Some of you will read the title to this article and immediately come to understand exactly what it is I’m talking about. Most of you, on the other hand, will only be able to recall that Steven Moffat is a Whovian God who can do no wrong over the course of the next few paragraphs. Well, everyone has their opinion, I suppose. Now, I wouldn’t outright call these the top 5 betrayals of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who. I think they’re something more like the Top 5 Deep, Disturbing, and Dastardly Disappointments of what is probably the most beloved science fiction television show next to the original Star Trek.
If you’re someone who watches Doctor Who solely for entertainment and think Steven Moffat’s the next best thing since Terry Nation, Robert Holmes, or sliced bread, you won’t like what I have to say. And if you’re someone who thinks Classic Who sucks, and that this Davies/Moffat era of NuWho is the definitive be-all-end-all incarnation of our whimsical Gallifreyan hero, then you probably won’t like what I have to say either.
Now, let me make things clear before we progress any further. Some people have criticized my dislike for many of the things happening in Doctor Who lately because I dislike Matt Smith’s portrayal, or much of the actors in general, or other aspects of the production. Uh, no . . . That’s definitely not the case. I actually like Matt Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor. To say the least, Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor is fantastic, full of energy, witty, and a bit cartoony at times, but that’s okay, because it’s very different from anything else that’s been done. (Well, one could argue Matt Smith’s Doctor is a more exaggerated combination of the Fourth and Sixth, but whatever). Just about everything in the show has been perfect, really. In fact, production quality has markedly improved, as well. Except the writing. Yes, I think the writing has been crap.
Steven Moffat’s first episode for Doctor Who’s new series was a little two parter consisting of The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances. Later on, he would go on to write Blink (which I still consider to be his greatest piece and probably the best forty five minutes of television next to Star Trek’s The City On The Edge of Forever). But those were the simpler times of Steven Moffat. Now, he has a tendency to over complicate things by making clever time jumps and paradoxes and whatnot and . . . Well, just because an idea seems clever, doesn’t mean it makes sense or is one hundred percent sound. These “clever” antics that Moffat loves to pull off crop up in most of his episodes, and while they might seem like really good ideas at first glance, some thinking (yes, it’s what you do with your brain) will reveal to you that the shit’s been hitting the fan since April 3, 2010.
When Who fans first heard Steven Moffat was going to be the head writer for series 5 and beyond, they literally went wild. With such a good track record what could possibly go wrong? This is the man who brought us the Weeping Angels and River Song! Anyway, most of the fans would be pleased with the results, while a minority would express their disappointment. Sadly and unfortunately, I’m a part of that minority of fans. Trust me when I say, though, that I don’t entirely hate what’s been happening in the Whoniverse lately. I am just very displeased with the a certain part of it. Specifically, Steven Moffat’s part in it.
Here they are ladies and gentlemen:
5 – THE DALEKS
Mary, mother of Jesus, how the hell can you possibly screw this up? Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking how I’m another one of those fans who are going to complain about the Dalek’s new rainbow color scheme. Well, yeah, the Power Rangers’ motif Moffat’s got going on does kind of bother me, but not as much as this colossal screw up:
I’m sure many of you recognize this screenshot from The Pandorica Opens. How is this a colossal screw up, you ask? Oh, well, maybe it’s because any true Doctor Who fan knows the Daleks would NEVER join forces with anyone but their own damn selves. I mean a Dalek is even quoted as saying, in 1973’s Death to the Daleks, “Daleks do not require the co-operation of inferior creatures!”. Also, let’s not forget we recently saw the Cybermen attempt to join forces with the Daleks in 2006’s Doomsday, and that didn’t go so well . . . So why, would they join forces with anybody now? Folks, it doesn’t matter who has the Doctor pinned or cornered, or what the circumstances are, the Daleks would NEVER join forces with anyone. Never! It’s against their philosophy and it’s most definitely out of their character. In actuality, the Daleks would prefer to crush the Doctor themselves. Would they not? It’s stated over and over again, not just in the classic series, but in the Russell T Davies’ run, that these things cannot be trusted or bargained with. Ever.
Now, in The Pandorica Opens, we’re supposed to believe that the reason why the Daleks joined forces with everyone else was because the Doctor was somehow discovered to be the end of the entire universe. *Sighs* And yet, at the end of series 4, the “end of the universe” is exactly what the Daleks were trying to CAUSE with the creation of their Reality Bomb. I could take this discussion in a number of directions, but I’d probably end up writing a book on how wrong this entire plot point of The Pandorica Opens is on so many levels. I’ll just leave you with the thought of the Reality Bomb, and how the Daleks could have just used the Doctor to their own advantage to cause the end of the universe (like they really would do), while figuring out a way to survive the onslaught (just as they did in series 4), instead of teaming up with everyone .
4 – THE SILENTS
“Oh, how could you hate on the Silents? They’re such an awesome bunch, man!” Oh, please. Some simple thinking will reveal to you that Steven Moffat ripped off his very own creation, The Weeping Angels. What happens when you don’t observe a Weeping Angel? They’re able to move and sneak up on you, am I right? And what happens when you don’t observe a Silent? You forget they ever even existed, right? Am I the only one seeing a pattern here? When you’re not observing these two creatures, there is some sort of effect. Though the effects are different, in essence, it’s the very same gimmick all over again! GIMMICK!
I understand that the idea of matter being fundamentally different or changed when we’re not directly observing it in its many forms is an idea derived from quantum mechanics (If you want to know what I’m talking about refer to this video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc), but it was unwise of Moffat to use the same gimmick twice; it only proves how incompetent of a writer he can be at times. Now, if someone could just do a comedy skit in which a group of Weeping Angels and Silents attempt to become room mates only to discover that their very own eyes have doomed them to failure.
Also, are we to really believe that The Silents have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, influencing the history of Earth all the while? Are we suppose to assume then, they existed all throughout the Classic Who and Russell T Davies Era? That they were influencing and scheming even then? I understand the Silents want the Doctor dead because of some B.S prophecy, but man, if that’s the case, they had a TON of opportunities to end him. Why didn’t they? Well, because they didn’t really exist until Steven Moffat came along. Doctor Who (not entirely mind you, but partly) has become something like the Star Wars Prequels. Moffat’s just making up all this stuff as he goes along, without realizing how it affects just about everything else in the Whoniverse. None of it fits, and none of it really makes any sense. Which leads me into my next topic: If the Silents have been around for longer than the Doctor, and have had every opportunity to kill him , then why would they complicate things and create a weapon people would later refer to as “River Song”? Why send a woman to do a Silent’s job, know what I’m sayin’?
3 – RIVER SONG
When it comes down to it, the revelation surrounding River Song’s entire origin is probably one of the greatest disappointments I‘ve had to face with Moffat’s run. It’s also slightly disturbing, when you really think about it. I’m sure most of the fans thought that River Song was in some way a Time Lord. From the get-go that detail was pretty much a given; there were just so many clues, especially in series 5. I do like the idea of River Song having been made as a sort of weapon to kill the Doctor, but I strongly dislike the idea of River being the daughter of Amy Pond and Rory Williams.
Think about it for a second, the Doctor is married to the daughter of his companions. Not only that, it has become very clear to us that the Doctor has known River in some way since birth. I mean just look at this picture, the Doctor’s holding baby River’s hand:
What else needs to be said? Steven Moffat’s turned the Doctor into something akin to the Twilight Saga’s own Jacob, who falls in love with a newborn baby. It’s not exactly the same premise, but I’m sure you can understand where I’m coming from. The Doctor’s technically known River since she was baby. A BABY! A baby who, mind you, eventually grows up to become the woman known as River Song, who in turn . . . uh, engages in coitus with the Doctor, which she implies in The Impossible Astronaut, by stating “I’m a good screamer”. Dear God. Yes, sex is a normal thing between two people. But for the love of God, this is the daughter of the Doctor’s two companions. Then there’s the joke River makes about having threesomes with two Doctors in a Good Man Goes to War. Sure, the joke would fly over the head of most children, but Who is still essentially a children’s show.
Am I the only one who sees what’s wrong with this entire plot thread? It’s for stuff like this that I cannot even begin to fathom why people are hailing Moffat as Who’s next best writer. He was able to turn the Doctor/River relationship from mysterious and intriguing, to uninteresting and downright creepy. Yes, creepy. Creepy and perverted. In the end, this marriage ruins one of the central points of Doctor Who: The Doctor is a lonely space traveler, a renegade both blessed and cursed by his ancestors. He’s not supposed to get married! Not to mention, River is no longer as interesting a character as she used to be.
Also, River’s creation makes no sense. So The Silence (or the Silents, depending on which section of the group you’re referring to), wanted to make their own time lord weapon to kill the Doctor. It’s a neat idea, but with all the technology and trickery available in the Universe, did they really need to go as far as to use the Doctor’s TARDIS to expose Amy’s fetus to the time vortex, thus granting the newborn baby the necessary time lord DNA? I don’t know. The existence of Vortex Manipulators in the Whoniverse implies that there may be other methods of time travel, and definitely other ways of accessing the time vortex. In essence, the Silence could have probably created an army of time lords if they wanted to. I mean, they’ve been around long enough; I’m sure they could have had the time to figure it all out.
2 – MOFFAT’S EGO
Yes, Moffat’s ego. After brilliant Doctor Who stories like Blink and Silence in the Library, Moffat has never quite recaptured the essence of what made those episodes so great. And that’s because, lately, he’s been focusing so much on how to be clever and design overly complex and elaborate story arcs, that all the meaty details get lost in a bale of time trickery and plot twists. Moffat just keeps trying to show the audience how slick he is, but what he ends up doing is creating a mess that literally caves in on itself. Ultimately, Moffat’s clever writing has gotten in the way of making a sensible overarching plot, and the development of his characters. Series five’s finale, The Big Bang, was entertaining in how it connected much of the series in a neat bow, but overall, it became confusing if you thought about it too much, and that shouldn’t happen in a show like this. In fact, thinking about something should clarify things, not make them worse. But anyway, we’ll get back to The Big Bang in the next section. Characters seem to be a problem for Moffat. They all seem to conveniently react to the events occurring around them so that the plot can proceed moving forward. Alright, so Amy Pond and Rory Williams find out their daughter is River Song. Cool. In the process of trying to find her baby, Amy grieves and grows a bit frustrated about getting her back. That’s great. But Amy never really has a hard time accepting the fact that her own daughter has grown up alongside her throughout her childhood, becomes River Song, marries the Doctor, and will probably outlive her. Not to mention, her body was literally used by Madame Kovarian and The Silence to create this “time lord weapon”, and Amy, conveniently, sort of just accepts the whole thing. Yes, she struggles a bit with what’s happened to her, and even has her revenge on Kovarian. But there aren’t any repercussions, she sort of just accepts everything that’s happened, as awkward or out-of-this-world as it may be. We don’t ever see her really having a hard time accepting the fact that her daughters grown up in a matter of seconds before her eyes, or that she’s married to a 900 year old alien. Don’t you think all the events surrounding Amy in series six would have provoked a mental breakdown, or something? Come on! But no, it’s “brilliant writing”, because it’s all so “timey-wimey” and messes with your head in unimaginable ways, right? No, it’s not.
I’m not saying Amy and Rory as characters are terrible or pointless. I think they’re actually wonderful characters. But on some level, Moffat has made them pointless among other characters, because he treats them all like chess pieces and not actual people. He places so much effort ( as I’ve said) into making an elaborate, clever, twisty plot, that he forgets to work on the things that are more important. It’s as if he’s really just trying to show off. I think if he just stopped for a second and focused on what made episodes like Blink and The Girl in the Fireplace great, we’d have a really awesome show again. Unfortunately, Moffat continues to insist that time be twisted into its own ass for the sake of shocking or surprising the audience. But, surprise, Doctor Who isn’t necessarily about time travel. Time Travel is one of the shows elements, yes, and a major one at that. However, while there have been a variety episodes over the years (both in the classic and new era) that further explored the concept of time travel, at it’s core Doctor Who is really just Sherlock Holmes in space, and I think many of you Classic Who fans will agree. Classic Who focused a lot on the mystery and horror of things, and science was usually involved somehow (as faulty or implausible as it was), not exclusively on time travel. If you want excessive time twisting, go watch Back to the Future II or F.A.Q About Time Travel, they’re great films.
After two seasons of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who, though, it has become increasingly clear to me that he should have never become the head writer. When it comes to single episodes Moffat has proven he’s damn good writer. But now, in control of an entire show, it appears he’s turned the whole thing into an ego trip to show off how clever he is. Moffat is still a great writer, but there needs to be some quality control, especially in the episodes he doesn’t write. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.
1 – THE BIG BANG and AMY’S REMEMBRANCE
Overall, I feel series six was very much a letdown. Aside from Moffat’s own disappointing and senseless plot occurrences, many of the stories either didn’t work, or just couldn’t live up to their own good ideas ( I think Neil Gaiman’s The Doctor’s Wife is the only exception). On the other hand, series 5, up until the finale, had a pretty good run of episodes from Vincent and the Doctor to The Vampires of Venice, and Amy’s Choice. I even liked the two-parter that featured the rebooted Silurians. However, I did thinkt The Big Bang was questionable on just about every level, particularly when it came to Amy’s remembrance.
We’re to believe at the conclusion of The Big Bang that Amy was able to bring The Doctor back into existence (in a rebooted universe, no less), because she “remembered” the Doctor. It’s a neat idea that also happens to be based on a bit of quantum mechanics, which is cool. Here’s the problem with this whole plot thread, though. Aside from being a rebooted Universe (we’ll get back to it in a second), we know as an audience that Amy only personally knows the Doctor in his eleventh incarnation, and that she could only possibly remember the times she shared with said incarnation. Amy remembering the Doctor could certainly bring him back, I guess, but it would have to be a new version of the Doctor. Do you understand what I’m saying here? Amy knows nothing about the Doctor’s past ten incarnations, nor has she any idea of their adventures and the effect said adventures have had on the universe.
Also, before the Doctor makes his resurrection, the Universe has already been rebooted, effectively erasing decades upon decades of continuity. Are we supposed to assume that the Doctor’s return means a reestablishment of the whole canon? But how? It’s Amy’s remembrance that brings the Doctor back, but Amy can only remember so much. This is why the whole she-bang makes no sense at all. Steven Moffat has effectively rebooted the Doctor Whoniverse, and brought back the Doctor into a shell of his former self. No matter how you cut it, or try to explain it, The Big Bang screws with continuity in ways we can’t possibly begin to imagine. Amy does not remember Genesis of the Daleks, The Edge of Destruction, or Inferno. So how is it that the Doctor’s history is brought back into the Universe? Again, Amy remembers only parts of the whole, the Doctor’s been around for more than 900 years. And sentient, intelligent beings, don’t exactly come prepackaged with memories. They are things that must be made, day by day.
Amy’s remembrance also raises other questions. In a rebooted Universe where the Doctor did not exist, wouldn’t the Universe, as we the viewers know it, be completely different and screwed up? Wouldn’t that mean the universe would now consist of a reality where the Daleks, Sontarans, and Cybermen have succeeded in their past plans? Wouldn’t the universe, as a result, be embroiled in an all out war? If that’s the case, then why is the Earth so peaceful and Amy’s having a wedding? Am I supposed to believe that the Doctor’s resurrection returns everything back to normal?
I respect Steven Moffat. I really do, and like I’ve already said, I don’t think he’s really a bad writer. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s great, but at the moment, he’s being misguided by his own ego. Perhaps there’s a voice in Moffat’s head; his own voice, that tells him: “You can do no wrong”. And then he smiles over a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal, surrounded by rainbow colored Dalek plushies as Madame Kovarian combs his hair. Okay, maybe not.
But what if Steven Moffat really isn’t a great writer? What if Blink and The Girl in the Fireplace were just . . . flukes? It’s something that’s happens all the time in every medium. Also, there have been times where Moffat’s been unable to tell what makes good writing. Just take this quote here, from the man himself:
“If you look at other stuff from the Sixties they weren’t crap – it was just Doctor Who. The first episode of Doctor Who betrays the lie that it’s just the Sixties, because the first episode is really good – the rest of it’s shit.”
The rest of it’s shit? Really? Steven Moffat was supposedly drunk when he said this, but drunkenness usually reveals the true uninhibited self, so I take these words not with a grain of salt, but as the truth. It’s also claimed that he’s taken back these words time and time again over the last ten years, but . . . come on, now. There are a lot of great Classic Who stories, and many of them were actually made in the 1960’s. The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Tomb of the Cybermen, and The Mind Robber are just a few I could think of off the top of my head. And I think any true Whovian can attest that Classic Who, whether it’s from the sixties or not, is, has, and always will be great.
I really don’t know how to conclude this rant of mine. I think the only thing I could do is ask a few more questions. What if Steven Moffat was never made head writer of Doctor Who? What would River Song’s origin story be like, then? Moffat certainly wouldn’t have had the room or leverage to tell such an expansive story as he recently did. And there’s a good chance that if he did have a head writer over him, the companions, whoever they are, wouldn’t have turned out to become River’s parents. It’s a strange thought, knowing that there was possibly another version of River’s origin in his head. I don’t know. Maybe he just made it all up as he went along. I’m really only guessing.