and many of the best ones I didn't see untill not long before the 2005 relaunch, so I agree the "Rose-tinted specs" argument doesn't hold up for a second.

  22. Loved this. I just started watching about 3 weeks ago via Netflicks. I had never watched any Who prior and started with Eccelston. I devoured series 1-4. I couldn't sleep some nights having to see what was coming next. Rose ending up in Pete's World and then the ending of season 4....almost shed tears. So moving. I developed a love for the Doctor, Rose, Martha, Mickey, Jack, etc.....and then series 5 comes along and everything is gone. All I have is an immature, bumbling dolt. Don't get me wrong, I like Amy (she just has no depth as a character), and 11 gets some fun lines in...but he is just so much less than 9/10. Smith's doctor is full of flirtation, sexual innuendo, nievete...unlike what an earlier commenter wrote...he's much more Captain Kirk than Tennet. Tennet/Ecceleston had an otherness about him, and he was an adventurer...but the adventured made sense, and had depth, and the stories mattered. He was fun loving in a believable way. I think Smith could pull it off...but he's been given nothing to work with.

    I just dn't see the logic of having a show that has built up a genius cast of supporting charecters and then throwing it all away to focus on the Doctor as a child's imaginary friend. I'm finding myself having to make myself watch series 6..its just so bad. And River Song? I'm sorry...he doesn't get with humans or else he'd have been with Rose...but the TARDIS is his love (the only good thing about Moffat's run, and 6.4 wasn't even his doing)

  23. For weeks a friend and I have been discussing how much we feel Doctor Who has fallen very short due to Stephen Moffat; after I found this article we both felt like you had nailed the topic on the head. Thank you.

  24. Exactly my thoughts put into better words! Thank you for writing this! I just started watching Doctor Who a week or so ago, started with 9 and went through the first 4 seasons in about 5 days... then I got to 11. I literally have had to force myself to sit down to watch it. For me, the lack of character depth is really the final straw.

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    1. Hi Katie. I think the Phantom pregnancy/abduction/forced birth/abduction of the child/not worrying about the child's abduction because she's met her as an adult storyline is the most bizarre piece of characterisation I know of. I wonder if Karen Gillan ever wondered "what's my motivation in this scene?"

    2. Not to mention the implied ageism behind the Doctor abandoning the 'old' Amy, because somehow she wasnt the real one, or worthy of saving. I found that episode really hard to justify. The fact that the poor woman had to suffer the indignity of being not chosen over her younger self, and losing both her husband and her life for no fault of her own. It was repulsive.

    3. Whoops, sorry for the accidental deletion there, Katie. Can't seem to undo the delete, so here's your comment reposted (from the cache)
      "You have articulated so well exactly the problems I have with Moffat. Your distinction between SF/fantasy and Geekery is valuable - because to the non-SF fan ALL SF is perceived as Geeky in this way (self-indulgent, irrelevant, worthless escapism). As you say, SF at its best is actually about the most important things in life. And in Doctor Who, though the science might always have been a bit silly, the themes were big and important and interesting.

      Like you say, the science fiction often suffered under his inexpert hand, but the characters and relationships were always written extremely well. So it mattered what was happening because even if the circumstances were outlandish and contrived, the ways in which the people in the story dealt with it was always authentic. For Moffat characters seem to be plot conveniences. For example, Amy Pond was required to go through the successive traumas of a her unwitting pregnancy, shock delivery and immediate loss of her baby (in the tired old Mystic Pregnancy trope). Since Moffat had no interest in dealing with the changed, traumatised Amy Pond this should have left behind, the plot returned her to her default state the next episode. I guess are expected to suspend our disbelief about how a person would likely feel in these circumstances and accept that we are not dealing with characters who are meant to reflect real people in any way. Because there's convoluted plot machinations to pay attention to!

      Moffat's apparent belief that incoherence is the same thing as interesting and intelligent storytelling has been getting on my wick for a while now. I'll admit to being eager for him to take over a couple of years ago, not realising that he was a one-trick pony and his stable-time-loop-gabbled-pseudo-explanation-timey-wimey-shtick would get very old, very quickly.

      Davies might have given us the hilariously awful Tinkerbell Jesus Doctor, but at least he was trying to say something with his stories with a relevance outside the insular world of Geekery."

    4. so spot on. Exactly how I feel. Moffat sux. Only thing i disagree with was the jesus dr. Being a religious perso myself, i found that whole master devil, and dr jesus thing very well done.

  26. i wholeheartly agree with this article i first found doctor with 10 and then nine before watching 11. it was disapointing i mean moffat turned doctor who into a shitty soap opera and when anyone speaks up about it they instantly pin rose on us. yea davies had a lot of mistakes but he never let the doctor marry a woman whos apparantly the daughter of the latest compaions with time lord dna because of the Tardis i mean thats not a mistake thats a fuck you to all doctor who fans both old and new.

    and this makes me scared stiff of the 50th annivarsy which you should talk about please

  27. RTD was worse for these things, the blame should be placed on him for introducing it, not Moffat as much, if you think about it what could Moffat do?? take the show entirely back to it's roots and have an up roar of hatred among new who fans?? Or try his damn hardest to stick to the RTD format and get complaints by the same people that it wasn't different, or by old Who fans for not trying to go back. Moffat has if anything tried to reach a middle ground with the audience, the problem is that the audiences attitude to the show and RTD's Doctor's elitist mindset about the real Doctor being "dead" in the God awful End of Time ( 'The End of Time felt right emotionally, with the characters, sacrifices and departures well-handledmade' erm not in the eyes of the true fans who recognise just how whiny and idiotic it was of his Doctor not to accept his fate like EVERY OTHER DOCTOR) it impossible for Moffat to please everyone. Even with his fault (River being one major one as stated in this article) I'd rather have Moffat in charge than RTD at least he gets the character of the Doctor mostly right by not portraying him like Edward Cullen, falling for Rose and crying about it the most mundane of threats for a Doctor to encounter, Smith is on par with the classic Doctor's even if the series as a whole isn't, no idea where he got the 'younger version of Tennant' tripe from though, Smith heavily bases his incarnation on Patrick Troughton's. This article although has some interesting points, marks the blame on the wrong person. RTD ruined Doctor Who first, not Moffat, at least give full credit for the criticisms you fire And I'll tell you why.

    The main issues lies in Russell's humanisation of the character, there's no denying that Tennant and to some extent Ecclestone near to the end of his series had very little alien traits about them. Ecclestone started off all fine and dandy, but RTD's fetish of Rose is a character (Rose is just as bad if not WORSE than River for this and I'll tell you why) is what ended up making the character take a turn for the worst. At the start Ecclestone's Doctor was outwardly alien, he didn't care about what people thought about him and had an alien perspective on things, The Unquiet Dead is an excellent example.....

    1. ....., The Gelth ask the Doctor for help in order to help them survive, by allowing the to live inside the bodies of the dead, Rose in her ignorance is hell bent against this claiming it to be unethical but the Doctor rightfully puts her in her place by rightly stating that it's the same principle as a Donor card. But then the Gelth reveal their true intentions and all of a sudden the Doctor's apologetic to Rose claiming she's right. The problem with this was that ethically she wasn't as her argument was never to do with the Gelth's intentions, but because RTD fetishes Rose so much, she has to be right in every situation regardless to how much she was actually wrong, resulting in essentially a change/ humanisation in the character of the Doctor that A) Wasn't needed, the character is fundamentally an alien, it's what makes the character unique, why make it boring? B) Took away the very alien nature of the character and made him essentially and angst driven human with none of his original character traits, the point of the Doctor is that he's an enigma/ mystery to the audience, this is manifested in his emotional disconnect from humanity and the audience, the companion provides the human elements to the show, not the Doctor, Tom Baker has said this himself, an emotional disconnect allows us to see the character as an intelligent guardian/ protector and not a romantic figure. Now you can fire all the criticisms at River Song all you like. But at least she hasn't changed the Doctor for the worst, turning him into a weak, idiotic and love struck fool who would blubber like a baby at the most nonsensical of things that he was fine with 9 incarnations before hand, and show an inconsistent sense of 'moral superiority' by claiming to bee against violence but then completely goes against it himself when the plot needed him to. I fail to see how you can claim that Moffat has ruined the show when RTD has esentially turned the Doctor into a whiny emo teenageer, not captain Kirk as you so wrongly suggest, Kirk didn't cry at unnecessary things. You site the Caves of Androzani as a good episode and rightly so but Caves of Androzani had the Doctor with a very similar story arc to the Tenth Doctor's, but The Doctor in that story accepted his regeneration with much more dignity and acceptance as oppose to whiny Tennant who departed whimpering 'I don't wanna go' like a baby....

    2. ....Now onto Moffat's Doctor, he's far from perfect and I will admit that, but what I can say about him, at least he got the character of the Doctor right. Smith's incarnation is much truer to the original character in the sense of the way he acts around people, he's eccentric, show's a genuine disconnection/ mis-understanding of human custom's and has his own moral compass and agenda that sometimes crosses with humans, he also unlike RTD's avoids romantic entanglements and considers them fundamentally wrong. This is shown when Amy snogs him and tries to sleep with him and he intentionally pushed her away and his gut reaction is 'you're human!' there's no denying that ANY other classic Doctor would have reacted in the same way. And you can say that Smith flirts, but would you rather have mild flirting and knowing your limits than outright teenage love angst?? Smith's Doctor although a little looser than other Doctor's in that department, he never outright goes into territory that's disgusting or immoral. And now onto River Song, Smith's Doctor doesn't love River or have any kind of real romantic attachment to her, their timelines are backwards meaning his Doctor has to act a certain way around her in order for her to get that impression from him in the beginning, he has to keep the loop going, the only reason he acts like that is because older versions of her act that way to him, meaning he must do it to complete the loop. Smith's Doctor for the most part is pretty much against romantic entanglement, anything that indicates he might be is always one way with him reacting as if it's an accident or more out of a lack of understanding of certain customs, it is in a sense no more out of character than Hartnell's accidental engagement in the Aztecs.

      The core of the character of the Doctor is always the alien nature, he shows this in every classic Doctor had it, either by his attitude, eccentricity or the juxtaposition of his personality in conjunction with the age/ kind of the character that incarnation was. As much as you might hate Moffat's series, I fail to see how you can claim that RTD's Doctor was in away any good or remotely better, your entire argument is based on the very idea of the show of late being style over substance, but the Rose/ Doctor Twlightesque romance is far more guilty of introducing that than anything Moffat has produced.

    3. you can give me a thousand reasons of why you like Moffat and Smith, but the episodes bore my socks off so its all pointless. RTD for all his faults gave me episodes and characters that I loved watching. Moffat gives me episodes that after 5 minutes I switch over, because they are shallow and meaningless.

    4. @Lily monleone

      To each their own.

      A lot of us feel that same way about RTD. If the second set of DVDs for season 1 didn't have Dalek on it I'd never have opened it.

      The only two episodes he wrote that I genuinely enjoyed were Turn Left and Midnight.

    5. well this blog is a place where people who are intesly disappointed and disillusioned with Moffat to speak, so why does it bother you? if its upsetting post on the pro-Moffat blogs.

    6. agreed. I'm another one who finds moffats and smiths episodes very boring. Shallow characters and no emotional investment. RTD was the best for the show. The geek logic defending moffat seems to hinge on thier past obsession with classic dr who and how he should have stayed like that? Maybe so for them, Maybe moffat does know how to appease the hardcore geeks of dr who, the purists, but he's lost everyone else who cared about good characters and good stories. Watched first 4 seasons on netflix in a week too. Was awesome, but then series 5 was noticeably different, lacking in any realistic characters and u just didn't care bout the stories. Was so disappointing. Season 6 barely watchable.

  28. I'm just going to ignore everything everybody has to say about River because she's my favorite character in the new series, and I think Moffat has just sorely overlooked her entire characterization potential like every other damn character he's ever come up with.

    I'm probably going to get flamed for being a 'young fangirl', but whatever, it's a free country, I can state my opinions.

    I was born in 1996, Four was my first Doctor, and then Ten, and I have to say, I completely agree with most of you on this. The thing about the old series is that yes, the effects were cheesy, the acting wasn't always the best, and the plots could be iffy... but what the old series had that the new series (especialy under Moff) lacks is heart.
    Now I don't want to go all Disney on everyone. What I mean by that is that Moffat seriously overlooks characterization to the point of major plot-holes. As a writer, I was seriously dissapointed by Amy's whole "Get pregnant-lose baby" plottage because there wasn't any character development for crying out loud! How can you not have a problem with never getting to see your baby girl grow up from wobbling around in your pearls and high heels to makeup and shooting guns? What the hell?
    River. River. River. Need I say more? While I seriously do love the underlying character that Alex Kingston manages to portray despite Moffat's atrocious writing... the writing is still atrocious. River has the potential to be a seriously angsty, meaninful, heart-felt character. But Moffat has made her flat, raunchy, and altogether annoying. I fell in love with the River that was shown in Silence/Forest, because that River LOVED. She flirted, yes, but she LOVED. She gave her life up for the Doctor.

    Let me explain why I love River so much:
    Her basic character premise is this: Girl's entire destiny is to kill the man she loves, and yet she somehow manages to squirm out of it, break free from it, and save his life in the end.
    I don't know about you, but that's pretty much the fucking greatest love story on the planet.
    So why is it so bad?
    Moffat just screwed her up because he wanted to be clever. He ruined River's character, and my firm belief is that if someone else had taken that idea and wrote River (within River's foxy, flirtatious boundaries and staying true to the character in FOTD/Silence)and gave her an understandable, decent character arc without relying on teenage hormone-driven romance and awkward flirting... then she would've been awesome.
    I'm going to speak heresy and say that pretty much everything Moffat writes could be rescued.
    If it wasn't written by Moffat.

  29. I was wondering if someone could tell me why some people who critisize RTD say he is bad at plots? when in my opinion moffat is even worse, and his plots are ridiculously complex. I dont get it.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I can't speak for anyone else, but for me it's because each and every one of Russell T Davies' finales (and more than a handful of his episodes) follow the following formula:

      1. Doctor encounters threat (Daleks/Cybermen/Master/Davros)

      2. Doctor tries to deal with threat (Delta Wave/Close void/Storming the Airship/heading to the medusa cascade)

      3. Threat overcomes Doctor (Daleks capture station / cybermen invade/ Doctor gets aged / Davros captures Doctor)

      4. Threat corners doctor (Doctor doesn't use Delta Wave / doctor and earth trapped in crossfire of Dalek vs Cybermen / Martha gets captured / Doctor is imprisoned as reality bomb is about to detonate)

      5. Something happens completely out of nowhere (Rose gains superpowers at just the right moment / "Void stuff" (despite dialogue earlier saying there was nothing in the void) which affects everyone even cybermen built in this world / Doctor gains superpowers at just the right moment/ Donna gains superpowers at just the right moment)

      6. Doctor wins.

      Now there's nothing wrong with a convenient plot device but RTD's used to come out of absolutely nowhere about 10 minutes before the episode ended. Rose was just trying to communicate with the TARDIS but instead becomes a god, a satellite network designed for subtle hypnosis suddenly has the power to turn the Doctor into Tinkerbell and so on...

      It smacked of him constantly writing himself into a corner and then realising he couldn't resolve it.

      Look at Aliens of London as another example. An absolutely godawful episode but with a plot which kind of made sense, and then they blow up 10 Downing Street with a cruise missile about 5 minutes before the end of the episode killing all the baddies but not them. Yay for convenience!

      That's why people don't like RTD's plots.

      Say what you want about Moffat's plot devices being convenient but at least he plants hints at what he's going to do during the episodes.

    3. yes they all consist of Amy Pond/Rory running down corridors, staring/pouting/moaning. great stuff.

  30. Excellent article. Sadly (or should that be "Steven, I'm so, so sorry"?) the current series appears to have descended into total incoherence and silliness. I could find no redeeming features in last Saturday's opening episode and have given up on the programme until the BBC wakes up and makes the necessary change. If it ever does.

  31. The current series starting with Asylum of the Daleks was mind numbingly boring, from start to finish. and the new assistant was stilted and false. Bring back Tennant and Donna please! They had heart and soul, were funny endearing and heart breaking. This current lot have ruined Nuwho for me, I just cant watch more than 5 minutes without a creeping sense of tedium and sadness that its all over. Amy Pond justs runs around like a headless chicken, and Rory is a chicken. They dont DO anything or contribute anything, they stare they pout they mope about, its awful. The Doctor twitches and twirls like Ronald MacDonald and is just as scarily empty and vacuous. Its odd because I love what Moffat did for Sherlock, its urban slick and the relationships work, maybe thats down to good acting however. River Song is also one of the most trite and annoying characters I ever saw on tv, goodbye sweetie!

    1. Amy was pretty epic this week in DoaS. Plus I don't think any of the new companions have really been spot on with maybe the exception of Donna.

      Rose - Mary Sue, whatever the character needed to do for that episode she could suddenly do.

      Martha - About as interesting as piece of cardboard

      Donna - I liked her but I know many people didn't like her shoutyness

      Amy - Sassy but sometimes you wonder why she's there

      Rory - I like Rory, he's very human, but agreed he doesn't really stand out.

      Compare them to someone like Sarah Jane or Romana and they don't come across too well.

  32. Just stumbled across this and I'm so glad someone shares the same sentiment I do about the 'Nu Who'

    Frankly, the 'Nu Who' makes me far more appreciative of the Audio serials that are released to cover Doctors 4, 5, 6, 7 an 8.

  33. I've never watched Classic Who,so I don't have an opinion on the Classic/Neu Who controversy.I didn't watch Neu Who until I stumbled onto a Donna Noble episode in progress; being somewhat a Catherine Tate fan I stopped and watched. I loved it. The too-short Donna Noble season is my favorite of all the Neu Who.It wasn't just appreciation for Tate; the 10/Noble stories had emotion and entertainment.Cable had Neu Who from 9 up to last 10 so I caught up.I didn't love everything(no fan of Rose,not big on Martha moping)but I liked plots and characters enough to look forward to Matt Smith's 11/new episodes. The 5th season had some good moments but I found more and more things irritating . A short list.. if 11 was so sfreaked out by Amy (a human) hitting on him, then why did there seem to be jealousy/competition with Rory in the Dream Lord episode?..and why the several references to de-flowering Elizabeth I ?..why has Rory been the Man Of Constant Amy-Sorrow?...I love Alex Kingston so I deeply mourn everything River could have been and virulently dislike everything Moffat made anyone ever going to mention why the Tardis was blowing up in the first place?.. since Amy killed Kovarian in the alternate time line, where the hell is she now?.. these and many other things have led me to the conclusion that Moffat is ruining the good thing he was handed. I know he doesn't write all the episodes(gawd knows I've heard that often enough from Moffat lovers)but really, he makes it pretty clear that where Moffat leads the Doctor follows. His writing reminds me so much of someone who decides to organize their house,and then halfway through says "the hell with it" and stuffs everything into closets and under the bed. There was some of that with RTD also, but Moffat makes such a huge deal about "what's going to happen !!!" through not only hanging plot points,but personally in interviews etc. that it's ten times more aggravating when
    THE BIG DEAL either is a very minor deal or doesn't happen at all.This new season,however,is beyond even aggravation.It's just plain terrible. The first 4 episodes of the ridiculous 5 episode "Fall Season" have been painful to watch. Dull,lackluster,shallow and don't even get me started on that spaghetti Western mess. The stories have been so poor that I can't be sad about the Ponds leaving; I think they're escaping the pitiful decline.I'm not excited about the new Companion,either;if "Asylum" is anything to go on,she's an Amy Pond knock-off. I'm ready for a new Doctor too. Matt Smith has crossed that delicate line dividing quirky/eccentric/alien from annoying/irritating/obnoxious. I don't think that's entirely Smith's fault. It's one more thing I lay on Moffat's writing doorstep. I wish the Ponds would take Moffat with them and someone new would be put at the helm, hopefully to lead Doctor Who to a marvelous,brilliant Golden Jubilee. I feel relief being able to say these things here. I( foolishly ) posted some opinions on DW-related tags on tumblr. When the smell of tar dissipated and the feathers stopped blowing out of my laptop I realized tumblr is not really the forum for posting any comments on any tv show (unless they're unquestioning raves ) And if I might rant a minute longer on a related topic.. I wish people/fans/ would stop trivializing the word/concept of hate. Hate is James Byrd Jr. being dragged to death behind a truck by racists in Texas..hate is millions murdered in the Holocaust... hate is Matthew Shepard hanging on a fence in Wyoming .. hate is all the women raped in the Bosnian War..hate is NOT disagreement over fucking television programs. Thanks for your thoughtful and thought provoking essays/posts.

  34. Helllllo Sweeties:)

    Sorry, just had to gt that in. I agree with your article mate, you hit the nail right on the head, I was just over on the Den of Geek forum and I was told I must have OCD or am too thick to understand the complexities of Moff's take on Who. Yes I was hit many times with that righteous old chestnut, it's a kid's show and if you don't appreciate the genius of abandoned plot threads and Tardis interior sized plot holes, then you shouldn't be watching the show. I'm glad I've finally stumbled across some like minded people who see what I can, that Moff as turned the Doctor into a great galactic guffaw at he expense of everything that made Doctor Who such an excellent, exciting, intelligent, thought provoking, morally challenging program. Whilst I do agree that there are some major issues with RTD era Who, I also think that he had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see the return of some fantastic classic enemies, such as Davros and The Master. These day's watching the show is a tedious chore of an experience with no excitement factor whatsoever . I'd only know it was good because the pro Moff-heads tell me it is, well, shout into my face it is lol, as opposed to allowing me to intelligently draw my own conclusions about it, ergo, it's mundane at best. From the moment Smith stepped into DT's shoes, and the moment the Moff took the helm of the TARDIS, I feel cheated and completely underwhelmed by the direction the show as taken. It's all become meaningless pap, churned out to ensure figurine sales from the US. The sooner we get rid of Smith and the Moff, the better.

  35. I just posted this on D.O.G in response to the drivel they aired tonight, As you may guess, they are sending the lads round from moffs to break my legs right now for disagreeing with moff love.

    Underclass Underdog • 18 minutes ago −

    Helloooooooooooooooooo Sweetie:)

    If I were to post my true opinions on tonight's episode then no doubt TARDInSexy and the rest of the pro-Moff head's would tear into me and claim I suffer from OCD. So instead I'll go along with this, as is the popular consensus and we all know majority vote rules. This was by far the best episode of Dr Who ever in the history of the show. Steven Moffet is the best thing the Beeb have ever inflicted upon the viewing public and he can do no wrong in my eyes. The guy is a genius. In fact, I'd go so far as to say the guy is above the Time Lord Almighty when it comes to his first class writing skills. RTD could never have achieved this level of brilliance.


    D.O.G told us to lower our expectations, and so I did. I couldn't set them any lower and yet, this episode still failed to live up to them. My heart sinks and I'm filled with sadness, not at the loss of the Pond's but at the loss of one of the greatest T.V programs of all time, perhaps the greatest T.V show of all time. It kind of reminds me of when the BBC wanted to cancel it back in the 80s and so they used Colin Baker to play a deplorable Doctor in order to get people to switch off. Well this time they have gone one step further and and made the whole show that deplorable it's become a complete mind numbing pain to watch.

    I honestly cannot believe people actually liked this. It's no wonder the show continues to decline if the viewing public are saying this was the best episode of the series. I'm sure someone will say, the viewing figures are stronger than ever, whilst that may well be true, the overall quality of the show, is worse than ever. Initial impressions of tonight's episode, apart from it being seriously underwhelming, it dawned on me that the Moff fanboi's have completely neglected the fact that the entire of the 11th Doctor's arc as been based around his romantic entanglement/marriage to River Song, and not one of them as batted an eyelid, Yet when RTD threw in a bit of Rose-tinted romance, they all hit the roof, sharpening the knives ready to fillet poor Russel for even dreaming of having the Doctor romantically involved with an Earth girl.

    But since the great Steven Moffet penned this I'm more than willing to overlook these minor foibles. After all, how can a T.V God such as he, ever put a foot wrong? Hold on though, I have put the cart before the horse there, haven't I? What plot? What was the point of the detective character introduced then dispatched within two minutes of the opening? What was the point of the gangster boss and his minions? What was the point of the Angels? Am I losing my mind or was there any point to this episode at all other than to get rid of the Ponds, in such a mundane way. The only redeemable thing was the five seconds of Matt Smith crying and attempting to convey sadness.

  36. The Press drool over it, and the viewing figures are up. They are getting a ton of awards, is it me or does this feel like some weird parallel universe where nobody understands whats really going on under their noses? Why cant the public see what utter drivel this is? The plot? is trying so hard to be clever its ripped out what really gave Dr Who any meaning, emotional connections between the Doctor and his assistants. The Ponds were boring whingers, who never seemed to be thrilled to be travelling with him, Amy is just a walking womb and Rory is, well, in the way most of the time. River Song is just flippant and false. If only RTD would come back I could actually get excited by Who again. I have tried to watch these new episodes but they bore me and I cant wait for the Ponds to be replaced, but saying that this new girl doesnt inspire me either.

    1. I am one of the reasons the viewing figures are up. Now before you flame me let me explain. I live in the US. About six months ago Netflix added Doctor Who. I watched it all in three months and loved RTD. Now all of a sudden I am hit with Steven Moffat. The glow still hasn’t entirely worn off because I have not been strung along by Moffat’s plots for three years so I will still watch the new episodes. Now I am counted in viewing figures for Moffat rather than RTD because I came late to the party.

  37. I thought the era started quite promisingly in series 5 but it began going downhill from the first (dreadful) Xmas special. This season has been the absolute pits so far. The Angels one was more tolerable than the others but still pretty crap. We're an awful long way from the Moffat who gave us The Empty Child now. I never thought I'd miss RTD either (I was all but ready to give up during series 4) but I'll admit his era had more life to it, even if a lot was rubbish. And RTD, to his credit, was coming up with unexpected and refreshing treats like "Midnight" 4 years in to his tenure; when was the last time Moffat did anything at all surprising? Blink, wasn't it?

  38. Moffat just rehashes the Angels, they were wonderful the first time, really scary, but the second and third time it just got stale.

  39. SF/Fantasy is about the universe, the human race's responsibilities, morality, life, death, fear, wonder, (proper) science and different ways of seeing things.

    Am i the only one who thinks Moffat nails these things or at least aspires to them while also keeping to the SF idea of clever concepts?

    Didnt "the beast below" at least try (if you dont believe it did) to highlight the possible selfishness of humanity? The way fear can make even the best of us do monstrous things?

    Wasnt the entire ending of the big bang about the power of belief and sacrifice?

    In a good man goes to war, if you werent just caught up in the River explanation you would have noticed how the doctor acted when angry. The dangers of letting fury lead you, something the doctor is usually against and we see what he can become but choses not to be. Maybe its just me, but after watching Doctor who all this time i think thats something that should be played up more. Its back in A town called mercy and even dinosaurs on a spaceship. When the weight of his loneliness and anger seep through.

    The wedding of riversong? How selfish love can make one and foolish extents it drives some to.

    What about Amy and Rory's relationship and its ups and downs and impossible challenges.

    And are you really going to claim the Old Who didn't succumb to popular cliches of the time? Come on. Get real

    I like Moffat's reign, as do many and there are probably just as many who don't. Its the nature of these things i suppose. But ive always found that just because i don't like something doesn't make it useless.
    ie: " is reduced to something so smarmy, battery-farmed and philistine?"

    I like River, I like Amy Pond, I like Rory and i especially like Matt Smith as the Doctor. I like episodes in the series that tug at the heartstrings (Vincent and the Doctor, The Angels Take Manhattan)and i like cool ideas (The silence, the weeping angels, the entire big bang timey-wimey plot) and if thats "philistine"...well, too bad. I've restricted most of what i said to actual Moffat written episodes and im sure fans of the new series could point out how it covers morality, life, death, fear, wonder, (proper) science and different ways of seeing things from the others but somehow i think this is a case of "the older is always better" as opposed to this new era is objectively bad.

    1. Just to respond to your last comment, the idea that this is all ol' fogies yearning for the old

      Frankly I haven't seen much Classic Who. And of New Who - I thought the first and second series was patchy; my favourite companion so far has been Donna. So I've peaked about halfway through my watching of DW - hardly a pattern that matches a nostalgic reading.

      You've responded to the opinions voiced in a fairly calm and reasoned way, which is nice (believe me, critisising Moffat can attract some pretty ugly hate online). But you're still keen to dismiss critisisms as products of nostalgia rather than believing these could actually be valid opinions based on someone's personal reading of the show.

  40. This new era is objectively bad, thats the problem.

  41. I think it's almost irrelevant to talk too much about classic 70's Doctor Who and how the current version of the show compares, because it's just incomparable. RTD's vision was completely modern and new and revamped for the 21st Century, but it RESPECTED it's own history and it WAS recognisably the SAME show it always had been. A lonely traveller, meeting people, fighting monsters, having adventures - as those have mentioned - which actually had consequences and emotional connections. Yes I cringed and despaired many times at moments such as the 'Britney Spears toxic' moment in TEOTW and the master dancing in the sound of drums to voodoo dolls or whatever it was, and not forgetting the martha travelling the world every human chanting God doctor / angelic superbeing / Gollum thingy, the awful 'Fear Her'... the list goes on BUT>>>>>>>>
    They were forgiveable in the end because I still CARED about what was happening each week (even in my early 20's and through Uni, I would desperately try to watch every episode live, I would research, ponder, debate look-up spoilers, read reviews, post in forums, buy merchandise etc..) and in the end it was great, great telly that made my once secret love, a national success and a show that was loved by people in a way I could never have dreamed of as a child. As someone mentioned earlier, the incredible anticipation/build-up, the sense of looking forward to an episode for months and it actually paying off (What is Bad Wolf?, THAT Bad Wolf cliffhanger - could hardly contain the excitement)- The whole return of the master - actual goosebumps at the YANA reveal EPIC!! The fact that enemies such as the daleks, cybermen, autons, davros were faithful to the past representations.
    So all in all, there was good and bad, it was never going to please everyone, nor could it and at times I hated it, but as I said, I still followed it religiously because it was still the show I have loved all my life and grown up with. (BTW, I'm a 60's/early 70's lover - Hartnell/Troughton/Pertwee/Early baker).

  42. Even Moffat's first series was not intolerably bad, the "silurians" were an insult to what they are actually supposed to be in the incredible Hulke story, and don't even get me started on the 'fatlek rangers' cos that's a whole other story, but not until "The Big Bang" did things really start to slide. I like Matt Smith's doctor (although I agree that the characterisation of 11 as an all-knowing superGod never feared etc. is totally wrong - Where is the mystery? The vulnerability that makes a situation scary or tense?) And the show is supposed to be about the Doctor so why-oh-why do we have to endure the highly annoying character of River bloody Song practically every other episode? Does anybody actually care?
    But it's the incomprehensibilty, the nonsensicalness and cringe-inducing writing in episodes such as A Good man goes to war, let's kill hitler, "A Christmas Carol" (please tell me somebody's taken away the canonical status of this piece of utter tripe - the first time I ever switched off an episode of Doctor Who and still have never seen the last 20 mins) and the ludicrous and over-complicated arc that means this just ISN'T EVEN DOCTOR WHO anymore. It's just Moffat's twisted view of what the show is - like others have mentioned, his ego is so far up himself that he thinks his vision is perfect and clever and brilliant and as one-offs that may be fine, but the convoluted plotlines of recent series hold no weight, becuase you cannot ignore the gaping plotholes and cannot suspend your disbelief. The characters mean nothing, a main character dies every week and lives - so no sense of danger or belief) Think about Doctor Who stories that you can actually believe they could happen - they are always the best by far. I couldn't begin to explain or understand half of what has actually happened in the Who universe in the last two seasons. Has anybody kept track?
    The saddest thing of all is that I have lost interest, it has become too much sci-fantasy (which is not what the show is), it has disrespected and contradicted it's own deep-rooted, carefully and cleverly nurtured mythology, it's become embarrassing again and it's become boring! I can't believe it myself, that I no longer watch the show and will have to force myself to sit through the dross only because I feel I have a duty to do so as a fan (For otherwise, How exactly can I call myself a true Doctor Who fan if I haven't got a clue what is going on in the show when it comes to the 5oth anniversary? ......which will ofcourse now be a devastating let-down)
    And it's not surprising that this has happened to the show because as others have said, Moffat is a so-called 'fan' who thinks the classic series is 'crap'!! Bizzare!

    1. You mentioned going back and watching some of the classic series to acquaint oneself with Doctor Who when it was still about doing GOOD stories. The bonus disc from The Talons of Weng Chiang has a documentary on it called "Whose Doctor Who". It was made early on in Tom Baker's reign. Some of the things he says about The Doctor dovetail very well with what you have said here. As an example:

      'Its not an acting part, in the sense that the character is very, severely limited. There are boundaries over which The Doctor cannot go. He can't suddenly become interested in romance" (unless you are RTD and have the sensibilities of a Coronation Street viewer). "He's not at all acquisitive. He couldn't suddenly become gratuitously violent."

      You could argue some of those points as not being true, even back in classic Who, but Davies and Moffat have turned the show into a grotesque pantomime of everything that made it wonderful.

      Perhaps it should be turned over to Iain M Banks next. You might get "The Wasp Factory" in space, or the obnoxious torture scenes from "Consider Phlebas", for example. The thing that I don't think Banks, or any other real SF writer would do to Doctor Who is to make it into a poorly done 1950s comic book (Moffat) or a camp third rate knockoff of a Jackie Collins novel (Rusty-T-Davies).

      I could go into the nuWho companions (esp. Rose the Hose) but this enough bile for now, I think.

    2. i guess i kind of get the feeling the Doctor is being written lately as a person who's facing his mortality. he's getting nearer to his final regeneration. maybe that plays a part in how they're writing him.

      i'm not saying like it.

      also, the doctor is just as much a time lord as is the master - for example. i don't think the doctor is limited to acting or behaving any certain way. he's mortal and fallible. he's susceptible to mediocrity (and so is the show).

    3. GM - " the ludicrous and over-complicated arc that means this just ISN'T EVEN DOCTOR WHO anymore."

      Isn't Doctor Who about changing? If we stay in same format in years, I think that really makes Doctor Who boring.

  43. - And what I really don't understand is who watches the show these days??? How are the viewing figures still respectable?? I'm a teacher and there are only a couple of children in my class who still watch it and it's FAR from being cool once again. I remember a few years ago, kids everywhere were watching and taking part in class quizzes and coming in with dalek/cubermen lunchboxes etc. I don't see this now and it never was going to last forever ofcourse, the honeymoon period is over, but it's the nature of the decline, the speed of the drop in quality and popularity that is worrying. Hopefully, it won't be too long before another reboot, and hopefully this time, as has already been said, with somebody in charge who cares and more importantly UNDERSTANDS what the show is about.

  44. Oh. My. God. Your definition of "geekery" as distinct from SF/fantasy is brilliant. I am hereby adopting it and will remember to credit it to at least "some blog I read online."

  45. Children can be overly critical intellectuals as well you know, give them some respect.

    Lets face it, richard has brilliantly articulated the meandering thoughts of a great many of us who have experienced this gradual change in the fundamental character and ethos and raison d etre of this show.
    There is no reason it should not contain any or ideally all of that shopping list of things Steven Fry outlined in his speech about declining television standards, but I do believe this whole affair goes a lot deeper than dr who...
    The things richard has quantified in the decline of dr who are as a direct result of television's corporatisation.

    There is no ambiguity
    There is no anarchy or subversion
    There is no cultural critique
    There isn't even any misjudged accident any more.

    its just safe safe safe innocuous vacuity.

    However if you have a soft spot for some higher quality drama science fiction fantasy that on occasions rises to the level of greatness, then i suggest dusting off your CD players as there Dr Who lies quietly resting under the radar of our bowdlerized tv culture, quietly waiting........

    Plus as a bonus you can hear Peter Paul Sylvester and Colin getting their teeth into some oftentimes brilliant writing, and exceeding in depth of character their original tv appearances.

  46. Thanks for this piece, Richard. It's the gift that keeps on giving, So many nails struck squarely on the head. I saw a preview for Series 7 earlier this evening and said to my brother, "That's it, I'm done with the Doctor." Like you, I'll tune in after the Moffatt/Smith era is over.

  47. I am one of the Netflixers, drawn into the series late. I really liked the humanity of the doctor 9/10, I know it is not the classic doctor but still, I liked it.The emotional drama was bearable for some Rose mum, Mickey,Donna awesomeness.
    Some of the episodes were well written and well played. Human nature, Blink,The Empty Child. I have to say the Library/Forest episode is two of my favorite episodes still even after all the damage to something which could have been a beautiful love story for the River and Doctor. The "name scene" in the library is acted to the perfection and I have to watch it over and over.
    As you said: Moffat can write the promise of a great plot.

    But story went downhill in the last 2 seasons. This is not children programming. I wish it was!Children are smart and deserve better stuff.

    I could punch Smith's doctor in the face because he is not alien-he is human: selfish rude and stupid. Annoying.
    I wanted to throw my computer out of the window when the pregnancy/ alternate timeline/ alternate world/alternate Amy craziness happened. I do not know whether it was intentional or not but Rory suffered through the episode -in which he lost his wife, realized that they hurt his wife, lost is child, found his adult child- with the same baffled expression, mouth slightly opened.
    The rest of the season was similarly unwatchable. It is fantasy/geekness gone to the worst: geekness that is not cute any more but leaves a bad aftertaste.

    The silence UFOs were the least unimaginative UFOs. Is it only me or did the entire series started to feel like the copy of the Xfiles in the later terrible seasons? when Scully had cancer, had a baby by UFOs etc and no more fun or intellect in the plot? I was young when that happened but I remember having the same feeling- when nothing ever is real, no emotion is real, you distance yourself from the characters.

    At least with doctor 9/10 characters found themselves in bad situations and they had real emotional reactions to the situations.
    Here? My emotion is : meh?

  48. I just found this article and enjoyed your apt way of conveying thoughts I have myself.

    My favorite Who writer/script editor, Robert Holmes, put it this way. "Parents would be terribly irresponsible to leave a six-year-old to watch it alone. It's geared to the intelligent fourteen-year-old, and I wouldn't let any child under ten see it." It's something that Moffat seems to have overlooked and frankly, I'm tired of being talked down to by him.

    Doctor Who can never be the show it was in the 20th century. It's not what the current audience would accept. It's all about the glitz and special effects with the story be a distant second. And I can accept that. That's what makes the money nowadays.

    What I don't like is how the current show runner is constantly telling me how brillant the show it "going to be" instead of just making a brilliant show [as stated in your article]. The cock-sure attitude Moffat has of, "Look at me and my shiny show. Aren't I brilliant?" has gotten old very fast.

    But in regards to the writing, Classic Who had a producer to oversee the show and a script editor whose job it was to oversee the scripts for a season. Neither one was supposed to write any stories [unless absolutely necessary]. Moffat, on the other hand, seems to think it's his job to write all the "important" stories cause Moffat is the only person who knows best. Some of the best Classic Who stories were done when the people in charge told a writer, "Go write me a story." and sent the writer away to do their job. That's how we got "The Caves of Androzani".

    We would never get a story like that today.

  49. I feel that you might enjoy the Doctor who novel, "Dead of Winter". It is an 11th story and yet it reminds me more of 9 and 10. The main characters are still themselves, exactly as they have been, and yet they are given an emotional range that hasn't been seen in a very long time. The supporting characters are treated as people first and plot devices second. And, what I think really sets it apart from the Moffat era is the ending. It's nowhere near perfect. People are sad, people will die, it's not a perfect world where everybody important gets to make it and live happily ever after. Personally I don't like drama. I can't take too much of it and that's why Moffat scripts are better for me. Yet I can still appreciate it when it is finely done and I agree that doctor who has lost quite a bit of its effect.

  50. I just saw Bells of St John, is it me or does it look like a weird super-glossy shouty hysterical caricature Dr Who episode that feels like someone has tried to make a Hollywood style parody of what the Doctor should look like, but has completely left the heart and soul out? Is it me or is Smith gurning and twirling like an idiot, and is this new companion a smug and brittle smart arse that would look more at home in Hollyoaks? just askin.

    1. It was quite, quite awful, wasn't it? It's purely a kiddy show now.

  51. Jesus Christ. I bet you're all a gas at parties.

  52. Thank you. I've been trying to figure out a way to summarize my dislike for the Moffat run but could never quite figure it out. To be honest, I don't think I have seen one episode in the past three seasons that measures up to the emotional intensity, pacing, and characterization of Midnight. Further from that, apart from Clara being wicked hot, I don't really care about her character or mystery arc because I just have this sinking feeling that the reveal is going to be 1) underwhelming and 2) reek of the writers' self-congratulatory "cleverness". I'm still going to watch it because of Matt Smith's Doctor, but everything else sounds like white noise.

    Also, I think it should be added that Doctor Who didn't start marketing through Hot Topic until Moffat's run. That probably sums up everything you need to know about the fanbase he is (intentionally or accidentally) playing to.

  53. I agree. RTD was far from perfect but at least in his era I genuinely gave a damn about the characters and the story lines. With Moffat's episodes I've noticed that I've just stopped caring.
    Doctor Who means a lot to me which is why I'm still watching but that's really the only reason, I watch for the sake of it, because its Doctor Who, and spend most of the episode waiting for it to finish/hoping for something good. I'm not really cynical (although when you look at what's happened to the show I really should be), I try to look on the positive side when I watch a new episode. But lately, even with Jenna and Matt's wonderful chemistry and beautiful visual effects - it's really kinda hard.

    I just don't care anymore. As much as I like Matt Smith and think he's very talented one super emotionally charged speech can't save an overall crappy episode. I acknowledge that Moffat has some brilliant writing skills but that's sure as heck not obvious from Doctor Who right now.
    Everything is just goddamn underdeveloped. The characters (especially the female ones), the relationships between the characters, the villains, the plot, the monsters. I would happily pick a more Coronation Street style of era over this - sc-fi is great but the viewer needs to connect with something or else you run the risk of producing a flashy thing with no substance i.e. Moffat's Who.

    I hate it when fans blindly love something too. Oh my god you are allowed to like Doctor Who, you're allowed to write massive essays about just what's so brilliant about it and talk about it all day. But at the same time someone else is allowed to watch it, enjoy it (or maybe not, whatever) but find a problem with it. It's especially worrying when people raise issues with the show being sexist or racist or homophobic and they get told to 'shut up and stop ruining the fun'. Amy and River Song had the potential to be great characters but they literally got no development. Who do you think of if i say; sexy, snarky, feisty, flirty, smart, funny and good with a gun? Basically any of Moffat's women. Give me a girl who doesn't do well under pressure and who can say insensitive things sometimes. Give me a goddamn character please.

    This whole thing about the Doctor being the One. The God. THE HERO WHO WE MUST FORGIVE EVEN WHEN HE'S ACTUALLY DONE SOMETHING REALLY WRONG. It's not only getting old fast but it puts my teeth on edge. What's wrong with giving the Doctor a freaking character arc? Or have him learn/be punished for doing something bad?

    Okay so this post got out of hand. I just want Moffat to step down and have someone who a) respects the show b) respects the audience c) knows what they're doing come along and take over.

    It's not that I want my Doctor Who back. It's that I want the good Doctor Who back. I wish Moffat wasn't writing the 50th anniversary.

  54. This article perfectly sums up everything that's wrong with new-Who. I'm glad to know I'm not alone in thinking its become so far removed from the original series its basically an utterly different, and not very good, show. I hope one day it will return to its roots.

  55. "how did that get past the first draft?"

    I get the feeling that it didn't. If you're showrunner, you get to have your first draft praised to the skies (or if you're Moffat under RTD's tenure, the one person whose scripts he never tampered with - I can almost hear Rob Shearman's teeth grating from here).

    But anyway. You have put your finger on just about everything I've stumbled to express on various forums since 2005 (often in the face of hordes telling me how wunnerful the latest offering is). Is the showrunner system normal nowadays? If so, plenty of programmes seem to do OK despite it - if not, why the *&^%$ does it have to apply to "Doctor Who", which started life as a team effort and did brilliantly well as a result - there aren't too many other shows celebrating 50 years.

    (Although I suppose the logic is a *little* flawed - did "Randall and Hopkirk" celebrate its 40th anniversary after the remake? But Who has far more claim to have a birthday bash, though less so than Coronation Street - that really *has* been going for half a century!)

  56. is it my imagination or is Clara a bit Hollyoaks humdrum? she is ok, I dont dislike her, and anything is better than the Ponds, but after many episodes she doesnt interest me at all.

  57. This post is the best-written thing I've read about the new Dr. Who and most of the comments after it have made my day, especially the ones that also call the RTD era onto the mat. I didn't know this many people felt the way I do about the Dr Who reboot. I would just add that the problems have a lot to do with the BBC in general, too. Just the reliance on loud music is enough of a difference from the old show to wreck the new ones for me. When I first started the David Tennant ones I kept thinking a commercial break was coming up every five minutes because of the way the music constantly crescendoed and just never shut up.

  58. And look, I love Christopher Ecclestone's Doctor, but the problem started there. From the beginning of the reboot the Doctor was established as the focus of each episode simply by giving him that tragic backstory of being The Last Doctor, and the series became too Earth-centered.

  59. That was long. I'd been hoping Moffat would leave so I could watch Doctor Who again, since people make the presumption that these stories are disposable and won't be sustained in digital format for our lives. But like you said, we'd have to live up to Douglas Adams and those other people, and those people are deceased.

  60. It's the death of television, really, that is to blame. All standards across the board have just plummeted, and reality TV is the root cause. Quality comedy, quality drama - these are things really that stopped in the early 80's.

    I think the main point I agree with here is that being a fan of Doctor Who is now an empty thing. It used to mean being part of this incredible narrative, where the main character remained an enigma. Now we are seeing his wife, his daughter, his friggin tomb, all for the sake of the lifelong fans who have infiltrated the BBC imposing their own 'geekery' and futile retconning onto what already has been.

    The great writers of Who - and Moffat too, until series 4 - have always taken the stories to somewhere Doctor Who had not been before. And not just for the sake of it either, not just for the gratification, but for the SAKE OF TELLING GOOD STORIES. Good stories are a thing of the past in today's Doctor Who, its all about ticking the friggin boxes now. And whilst ever they: a) keep the one 45 minute episode format, b) have a lifelong fan (puke) in the Exec's chair, and c) try to adhere to the 'brand' at all times, this will stay the same.

  61. so..Capaldi. Totally underwhelmed and disappointed I expected someone edgy and interesting, this guy has been around forever. I dont care if hes a lifelong Who fan, So am I but that doesnt mean I would make a good Doctor. Is he bestie mates with Moffat?

  62. I am an American & I'm very proud to say that I grew up with the original Doctor Who in the 80s & 90s & there'll never be a better Doctor than number 4, Tom Baker. But the new show's storylines are really very ridiculous compared to the original. Many of the episodes make no sense when put together with previous episodes of even the new series, much less the old. I only watch it simply because I am such a long time fan but during much of this series, I find myself gritting my teeth & forcing myself to bear it. The producers & writers are absolutely terrible

  63. Stephen Moffat is the Brannon Braga of Doctor Who.
    His one off or two part episodes during the Davies era were fun and full of intriguing ideas.
    As showrunner, he is again like Braga, a failure on an epic scale. Too clever but fall apart story arcs, characters who only serve the plot rather than the plot servicing the characters. He also has a massive ego which is quite distasteful.

    If he outstays his welcome past series 8, call him the Rick Berman of Doctor Who.

  64. the strangest thing is even davies made more orginal pieces than moffat episodes like the end of the world,smith and jones, and midnight come to mind. also if you really think about other then the empy child 2 parter his other stories are unorginal. The girl in the fireplace is moffats version of rose in a standalone story. Blink is a repeat of love and monsters thats just better executed. and silence in the libary is just a ripoff of all of moffats past work put together leading into his lost, twilight, soap opera series.

  65. Thanks for an intelligent and well written article, and also (like previous commenters) for reassuring me that the universe hasn't gone completely mad. I'll definitely check out your recommended episodes. It is a great shame how the once original and inspiring Doctor Who has become so mediocre in recent years, converted into a vehicle for tick-box tv. Yet it is still trumpeted as 'the greatest role on television', when Peter Capaldi was unveiled recently. Glad to read a riposte to Stephen Fry too, who we could all do with hearing a little less from. I hope it does one day return to its former glory and broaden minds again.

  66. Moffat just killed Doctor Who.

  67. The regeneration Christmas episode was dreadful.

    1. I would go as far to say it could be a contender for the worse episode of all time.

  68. You hit the nail on the head with your comments on "plot arcs". I remember the first time I heard gushing about the supposed "sophistication" of season long arcs over episodic series was with Babylon 5, long the darling of geeks and cultish SF fans (not that it was bad, just attracted some very annoying fans, kind of like Dr Who). Ever since, it seems "plot arcs" are taken to be a sign of some sort of sophistication and maturity, regardless of whether they improve the show, or distract from what could otherwise be excellent stand-alone episodes.

    Then again, plot arcs are a darling of geeks, as they create something geeks love, as "us and them" mindset, allowing "true fans" who watched every episode from the beginning, followed secondary sources, debated theories on line, and so on, to divorce themselves from "noobs" and "casual viewers" who don't obsessively follow the program. So, it is not surprising that when Dr Who fell into the hands of geeks the plot arcs would follow.

    Though, to be fair, I have a feeling RTD was drawing his arcs more from his soap opera experience (for what was Queer as Folk if not a gay soap?) rather than from geekery, but Moffat does seem firmly in the geek camp. Which makes one thing odd. Moffat has written a more soap opera Dr. Who that RTD. The way plots never resolve, the mystery about River's identity, the way no one every dies and characters keep coming back. It is pure soap. Which may explain why I have become so apathetic about the show of late.

    For the record, I am one of those "rose colored spectacles" viewers. I found Dr Who on American public TV back when it first came over, in my youth, and I insisted on watching my 30 minute installment of Tom Baker every day, without fail. I later watched it in my teens, when PBS showed it at midnight, running all the way from the surviving Hartnell episodes through whoever the current Who was, be it Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy (he and Sophie Aldred even came to Maryland to assist in PBS fund raising a few years after the show was cancelled.) But I was also an early booster of the new series, even forgave it some of its early faults, but, over time, came to be frustrated with RTD's shortcomings and, for a time, welcomed Moffat. But, very shortly. I came to find his flaws even worse than RTD's and, as with many here, though I continued to watch sporadically, fell out of love with NuWho.