Monday, October 3, 2011

Russell T. Davies VS Steven Moffat (A Doctor Who Comparison)

After having watched and reviewed the last episode of DOCTOR WHO this Series, I feel the need to get a few things out. So bear with me as I go over a few things, and perhaps vent a bit.

I have watched the re-launched DOCTOR WHO (circa 2005-present) since it began airing week to week on the CBC in Canada (who ponied up some of the dough for the show in 2005 and is considered co-financier company for Series 1). I got to re-embrace a TV show that I LOVED as a child, and over time the show took my top spot for weekly viewing. I never missed it, talked about it endlessly, debated it with friends, and purchased many t-shirts and collectables.

Six (nearly seven) years later, the show has moved on from its re-launched showrunner Russell T. Davies and its first two stars Christopher Eccelstone (9th Doctor) and David Tennant (10th Doctor), to be run by a different person and have different stars. This is a long running aspect of the show. Since its inception in the early 1960’s it has been about the character moreso than the stars playing him. So when Matt Smith took over the TARDIS duties (as 11th Doctor) it was somewhat par for the course for DW. Yes, we’d all miss Tennant, but the show would go on and in the hands of arguably its most capable writer (other than Davies himself) Steven Moffat (BLINK, THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE) right?


Chris and I talked at length about the issues we had with the 6th Series of DW in the last two Giggle Loop Podcasts, and I’m sure you can see my feelings about the show in my reviews, but I felt like I had so much more to say beyond a review about the show in general that I’d write a Post-Season wrap up article, and this is going to include some rather venting-type statements.

The differences between Steven Moffat’s DOCTOR WHO and Russell T. Davies DOCTOR WHO become more glaring with every episode that airs, and after the finale THE WEDDING Of RIVER SONG I feel that the shows have become so different as to be unrecognizable from one another. In fact, I’d wager if you had someone unaccustomed sit down and watch Series 2 and chase it with Series 6 they’d tell you that it was two different shows. I’m going to break down my issues into categories.

The Doctor

RTD’s Doctor (both 9th and 10th) had a level of mystique, but rarely made anyone feel like they were lesser because of not knowing. They were also charming, funny and emotional. When the scene called for it those two incarnations could be comedic, unrepentantly angry, near tears emotional, or even just manic and running. RTD’s Doctor had a soul. He had a dark history that was layered with things like being forced as a child to look into the vortex of time itself (the un-tempered schism) to become a time lord, he had witnessed and been on the front lines of a war that decimated both the Time Lord and Dalek population to the point where it had to be locked out of reality lest it destroy everything. RTD invented the Time Lord infantryman. The shell-shocked, PTSD Doctor who had not only experienced horrors of a war, but had been responsible for sealing his own people into a locked state of hell. Imagine carrying that around and STILL wanting to save the universe. That was what RTD brought when he revived the franchise. He gave us something to identify with, while at the same time not entirely human and in need of such humanity to make him whole. He gave us the broken, hollow, shell of a great man who could do so much good, and told us how his interactions with some people started to fill him up inside and make him better again. But he never lost the core of who he was, and what he had experienced. So that even by the time we got to Series 4 he was still acting off the impulses of a man who had been through these things. Week to week he showed some aspect of that personality, and it always made each of the stories that were being told that much more compelling because of who he was as an individual. That was part of the magic in the show and part of what kept me coming back every Saturday.

Moffat took that man and turned him into something different. Whether the reasoning behind that was to wipe away what RTD did or not I can’t say. I must admit it feels that way sometimes though. Very little of the person who both Eccelstone and Tennant played exists in Matt Smith’s Doctor. Yes he’s mentioned the Time War, and shown his regular contempt for the Daleks and Cybermen ect., but it’s always as an afterthought. And while I’m not saying I want an emo-Doctor all the time or something, it would be nice if the 11th Doctor had to deal with his past more often and at least show shades of his previous incarnations. Yes, he’s been filled up with humanity by the companions he’s come into contact with, but he shouldn’t forget who he is and where he came from either. So now he’s a madman with a box. He’s scatterbrained, plays his cards close to his chest, and for the most part doesn’t treat his companions the same (see Companions category below for more info) as his past incarnations did. It seems he thinks that damned near everything is a secret and should not be shared with anyone. We not seen that level of secrecy since the 7th Doctor’s (Sylvester McCoy) last season, and I’m now totally positive it’s a bad thing. The Doctor should still be mysterious to an extent, but whereas the 9th and 10th Doctor’s would share important info with their companions, 11 rarely does. In fact, never has more been kept secret between The Doctor and the companions (Amy’s Schrodinger baby, pregnant/not pregnant, Rory doesn’t know about Flesh Amy), nor from the Doctor himself (River, Amy, and Rory not telling the Doctor of his impending death) and such cracks are showing their wear to me. The whole point of this show has always been how the Doctor has companions who temper him, make him better and more human and more often than not HELP him solve the mystery or issue at hand in any given episode. Chris and I were discussing it and he noted (paraphrasing) “it seems like more and more as the 11th Doctor matures as a character he’s becoming more condescending and dismissive whereas 9th and 10th were merely excitable with poor impulse control.” And I think he’s totally correct on that. I’m also fairly positive I dislike the condescension and dismissiveness that 11 shows.


RTD’s era had more than a few memorable companions. Rose Tyler, Mickey Smith, Martha Jones, Donna Noble, and Jack Harkness were the main ones and then we can add a few of the smaller role companions like Sally Sparrow, Wilfred Mott, Sarah Jane Smith, Adelaide Brooke, Lady Christina de Souza, and Jackson Lake to the roster. With every one of those companions the Doctor had a different relationship, but one that was always poignant to the story told and especially to the overall personality of the Doctor himself. What I mentioned before about tempering him. While they all exhibited some of each of the following traits I think we can break them down into a few specifics: Rose (basic love), Mickey (sacrifice), Martha (unrequited love), Donna (strength & humour), Jack Harkness (passion), Sally (conviction), Wilfred (blind faith/belief), Sarah Jane (loyalty), Adelaide Brooke (truth), Lady Christina (admiration), Jackson Lake (emulation), and even The Master (not that he was a companion) eventually showed the Doctor something (brotherly conflict, and ultimately familial love). That’s what RTD gave us in companions. One thing Chris noted this morning to me and I think it rings excessively true was that no matter what was going on in any given episode, the Doctor more often than not had his companion at his side and they’d jointly solve the issue. Whatever happened they would always work together as equals and whatever the problem was they would approach it as a team. The base was ALWAYS the friendship. Always.

Moffat has removed a significant number of things that made companions relevant to the Doctor. Another paraphrased quote from Chris is that “whereas RTD had the Companions working alongside the Doctor as equals who always punched above their weight, Moffat has Smith treating Amy and Rory like kittens that need to be protected so they don’t get killed.” And I think he’s bang on there. If you think about it Amy and Rory almost never are on screen with the Doctor at the same time during the crisis, and they rarely solve the problem or issue at hand as a team with him. Instead he usually has to tell them what to do to save the day. Like when Amy is lost in THE GIRL WHO WAITED and the Doctor issues orders to Rory as to what to do from the TARDIS. Though Rory eventually does a few things on his own in regards to the situation, it’s still basically the Doctor who is in control at the end of the episode. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing as he clearly knows a lot about the perils and pitfalls in the universe, but we rarely get into a situation where the companions are doing anything to help the Doctor in which he NEEDS them at all. So gone are the days when the companions fulfilled their tempering job and made the Doctor more human it would seem. In fact any time one of the two tries to show the Doctor how harsh he is being (usually Rory yelling at him) he kind of just shrugs it off and I guess we are expected to accept that this Doctor is just a less human inside and more of an alien. But I think that’s going to be missed, simply because part of what has always made the character so compelling is the humanity inside him. So here we have a Doctor who won’t allow an older Amy into the TARDIS with young Amy because it’s a paradox, but the same person will allow a paradox like the whole Amy/Doctor in the Pandorica Sonic Screwdriver escape thing. I think there is a disconnect there. Like in THE GIRL WHO WAITED the aspect of the Doctor not allowing old Amy into the TARDIS paradox is cashed in as an emotional heartstrings moment, because the show has crossed the timey-wimey paradoxical bridge more than a few times in the last few seasons. So having two Amy’s briefly in the TARDIS (something that funnily enough actually DID happen in the mini-sodes that aired last year) while they find somewhere for old Amy to go to seems exceptionally harsh as an act by a man who has said things are impossible and paradoxical A LOT of times and overcomes them. I’m probably nitpicking, but this is an example of another difference in the show recently that I think is detrimental to overall enjoyment. And the base of it now never actually feels like friendship as it did before and instead feels more like master and servant.

I also don’t really care as much what happens to either Amy or Rory most days and I certainly don’t care about what happens to River Song. None of their various mortal perils' has created in me any kind of tension about them surviving. Add to this aspects like Amy seemingly not caring about her child after she’s taken and accepting that someday she’ll be River so all will work out well, it all rings sort of blankly to me. I got more out of the frozen/out once a year/opera singer from last years Christmas Special than I think I’ve ever gotten from Amy or Rory. Though Rory has frequently gotten the badass award from me, I don’t think it’s enough in the long run.


I just want to note something Chris mentioned to me. In RTD’s era there was always a big bad, and it was almost always dealt with in one Series (Daleks, Cybermen & Daleks, The Master, Davros, The Time Lords themselves) and though he might revisit previous big bad’s (see Series 2, 3 and 4) you always had some sort of closure going into the following Series. With Moffat, The Silence/Silents, have been used from the outset of Series 5 and you’d think that by the end of Series 6 we’d more than simply vague information about who they are, why they care and the like. It seems like they are going to continue to be a big bad in Series 7 (unless I miss my guess), and at this point I’m simply fed-up with them. They aren’t interesting anymore and I got more out of 3 episodes with the Weeping Angels than I ever have with the Silence. My big gripe here is this: Fresh ideas Moffat. When you use the same villain (sometimes secondary villain) as the big bad in 2 full series and then set them up as the big bad in the 3rd Series under your tenure, there’s a problem. Give us something else. I would have been happy if the Silents had been revealed at the end of Series 5 and dealt with…but no we continue to use them and the weirdest thing about it all is that every time I think they are the big bad, something happens that drops them into the secondary villain category, which only serves to confuse me. And don’t get me started on Moffat treating the Daleks and Cybermen like secondary citizens in the Who-niverse. I realize that they shouldn’t be overused, but then DON’T put them in at all is my advice! The Cybermen especially have been CRIMINALLY used this Series. In the mid-series finale they were pre-credits cannon fodder, and even in the penultimate episode CLOSING TIME they are treated like a flies to be swatted. I’m not going to lie it feels entirely disrespectful to the lineage that these various villains have been created to exemplify to use them and make them out to be just an irritating piece fluff that should be swept from your coat.

Overall Narrative and Plot Arcs

RTD took us on a long journey and showed us many things. His Doctor’s both saved the earth and the universe multiple times (sometimes to his own detriment), dealt with many enemies and friends, saw wondrous things and achieved amazing heights. What always was front and center though throughout was a fairly straightforward narrative arc. Sure sometimes he did monster-of-the-week episodes (usually with some subtle nod to the overall Series arc), but they were always clean stories with clear beginning, middle and end points. Even when they were concentrated on the overall Series arc they were not using any gimmicks to tell the story. Say what one will about RTD, he always approached the story FIRST and FOREMOST, and everything else came later. He was always concerned with his characters relationships across the board. He always addressed what his companions families thought of him whisking them away and putting them in peril, Jackie Tyler and the Noble family are the biggest in this category. I don’t care what story you are telling me, you should always pay attention to the interactions between characters as a reality for the viewer. RTD always did that during his tenure, and after reading his book about Series 4 and the 2009 Specials I am convinced of the fact.

As to Moffat's dealing of characters and reality in relation to their earthbound lives: Have we seen Amy's parents again, or Rory's parents EVER? Don't they wonder what the heck is going on?

As well, Moffat likes to use visual and narrative trickery. He always has. If you go back and watch COUPLING he had episodes concentrated on split screens in different timelines, and even one where a character speaks in another language for ten minutes and we watch it again with the opposite character speaks in another language and we understand the former. In those instances he also was telling a compelling story and it worked. He’s probably one of the most non-linear screenwriters on the planet and it always shows. You can always know his work for being his work. The problem that has arisen partly in Series 5, but really moreso in Series 6 is that it appears as if he’s using his narrative trickery as a jumping off point instead of story. So it’s almost as if he’s sitting down and thinking “I want to do a story where we introduce a character that the main character has met later in his timeline and show how their interaction would be wholly skewed and messed up by their meeting in the wrong order” and THEN cobbling a feasible story around it to fit that idea. He seems to keep doing this and every episode he writes in this way ends up being a total narrative mess that has to depend on strange plot ideas, tricks and even sometimes paradoxes to makes any sort of sense, and even then they don’t really if you look at them with any kind of discernable eye. We therefore get a situation in which the Doctor can do great things, have great moments,  and look and sound really cool while he does it…but where is the heart? Where is the emotional resonance? Where is the level of humanity I need to care? Is it cool to see the Doctor stand on the middle stone of Stonehenge and shout a speech to the alien enemies above? Yes certainly it is. What my issue is falls on the fact that it’s all rather hollow when he’s not the same person he’s always been. The 11th Doctor likes to speak fast, be glib and make references to things no one knows about, but when the entirety of the dialogue starts to depend on that to move things along, there's a problem. It definitely confuses me when he spends all of Series 5 grandstanding like he should be feared and then Series 6 closing with him feeling he needs to retreat to the shadows and be less of a presence so he can do more. Why do we even have to go to either of those extremes at all? The 9th and 10th Doctor’s always seemed to ride that line between being feared and being only one man so not worth the bother. The same thing was true of Classic Who in fact. Why did we have to go through the motions of the 11th Doctor being too big for his britches and realizing it (after two seasons) when he’s already over 900 years old and likely is already aware that he shouldn’t be too much of a presence in the universe, lest he summon the ire of his enemies? It seems like pointless busy-work to me, and should be par for the course to the Doctor.

Final Thoughts

Long story short, it’s official. No mater how much I try and no matter how much I respect what Steven Moffat has tried to do with DOCTOR WHO, the current incarnation of the show isn’t even really a shadow of the one I fell so in love with in 2005. It’s strange, even my girlfriend who is far less discerning than I in what she expects from a TV show (who I got into DW and she LOVED RTD’s era of the show), and rarely even watches Sci-fi anything, seemed a little less than excited to watch the finale (which she hasn’t done yet). I asked her why she wasn’t excited and she said “It’s just not been that good this season”. Add to that the convoluted, Series arc-dependant nature of Moffat’s DW has actually alienated a few “casual” viewers that I know, including my own fifteen-year old niece and another good friend of mine. Making every episode depend in some way on the one that came before or the three that came before totally destroys any aspect that makes it easy for a casual viewer to come miss an episode. So unless you see the ones that came before you can’t figure out what the heck is going on and those casual viewers are going to flip the channel.

I’m still a big fan and I’ll continue to watch of course and hopefully enjoy some more episodes down the line, but I think there will now forever be a part of me that is more at home watching RTD’s era Series on DVD than I ever will be with what is airing on TV. And to me that’s sad.


  1. Under Davies the show annoyed me more often then not. The only reason i continued to watch was Moffat's and few other authors wonderful contributions.

    I didn't read your entire blog so i apologize if i'm out of line and uninformed here but this is just my opinion. (i have class, so i'm pressed for time)

    Davies kept coming back to the same stupid aliens and his writing wasn't nearly as clean and humorous as Moffat's. By season four i was so sick of Dalecks and Cyber men i almost didn't bother with it. I slogged through it to season five when i found out that Moffat was taking over. I came to the party late, watching all of the stuff on Netflix over the course of about 8 months. I just finished season 5 and i can say without a doubt that i enjoyed season 5 the most of anything up to the present. It actually has a coherent plot for once! With a well thought out structure that incorporates the stand alone episodes seamlessly. I actually want to continue watching after the finale whereas with Davies i was completely turned off every time he did a finale and it always took me a couple of weeks to come back. His writing is generally melodramatic and even pompous in many cases.

    I'm a freshman in college right, male and i've been reading Fantasy and sci fi for eight years, so i have some experience with the genre but not a ton. I'm just not sure how you can say that Davies did a better job when his stuff isn't nearly as creative or talented as Moffat's.

    I have class so i can't edit this post at all or even see if i have any blatant contradictions so i apologize but i just wanted to put this out there. I really love the new doctor especially the overall plot and direction Moffat is taking him. I mean i haven't been so stoked about a finale of Who before. People may be less then stoked about how he's changed it but sometimes allowing something to change is to allow it to become something greater.


    Ps: I do not mean to be offensive in any way, this is simply my opinion.

  2. No worries Mandorallen, I appreciate your thoughts, and I think in a lot of cases the show has started to come down to personal preference.

    While I mentioned that I appreciate what Moffat is TRYING to do, I feel that Davies put together a much more coherent story overall.

    As to the reuse of villains, I'd say the same about The Silents/Silence...they've been used since Series 5 began and look to have been set up as the villain for Series 7 as well. So Moffat has used the same main villain now for going on 3 Series...At least Series 2 and 4 were broken up by having The Master as villain for Series 3. Moffat seems to delight in keeping his main villain mostly vague so he can keep using them each Series as a main or secondary villain, so while they are a new monster, he's kind of beating them into the ground and making them matter little by over-using them. IMHO anyways.

  3. One of the greatest things that RTD did in his series arcs was the subtle, almost throwaway references to the 'big bad' at the end of the season, or have things slipped into conversation throughout that would become pivotal at the end e.g. The Medusa Cascade. Moffat's use (and possibly overuse) of the 'hidden in plain sight/corner of your eye' trick feels like a but of a cop out as a way of not having that subtlety.

    RTD could get a little sappy during his reign, but I agree that his stories and character developments were better. What we need is to go back to the RTD/Moffat partnership days of old. With RTD to keep him in check as a writer, Moffat can do wonderful things.

  4. "One of the greatest things that RTD did in his series arcs was the subtle, almost throwaway references to the 'big bad' at the end of the season, or have things slipped into conversation throughout that would become pivotal at the end e.g. "

    Bingo. The Medusa Cascade story line was amazing. How the planets that were disappearing were casually mentioned. I loved that it was Donna who basically put 2 and 2 together. I LOVED that character and I think it was painful to watch how it ended, with her not remembering. The reason I mention this is that, I grew to care so much about the companions that I was devastated when this happened. Not so with Moffat. I don't care nearly as much with Rory and Amy. Before it pained me to say goodbye to a companion, now I can't wait for the next one.

    I do love the River Song story, or the potential in it. But, it was barely done right. There was sooo much potential.

    Another difference between the Davies Doctor and teh Moffat Doctor is that 11th seems to be a more war hungry Doctor. Telling everyone to fear him, assembling an army. Wasn't 10th devastated by the Children of Time and what they were prepared to do in his name?

    The big paradox in the show is how different the show is. Like you said, 2 different shows.

  5. Indeed, thanks guys! I'm so glad I'm not the only one who noticed that stuff.

  6. I think RTD's subtle nods to the overall arc (in comparison to Moff's beating you round the head with whole episodes dedicated to his twisty storytelling) is definitely worth mentioning, simply because if you MISSED the nods to stuff like the Medusa Cascade, or Vote Saxon or Bad Wolf in early episodes, you would still not be lost when it came to for the normally 2 or 3 part finale, and could still get the point of what he was trying to do. Those subtle nods were for people who paid enough attention, but would never be detrimental to the overall arc...and I think that's one of my major bones of contention with moff's era.

    1. You Guys are Right,
      Social awareness, character development, story advancement, economy, depth all are qualities which make for literacy within the art of filmmaking not to mention the dozen or so more skills needed by each member of the crew to interpret a really good script.

      Unfortunately so very much has been lacking since the Moffat era has been thrust upon us. At the very least, The Doctor and Companion(s) could have come from any number of "C, B, or A " list actors other Alex Kingston ( an incredible A list Talent who's performances suffer horribly under that clumsy hand of Moffatt ever worsening as the series drags on).

      It would have been a great help in spite of this lame Steven Moffat 1880's mentality, which has turned the show into a regressive, anti-progressive, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-feminist series of shallow, poorly conceived scripts, and directing presented by Moffatt.

      Not to mention the Model suddenly transformed into leading actress in the show - is there a casting couch reference somewhere, cause that's what it would seem to be the only story development going on, and the only conclusion people in the industry could come up with for having to put up with the dreck presented as performances of this companion.
      Ginger is a great spice when well presented, but really there is absolutely no comparison to any of the previous companions performances, audience engagement or skill set. Worst part is over the years, Amy's performances hardly got any better, and therein lies the true realization of the gauche callous hand of Moffatt used in this series, since anybody can get better at something if they work at it long enough (for some time, I really hoped that she would really develop some chops). Even the little girl who plays her character as a child is SOOOOOOO much better.

      In short Moffatt presents us with everything the show has not been about, but then he gets to put his antiquated issues of personal persecution onscreen for an audience of 13 million to realize. Letting us all know the kind of baggage he carries in life.

      As audiences continue to become more and more sophisticated, when people look back at this era in the Dr Who episodes which come after
      the time of Russell Davies, people won't believe that could have happened to what had been such an intelligent and literate series.

      Even though he says he's not interested and won't, based on the elegance and sensitivity of the work produced during his time with the show, I would think Russell Davies might consider a return to Dr Who if there were not the likes of Moffatt being around to gum things up.

    2. Omg, what you said about Moffat turning DW into a regressive, anti-progressive, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-feminist show....THANK YOU!!! (Why has no one else noticed this yet?)

      And the saddest thing is that, 2005 DW IS pro-women, anti-Earthcentric, and empowering, but in this subtle, casual way that seems to say, "Ummm...yeah, anyway, Doctor, continue".
      I'm so tired of Moffat objectifying female characters and them giggling and flirting with men who are demeaning them.

      I am 26, have a mental illness and some other "normal" issues. Watching RTD Doctor Who has literally helped me to feel stronger, better, bigger, and that I have the right to believe in myself, no matter how big my issues are. It has helped me get through some serious things and always been a quiet, fun, encouraging supporter of me and my dreams. Nowadays, I'm just frustrated when I *try* to get through one of Moffat's episode.

      Thanks for your honesty and not being scared to put the truth out there.

  7. I think the biggest hurdle is that WHO switched showrunners and lead actors during the same season, which produced noticeable stylistic and visual differences instaneously.

    WHO felt like a new show because it was a new show.

  8. and it shouldn't be.

    MHO obviously, and call me crazy but I'm just annoyed that the show I loved isn't the one it is anymore.

  9. In my opinion, the show is supposed to change. It has gone through countless changes with every single doctor! Why is it a surprise that it changes with the eleventh?

    1. Change is fine, yes, but only if done well. Also, when comparing NuWho to Classic Who I don't see how it is such a bad thing to hold higher standards for NuWho and actually expect it to act like a proper normal modern show and keep some sort of consistency. The way the show has changed is almost alienating.

      Also, like I said, change is fine if done well. Moffat has most definitely not done well.

  10. @Anonymous. Oh absolutely. I agree, and there's probably more than a little sour grapes going on in my opinion as well. Fanboys will be fanboys I suppose. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  11. The only thing I like about the Moffat series is Matt Smith's performance as The Doctor. Eccleston was fine, Tennant was good but overdid it. You can see him "acting" the part, running around, jumping, shouting, pulling his hair, etc. Smith is a natural like Tom Baker. He IS The Doctor, he doesn't have to put on a show. I have no use for any of Moffat's companions. They're either boring or annoying. The best companion of the new series is Donna Noble. And Russell T Davies Who is far superior to Moffat's.

  12. The emotional attachment is really what makes the show memorable. I can recall most of the 9th and 10th doctors episodes, I have single episodes that are favorites and Companions who I adore (read Jack Harkness). I can name no episodes in Moffat's era and I have no interest in re-watching any of them.

    That is what gets me the most about 'Who' as it is now, I don't care about Amy an Rory, I don't care about River/Melody, I don't feel the relationship between River and The Doctor is treated seriously at all and it seems to only occur because it is said to have happened in the past or future depending on who you ask.

    I've yet to see Matt Smiths interpretation of The Doctor ever appear to be genuinely worried about a moment, seriously contemplating whats occurring, he very much prefers to grandstand around. I call back to David Tennant in his first episode, The Christmas Invasion. When he defeated the Sycorax atop the mothership, his sudden darkening of personality "no second chances, that's the sort of man I am," seems to fit with the doctor we knew from 9's portrayal and became part of 10's role. Matt Smith's portrayal as a scatterbrained "madman with a box," is so overriding that it makes any of his more serious moments seem out of place.

    Moffat has stated many times that Doctor Who is a children's show, and that is what he has transformed it into. While it always has been a children/family show, his drive to appeal to the younger audience has disconnected it with the older viewers, where RTD's era always offered something for everyone.

  13. Scott, I enjoyed this article very much; you put into words everything I had been thinking about Steven Moffatt's approach to DW. I had thought that it might have been just me, sad old bloke in his 50s who can remember watching the very first episode of DW on a black and white TV back in the '60s, and that this new incarnation of DW was universally appealing to today's younger people. I'm pleased to see that it's not so cut and dried.

    RTD's Doctor(s) made me care, made me want the best for him and his companions. His stories had meanings on many levels, so that people of any age could engage with them. The Family of Blood double episode comes to mind immediately; it was a great story with plenty of evil characters (and scarecrows), but there was so much more: a Doctor becoming John Smith to avoid detection, but then falling for the school matron and having to face the choice of returning to being the Doctor or having a human life, love and family; Martha's emotional pain of seeing him fall for someone else while knowing that she holds the secret of his real identity; and, most poignant, the boy who cares for the Doctor's watch, is given it at the end and finds it plays a crucial role in the Great War to come. The emotional moment at the end where the Doctor and Martha appear at a Remembrance Day service to witness that boy as an old man who had survived to pay tribute to his fallen comrades was a genuine tearjerker. In fact, RTDs use of the impending world war to cast a shadow over the whole story was masterly.

    One story, I know, but multiply that by every episode under RTDs aegis and you get what I felt about his tenure.

    Moffatt is a good writer, I have to say. 'Coupling' was an inspired series, a truly innovative piece of work which I enjoyed very much. His writing for DW under RTD was also fresh and exciting, which leads me to agree with Jamie's comment above about keeping SM in check. What annoys me about Moffatt's writing is that - as has been suggested above - it's so technical. It seems as if he does come up with an amazingly complicated timey-wimey tricksy construction and then tries to hang some characters on it. I agree with other posters above, I don't care two hoots about Amy or Rory; they can stay or go, I'm not bothered. River Song is a cheeky lady, and no mistake, but she's gone on too long. All the secrets, the 'spoilers', they just drag on without closure. Moffatt's Doctor is, I agree, a fine actor with some great speeches, but the secrets, the condescension, the patronising superiority is too much. RTDs Doctors would be such fine company on a night out, but I'm not sure I'd have a beer with Moffatt's creations.

  14. Further to the above, I apologise profusely to Steven Moffat for consistently spelling his name incorrectly!

  15. I loved this blog post and completely agree with you. There's something missing from Moffat's characters and plots. I'm sorry but having a quirky fashion sense, wearing silly hats, and repeatedly saying "Bow ties are cool" does not a personality make. There is no depth to the 11th Doctor, or any sense of the previous incarnations personality traits in there somewhere, which you definitely got with David Tennant. His condescension and flippant attitude really grate on me.

    But I think the truly glaring difference (that you didn't mention) is his treatment and characterization of women. I can't call him an outright sexist because he has written outstanding female characters before (Reinette from The Girl in the Fireplace comes to mind) but his treatment of Amy and River Song is appalling. Amy pouts and whines her way through situations constantly being treated by the Doctor as a nuisance or as someone to be saved. Moffat's perpetuating this ugly stereotype with both Amy and River - relegating them to only the daughter, lover, wife, mother roles and almost nothing else. River has become a caricature of the woman we first met in the Library two-parter. The Doctor also treats them with complete contempt - I think there's literally a line in an episode where he states how irrational and crazy women are. SMH. In contrast to this, Davies' female characters were nuanced and full of life and depth. Donna Noble is one of my all-time favorite female characters in any show. And while both Rose and Martha were in love with the Doctor, it wasn't their only characteristic. They had other traits, pursuits, ideals that defined them. I feel like Amy's only trait or personality - the one that keeps getting emphasized over and over is that she's "the girl who waited" - what a wonderful message - "Girls, just keep waiting for that guy! He has more important things to do right now but the most important thing YOU can do is sit at home and do nothing" Just...UGH. Amy and Rory are leaving mid-season apparently and I couldn't care less. And after seeing how women are being treated on this show I have no hopes for the next companion.

    Sorry for the rant but I felt like your blog post was lacking in that department. I know many people that have stopped watching for this specific reason. It's really difficult to find well-written, relevant, *believable* female characters on TV. Dana Scully, Buffy Summers, Kara Thrace, and Donna Noble don't just come along every day ;)

    (Love to hear what you think about this - a guy's perspective is always interesting and informative. I don't like overreacting and pulling out the sexist card whenever I feel like it. I just think it's justified in this instance)

  16. @Jaina:

    Indeed, I think it's there to an extent in Amy and River, though my problems with the latter stem from other issues. I don't know if it was glaringly obvious to me, but we have to remember that this is the guy who wrote COUPLING which basically presented the opposite sides of the male and female relationship and how true a lot of that was..basing it on his own experiences with his wife Sue Vertue (who produces on DW).

    That said, the way I have always perceived it has been that Moffat made Rory the damsel in distress (up to and including being Mr. Pond)...almost as if he was replacing the Tin Dog / Mickey role...who eventually overcomes the stereotypes and is able to finally begin to be his own man. In contrast (again to me) it seemed almost as if Moffat had decided that Amy would occupy the other end of that spectrum (ignoring the Girl Who Waited notion as I feel that had more to do with the fairytale aspect of Series 5) she starts out (in her adult life, not as a child) as this tough as nails, take no bullshit, I'm not getting married until I want to, Don't tell me what to do, I'm making my own decisions about this Star Whale, What good are you Doctor you useless pile if you can't save one person...type of character, who over the course of Rory's evolution softens into the marriage and mother role. I think it might be a tad unfair to assume that Moffat had ill-intent in mind about it, because when all is said and done there is nothing whatsoever wrong with the marriage and mother role...and Amy is the first character to have been painted with that particular brush since the show's relaunch in 2005. So in my head I always felt he was attempting to make a companion be something different to what's come before (Rose - Love, Martha - Unrequited Love, Donna - Platonic Friendship) by making Amy - Mother...of....his River Song invention way back in Series 4.

  17. ...
    I think Amy's role might have been MORE glaring to me were Rory not immediately painted as the damsel in distress, but he really is...and he stays that way for the majority of Series 5 and 6 (A GOOD MAN GOES TO WAR is the first true breaking of this mold)...that way he juxtaposes the princess role typically held by the girl/woman by inhabiting it instead. Like I said, up to and including the Mr. Pond aspect. So while While I don't care much for Amy as a character I don't find her position as a mother role as sexist at I don't think that there is anything wrong with that mothers are revered progenitors of our species who always should be respected. The girl who waited bit I'm not sure what you are on about, since she only really does that twice (and the second time was not written by him)...and all other times she's in the thick of it...though the Doctor DOES condescend to her often and I really don't like that.

    River Song is a mess. You are correct. Not to be a Moffat-apologist, but I think that in an attempt to give the Doctor a great love he ruined the River Song he created in Series 4 and basically made her nasty (create a whole bad timeline JUST so she can have him?) and unrepentant and awful. Was it sexist? I don't know if that's the word I'd use, but she's certainly a caricature and not even a shadow of the person Ten met in the library who was altruistic, honorable and her love of him never overshadows the things she needs to do. River is probably his biggest mis-step in the series under his stewardship so farm, and I can definitely see how you'd perceive her the way you have, as you don't have to make much of a jump to get there with such a horribly ruined character.

    So in the end I truly don't think Moffat is being intentionally sexist, as his previous writing has not really shown him to be as such, but I do feel that he may have made some questionable choices in regards to the characters motivations and end result places of people like Amy and River in the overall mythology and universe. I think I keep falling back on my experience with COUPLING and seeing that as a guy Moffat really does think men act a certain way (and they do a lot of the time) and so he would make the Doctor make comments like "crazy and irrationality" because some men DO think that way...and sometimes they are right even though it's totally a stereotype...but some men do think that way. Where I think you are right is that after the stellar, stellar portrayal of the Doctor by David Tennant (by way of RTD's writing) that this notion in Matt Smith's Doctor rings REALLY the Doctor is not "just a guy"...he's the Doctor and he's better than that. If anything I'd imagine him hearing someone say those tings and scold them for being so obtuse. So yeah, I think the nail you've hit on the head there is that Moffat has almost tried to make his Doctor SO aloof and so much of a "typical guy" that he comes across as making poor choices and making comments that for all intents and purposes can be construed as sexist... and THAT is NOT the Timelord we know and love.

    Thanks for your comments and making me think about this...though I SHOULD take issue with you saying my post was "lacking"...I won't :D

    Thanks for stopping by and I hope my reply is not too diplomatic and allows for a slightly different perspective from a guy on ho these things are perceived as viewer and fan.

  18. Oh and to the River Doctor love thing...RTD gave Ten and Rose more actual "great love" in their little fingers than River has been given in two Series of stuff.

    That's why Ten and Rose endures as such a fan favourite, it's an accurate and heartfelt, and realistic portrayal of love...especially of the tragic variety.

  19. Well done. The article hit it on the head.

  20. Thanks JM! Glad you enjoyed it. :D

  21. Since most everyone here comes from the original series, you guys should check out my blog, where I've reviewed each episode of the revived series, and compared them to the standards set by the original series.

  22. I agree on certain things and disagree on others. There was talk of enemies and I think Moffat excels at creating interesting new bad guys and RTD...well...doesn't. Moffat has given us the cool gas mask zombies, the Clockwork Men, the Weeping Angels, the Vashta Nerada, Prisoner Zero, and the Silents; all of whom I found very interesting. RTD gave us the gassy Slitheen and that Fat Bastard-esque alien from "Love & Monsters" (hands down my least favorite episode). RTD did great things with Classic Who villains like the Daleks and the Master and I loved the mysterious villain of "Midnight" (one of my favorites), but overall I think Moffat has definitely given us much better original villains. I'm actually still interested in the Silence/Silents story line. I've just accepted that it is a characteristic of Doctor Who to keep bringing certain baddies back. The Daleks, Cybermen, and The Master have been making many reappearances for decades.

    I'm also still a fan of River Song's story line. I like her as a character and I think the concept of meeting someone out of order is fascinating. I do, however, agree that the romantic relationship between the Doctor and Rose was handled MUCH better. I've never really gotten a sense of the Doctor having romantic feeling for River at all.

    I also like Amy and Rory. They aren't my favorite companions (I'm a Capt Jack Harkness fan), but I like their story and I am going to be sad to see them go.

    I also feel like individual episodes written by Moffat are better than those written by RTD. "A Christmas Carol" is hands down my favorite Christmas special. In my opinion, none of RTD's hold a candle to it. While I loved RTD's era, episodes written by RTD were usually my least favorite. Exceptions include his season finales as well as "Tooth and Claw" and "Midnight," all of which were brilliant. Usually episodes written by Moffat during RTD's era would be the standout episodes of the season for me.

    All in all, I love RTD's era and Moffat's era. They are very different and each handled some things better than others. I really can't choose an era that I like more, but I gotta say I prefer Moffat as a writer.

    Just remember that this is a show about change. We are always going to be getting new companions, new Doctors, and new showrunners, and we're going to all have our own opinions on which ones we prefer. But at the end of the day, it is all the same show. And these are all just my opinions about it. Happy Who-ing! =)

    1. How interesting, I found the Christmas Carol to be one of my least favorite episodes. This hearkens back to one of the main problems I have with Moffat. He does not care about the rules. You cannot state a rule of your sci-fi universe as a fixed law and then disregard it to make your story work. A main element of RTD stories was that events were fixed once the characters were involved in them, no going back in the immediate timeline to change the situation. Moffat feels no such constraint. Many of his plot lines consist of nothing but running back and forth in time trying to tweak current events, that is all the Christmas Carol was. Now, don't get me wrong RTD indulged in Deus ex machina approaches of his own but he seldom broke his own rules. In his universe every action had consequences. You had to fix the situation you found yourself in with what you had on hand, not simply travel back in time to prevent it.

  23. I just wanted to say that the biggest problem I have with Moffat's era (and mostly just so far as series six goes) is I found it very confusing and hard to follow. Maybe I'm a bit dimwitted, I don't know, but at least with RTD's Who I always knew what was going on and the timey-wimeyness of it all never overwhelmed me like it does with Moffat's era.

    That being said, I also agree with what you said about the characters and the relationships between the Doctor and his companions. While I really enjoyed series five and liked Amy and Rory and even the way River was dealt with in that series, I have to say that I felt series six lacked the characterization that made me love this show so much when I first started back in 2005 (I've only seen a handful of classic who so I'm basing my knowledge on NuWho). Mostly, these days, when I watch a new episode the only emotion it elicits is sadness and a sense of loss for what this show once was. I don't know that that is Moffat's fault, exactly, perhaps its just my nostalgia getting the best of me, but it is what it is.

    1. u r not dimwitted, u r smart and observant. The show doesn't make sense, and Moffat knows that, whichis why he does not explain things properly. He does not know how to...because he did not think them through. There are so many plot holes, it is...ridonkulous. I don't use that word often, but ridiculous did not cut it.

      U r not slow, u r honest and a thinker.

  24. @JenDew

    Yeah, Series 6 is REALLY tough to follow unless you are paying super attention. I've found that it's only on re-watches that I can catch some of the stuff, so you aren't alone in that.

    On the Bright side, Series 7 so far has upped the goodness and things aren't remotely as confusing or convoluted, so perhaps Moffat was listening?

  25. I completely agree with you here. I don't feel a connection with the 11th doctor's characters and certainly got much more out of the story telling during the 10th doctor. There is just not enough believable character development and the story telling lacks sophistication. RTD's stories had multi-layers of themes- from existentialism to colonialism, human sexuality and international politics. I fell in love with the 10th doctor and felt deeply for the struggles of his very long and lonely life. What I do like about SM is his play around with time travel- "timey whimey" stuff he does... but aside from that his story telling hasn't captivated me much.

  26. I disagree with so much here. As you say, the Doctor has come from a dark background and needs to remember that, and also needs to remember who is is, and it is a delicate balance. You claim Moffat ignores that. You also claim that the new companions never solve anything on their own and don't pull their weight, and that they are treated as kittens that need to be protected.

    9th and 10th Doctor companions had it rough. Martha and Micky were his only 'successes'. The others succumbed to horrible fates. Now you basically claim Moffat is doing away with what RTD had written. Now if I were the Doctor, and I had just ruined the lives of several people that I cared for deeply, you can bet your ass I'd be more careful with the next group. I'm not going to just launch right up into destroying two more peoples lives. It's no wonder he treats them like kittens. This is even more apparent in season 7, which wasn't out at the time you wrote this.

    Secondly, I believe it was Amy who solved the problem in The Beast Below, the second episode of the Moffat series. This was a classic example of the companion showing the Doctor the strength of humanity. This was SO classic Who. In A Town Called Mercy, it was Amy who pulled the Doctor back from the brink of murder. In The Almost People and The Rebel Flesh, it was Rory who took the lead, next to the Doctor, in trying to make peace between the Flesh and the Humans. We also have River Song taking the lead much of the time. To be honest, I don't remember any time in the RTD run when a companion was the one that solved the problem. They've always done exactly as the Doctor ordered. Maybe there were a few episodes where the companion solved something, or showed the Doctor the strength of humanity, but not enough to make me think that companions of RTD were punching above their weight. In fact, the only times I can think of were when they were influenced by the TARDIS and no longer human (Doctor Donna and Bad Wolf).

    Regardless, it's not about who solves the mystery, or who is punching above their weight. The reason the Doctor travels with a companion is so he can see the universe through their eyes. So he can grow and become a better person. He has a long and tough history. The bad guys get away too often. The good guys get killed too much. With Moffat companions we see a husband wait 2,000 years for his wife, just to ensure her safety. We see Amy choose her husband over the universe time and time again. We see Amy pull time apart for Rory in The Girl Who Waited, and we see Rory heart broken over what has to be done. THESE are the stories that matter. These are the stories of humanity. I don't care if they are on a leash being led around by the Doctor. What I care about is their impact on him and on me. They restore my faith in humanity, even though they are fictional. That's what the companion is all about.

  27. I love dissenting viewpoints! It's what makes good conversations happen. :)

    I see what you are saying, but I still maintain what I'd posted. It's nice to see proper opposing viewpoints. Though if you scroll through the comments you'll see that my opinion and your opinion seem to bear equal weight with other fans, splitting the final opinion down the middle.

    The best bit is that the show has created so much healthy debate!

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting Matthew.

  28. Hello,

    I found your this article or post via google, accidently, and I really do not know anything about you or your blog but I do like this post. You wrote nearly everything what I thought about the Moffat era.

    I only started to watch Doctor who this January and I loved the RTD era. Well-written, good actors etc. First we disliked Tennant, but after two or three episodes we loved him. When he became Matt Smith I thought it would be the same. But it wasn't. When we saw the 5th and 6th season we really hated it. After a while we started to watch it again, and we are trying to love it, but we can't. And it's not becouse of Matt Smith, I think he is a good actor, but the stories. And the companions. The companions make the Doctor who he is and a shallow companion makes a shallow Doctor.

    And the other: Moffat makes such big season finales (I still don't like The Pandorica opens) Daleks with cyberman and what the hell were the Judoon doing there- they are not villains. It does not work like that. You can't just reboot the universe every time sg goes wrong... And the Daleks please don't let Moffat near any Dalek. Season 7 : Dalek parliament: what?

    Moffat is a good writer, but he isn't a good show runner (in my opinion). He wrote some brilliant episodes, but seasons 5-6 are shallow. Girl who waited, boy-who-is-a-roman-and-died-several-times: I'm happy that you go. Hopefully Jenna Louise Coleman will add sg interesting to the show.

    Finally, I won't give up on the show, it is still fantastic. And I can't wait to see a new showrunner.

  29. Hey, that's great Reka. So glad you stopped by, enjoyed the article and shared your thoughts!

  30. Hi Scott,

    I too fell on your article via Google, and I must say you nailed every point I am feeling since I have started watching Steven Moffat's Doctor Who.

    At the beggining I thought it would be like when David Tennant replaced Christopher Eccleston. I really missed the 9th doctor. But finally, I really fell in love with the tenth Doctor, after a couple of episodes.

    But the story is different with Matt Smith. The show isn't the same. The relationships, the mystery surrounding the doctor, well, everything you said... is different.

    I respect a lot SM, especially since I discovered Sherlock. He's a great writer. But here, I would like RTD to come back. Please come back! Is it possible?

    It should be.

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  32. i discovered this article via a post on Facebook and let me say this so very well sums up what I have been feeling about this new series with Moffat and Smith. I truly believe Smith has the full potential to reach the level the ninth doctor took it to. I really blame Moffat for brining him down, when it comes down to it, it is all about the writing. I am a recent Whovian converted by my cousin who has been in love with the show since the fourth doctor. I fell in love with the pure magic of the show; each episode is connected yet at the same time totally different and independent from one another. I watched all the episodes from the doctors 9-11 on Netflix in a matter of a couple of monts and it felt as though when ten regenerated and RTD left the show hit a brick wall. I agree 100% with this article Moffat should not be writing for who, he is killing it and it hurts me to think that if it keeps going the way it is going it might kill off the show. I do not want to see this happen but the magic needs to come back.

  33. @ManO and @ Caleb. I'm really glad this post still shows up on Google, as I'm really proud of what I wrote here and it seems it's engendered a lot of debate.

    Keep an eye on the site as I am currently doing a re-watch of RTD's era and breaking down each ep.

    And I also do some Crackpot Theories posts, the most recent of which talks about the 50th and possibilities for it. You should check it out!

    1. Stumbled upon this while having much of the very same thoughts as the main article articulates. Great article and discussion and Scott really looking forward to your re-watch and analysis.

  34. I agree so much here. I think the only episode I actually cried in from Moffat era was the Van Gogh episode, and I didn't even cry because of Amy, but when Van Gogh was taken to the art gallery. I don't even think that episode was written by Moffat. It's not good when you care more for a minor character that you just met than the current companion.

    Also, everyone is all "The episodes are harder to understand because of the complicated plot" and I just sit there like "I understand it perfectly and can even point out multiple plot holes." What I don't understand is how it is supposed to be interesting. I almost fell asleep during multiple episodes for lack of caring.

    And how can I forget ranting about always posing Amy Pond? She is constantly falling over herself to make these stupidly awkward poses. Sometimes you just have to laugh at it, though. Like in the Angels Take Manhattan episode, I was laughing when she started crying when Rory was going to jump off a building because of that one supremely unnatural tear running in the most unnatural path. And I literally fell on the floor laughing at the end, seeing the way she whipped her hair when saying goodbye. No tears, just laughter.

    I could go on about a lot of things, but for now I am tired. XD

  35. Rachel: Yeah, totally spot on about Amy.

    The thing is, if Karen Gillan had put one ounce of the REAL, messy, mascara-smearing emotion that folk like Rose, and Donna put into their acting, then we might buy it...but yeah that single tear is one of the reasons that I just think that Gillan was an automaton built to only say smarmy, glib things. Her only REAL emotional state was when she was angry, otherwise, meh I didn't buy it.

    I have higher hopes for Jenna-Louise since she's a great actor (TITANIC ect.) already and she showcased more chemistry with Eleven in her 5 minutes of ASYLUM OF THE DALEKS than Karen Gillan showcased in 3 Series.

  36. This article portrays everything I feel about what Moffat has done with Doctor Who. During RTD's run I actually found myself falling in love with each and every character. Even when The Doctor regenerated we still had the feeling that yes, this was the same man, and yes, this was the same show (even though RTD seemed to go against this notion a bit with they way he handled the 10th Doctors regeneration, marking the only thing he ever did during his run that truly bothers me).

    Everything has so much depth, and even though it was, essentially, a new show, I still felt like RTD made sure to not stray too far away from the Classic series. He even found a way to sneak in not only Sarah Jane Smith but also K9! K9 is so severely outdated by modern standards, and yet there he was, fitting in flawlessly with some of the 10th Doctor's adventures. If Moffat were to try to bring in K9 now I don't think it would work at all. He would be so out of place in Moffat's world.

    In contrast, it almost seems as if Moffat wants to not only pretend that the RTD era never happened, but that most of the Classic series never happened either. Sure, he started throwing in some small references in season six, but it almost seemed as if he was going, "Okay, sorry for pretending that your favorite characters never existed, here's a hologram/random phone call with a nurse/crazy fake Doctor, now shut up."

    I tried so hard to get into the show when he took over. It was hard at first, and the main reason I kept watching was because I thought that maybe I was just being stupid and having a hard time letting go of David Tennant. I didn't want to be one of THOSE fans. I actually had a hard time moving on to David Tennant from Christopher Eccleston as well, but soon fell into Tennant's groove. I eventually wizened up, though, when I realized that the reason I was having a hard time warming up to Matt Smith was simply because the writing had become so lack luster. I was done with Amy by the third episode, and the only thing that saved her was the fact that I actually think Rory is kind of adorable in a dorky way and I wanted to see him get his girl (which could have been any girl, just so long as he got her in the end. Amy was not special in this regard at all).

    The best example is how each writer handled their respective love stories. The Doctor's relationship with Rose was built slowly and handled with subtle grace. RTD pussyfooted around the bigger aspects of such a romance and told us volumes while still leaving so much unsaid. Moffat, however, likes to beat us over the head with a baseball bat, and yet in the end The Doctor and Rose are a tragic tear-fest that had me weeping all day and The Doctor and River are just a mess that actually makes The Doctor seem like the universe's biggest jerk (what does he want her for? Does he actually care? Is he using her? Does he just figure that hey, since he was forced into marriage he might as well get his jollies while he can?). His relationship with River is not believable in the slightest.

    And the Doctor has many debts and can build a random army at any momeet, and yet he waits until someone kidnapps Amy to call them in????

  37. All well said Mickety Mac! You last paragraph noted a few things I hadn't. Kudos!

    Yeah, I agree, now that I think about it, K-9 would not seem at home at all in Moffat era WHO...

    I think a very small part of me hopes that when Moffat steps down...RTD comes back after having had a long break to do other things. If not him, then at least someone competent with characters like maybe Neil Cross.

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  39. Emily, I removed your comment as it was pure vitriol filled with childish cursing and added nothing to the conversation aside from unsubstantiated claims that aren't backed up as debate points. You're welcome to comment, but please do so respectfully and with an eye towards discussion and not internet snark.

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  42. I loved your article. I am a 40yo who spent my childhood watching Doctors 4 and 5 as they were broadcast in the U.S. on Saturday nights. Found the New episodes on Netflix last September and immediately fell in love. Spent a full night watching most of season 3, threw hissy fits at Donna’s ending, then hit season 5. Figured I would give the new Doctor three episodes free. That is how long it took me to warm up when 4 became 5 and when 9 became 10. Never happened, in fact just recently some story events have made the Doctor even less appealing. Namely the ending of Wedding of River Song where he make some snarky remark about her being in jail during the day, but her nights…That whole episode left a bad taste in my mouth. I want to retcon that whole plotline. The Torchwood definition of retcon, either that or brain bleach.

    In addition here are some more things I noticed.

    Seasons 1-4 had 6 instance of the under 18 crowd. Three of those were in the under 12 category, all of whom were Moffat’s. Seasons 5 and 6 had almost no episodes without children. However the plotlines became more convoluted. If, as Moffat has said, he wanted it make it more of a children’s show he went about it in a clichéd manner, make the Doctor younger and put in more children. Many a franchise has been ruined by adding too many kids-cough Star Wars cough.

    Along the same line it felt like he was ticking off a list for his chosen demographics. Want more children’s appeal, put more children in. I don’t want to lose the men, make the companion a kiss-o-gram. Want to keep the teenagers, put some snarky sex jokes in and make the Doctor engage in slapstick food humor. I can’t forget the LGTB crowd, put in an interspecies lesbian couple. I don’t know what category the pregnancy and River Song story was supposed to appeal to, if it was women it backfired horribly. The elaborate plot lines I think are Moffat’s own indulgence, although they probably appeal to the older high school, young college crowd the most. At that age it is a sign of how cool and smart you are to want things complicated. (Prepares to be flamed by people saying I’m stereotyping, reiterates point that it’s Moffat I feel uses this checklist)

    I am tired of being told that stiff, awkward characters are a feature, not a bug. “Amy is awkward because she had a traumatic childhood and is damaged.” “The Doctor is shallow and stiff because he is an alien.” No, they are simply not the caliber of actors we were given during RTD’s run. Want a sample? Go back and watch the Family of Blood two-parter. Try to put Matt in that role. Get back to me when you have stopped laughing. There is no reason for The Doctor to be stupid around humans, 3 spent his entire life here so unless he was brain damaged sometime during his regeneration he should at least be able to handle basic interaction. Matt may be a fine actor, but I have only ever seen him be awkward or angry, and fine is a long way from stellar.

  43. Part two

    The first four seasons were so strongly character driven that I can think of only one episode that really jarred. I actually loved Girl in the Fireplace the first time through. The time aspect of the plot thrilled me and the characters had been so strongly drawn up to that point that I actually mentally added the lines that fixed the plot. It was not until the second watching I realized those lines were not in there. As a result people did stupid, OOC things. Now that Moffat is the showrunner he does not have established characters to fall back on, I can’t say his characters do OOC things because I don’t have a feel for them even after several years.

    We were told what a nice change this new companion was going to be. I have watched both episodes with her in and have some observations. We have a perky 20ish girl-hello Rose, Martha, and Amy. Who has a thing for the doctor-hello Rose, Martha, Amy, and River. She has already died twice-hello Rory. She has some mystery about her existence-hello Amy and River. I have yet to see any unique aspects to her. We have already had two main season plots tied up in the origins of a companion and this looks to be a third.

    Stop telling me what is happening. No show should need a ten minute conversation with a boxed head to tell us what happens. Off the top of my head, we have a multitude of voiceovers by Amy, tortured narrative in AGMGTW to cover for action off-screen, people telling us the Doctor is mourning Amy, and people telling me that Amy and Rory love each other. Aarg stop telling me! If it isn’t important enough to show me then leave it out.

    Craft without Heart:
    I was raised by a dedicated audiophile in the age when synthesizers were first becoming hot. Albums of synthesizer music were being released with synth renditions of classical music, mainly Bach. Much of Bach’s composing is a technical exercise to begin with and so very suited to reproducing with an electronic medium. My dad and I had long discussions about the degrees of coldness in some. When I watch a Moffat season I get much of the same feeling. I see elaborate, intricate exercises with no warmth to them. To my mind they are a Bach Fugue played by a synthesizer. RTD was sloppier and more uneven but definitely had more heart.

    Sorry this is so long winded. It has been building up since I first read your article.

  44. Wow, very excellent points Marie! Thanks for stopping by and sharing them!

    1. This is Marie again just changing my sign in. I loved your earlier response to Rachel about the mascara smearing grief of Rose and Donna. I think part of the problem is Amy had too many lines. True grief clogs up your throat so you can barely talk. Two paragraphs of discussion on friendship vs marriage does not have the same impact.

  45. Hello Scott,

    Just like all other posters, I love Doctor Who and am on the edge of giving it up due to the new writer’s era, the Moffat’s era. I started to watch Doctor Who (new series from 2005-present) after New Year 2013, so it has been only 20 days since I became a Doctor Who fan. Yet, I must say I am very disappointed with series 5 and 6. I tried to give them a go; I was glad to see some of the Doctor’s humor and knowledge/intelligence were still there. Yet, the 11th Doctor seemed decades younger (not the appearance but the characteristics plus lack of knowledge).

    Someone already mention that RTD’s stories are not very compelling, intricate, or adventurous like Moffat’s; however, his stories always complete and connected and consistent. Moffat gave me way too many holes and unanswered questions that I cannot find anyway to follow.

    I am so glad I found your blog. Your analysis and comparison were very specific and greatly written, and also address many of the big issues Doctor Who is facing right now. More than that, many posters revealed the very same thought. I cannot do compare and contrast writing as good as you do, however, I would like to provide a few (lengthy) points and problems I have with Moffat’s era.

    The Eleventh Hour:

    Very interesting episode. Good introduction to the new Doctor and his companion. I especially like the young Amy: fearless, enthusiastic, strong, etc. The grown up Amy was a little awkward and too much of self-absorbed. Until the final moment of the episode when the Doctor was (to me) showing off his “accomplishments” as the “protector” of planet Earth, I felt it was a completely out of character for the Doctor. It was very childish. And I cannot agree more that Steven Moffat is degrading Doctor Who into a children show. Yet, it is one of my three favorites of the whole Moffat’s era of DW.

    The Beast Below:

    I love the new species introduced in this episode: the Star Whale. However, I do not understand how Elizabeth 10, who was completely human, could live for 200 years without aging. Furthermore, the anger of the Doctor as facing the difficult choice was awfully expressed. I do understand Matt Smith has his own Doctor’s characters; however, his anger, pain, or hurt of being the “killer of the last of a species” were nothing more than “I have to do something!” Especially, killing is totally not a Doctor’s style. If you recall series 1-4, the Doctor always said “Let me help you” and he would always, brilliantly, find a solution and never would give up.

    In addition, at the beginning of the episode, Matt’s and Moffat’s Doctor said something like he would not interfere anything and stay out of trouble. This episode and the last episode of Season 7 part 1, the Doctor seemed to be quitting being what the Doctor has been always be: an explorer. RTD’s Doctor did not only have great knowledge but also always wanting to learn more. The 9th and 10th Doctor was leaner, explorer, savior despite the eternal struggle of making difficult choices. This 11th Doctor shown a bit of lacking of knowledge (not really trying to understand what the Star Whale was saying and trying to help), spontaneously making decision without thinking, a bit show-off, said he would avoid trouble but many episodes shown he were looking for troubles and eventually go to war (I will talk more about this later)

  46. [Continued]

    Victory of the Daleks:

    COMPLETELY OUT OF CHARACTER. The Doctor’s sudden anger about the Daleks was very, extremely, completely, totally, childish. The 10th Doctor did say something about trying to confront or to talk to the Daleks when you face them would be the best escape (Silence in the Library). However, this episode has the Doctor fell into a trap like a fool. The revival of the new race of Daleks and their catchy colors were too much of a kid’s show.
    The Time of Angels, Flesh and Stone, The Vampire of Venice, Amy’s Choice, The Hungry Earth, and Cold Blood:

    All were okay. However, they raised many holes and unanswered questions up to date. For example, the image of the angel would become an angel, then, what happened to the 10th Doctor in Blink when he received the info. package from Sally Sparrow? You can fool a weeping angel that is quantum-locked by “pretending” you still can see? (similar to the argument that the Doctor can fool time with the robot thingy). The Vampire episode ending was weird and I was completely lost. Amy’s Choice was interesting; however, I did not understand the explanation “Isn’t it obvious. The Dream Lord was me.” What did he mean? If the Dream Lord was him, then why would he put his companions in danger between two horrible choices? Furthermore, he called something a “Cold Star” without even knowing what it is or what it means, and let it goes by the Universe has a lot of impossible things. The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood did attempt to develop well-rounded characters, and yes, they were not Moffat’s writing.

    Vincent and the Doctor:

    Very rounded episode despite the weird development of the monster. No explanation whatsoever on how Vincent could see the monster and others couldn’t.

    The Lodger:

    Wait a minute, the TARDIS is afraid of Cyberman’s spaceship (It was later revealed so, or did I just get it wrong again?) Okay, I understand that messing with time can cause the TARDIS to go wrong; however, Doesn’t the TARDIS have a time vortex which can control time itself?

    The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang:

    They were quite entertaining to watch. Since I fast forward the entire series, can anyone please explain to me how the Pandorica came to place and what is it relation with Amy’s memory? Meaning, the oldest writing in the universe is “Hello Sweetie” and the Doctor did not show a slightest problem with that. The Pandorica seemed to designed to lock a humanoid creature, so who designed it? Who could have known? How did the Daleks, Cyberman, Space police, Sotaran, etc, could have known about it? And again, the 11th Doctor was a little showing off, which was Moffat’s style but not as brilliant as how Tennant shown it in Silence in the Library. The only thing I like about this finale is the line “I got a future. That’s nice.” Then came the Big Bang, bringing back the “We’re at the eye of the storm, therefore we remember stuffs and still exist.

    Moreover, I am not sure if it is only me but to show how special Donna or her gramps were, RTD had one whole episode of Turn Left and a final conclusion in Journey’s End. Yet, the repetition of Amy as the girl-who-waited appeared more than the girl-who-grew-up-with-the-crack-on-her-wall. Furthermore, the crack closed in the Eleventh Hour, so Amy was still growing up with a crack in her wall, and the Doctor invite her to go with him on adventures without ever spend a little time thinking about that. Her importance was loosely handled. If you remember, the season finale, Moffat’s Doctor said something was bringing the TARDIS to the moment and had it explode, but he did not care more and just let everything passed and seek more “fun” adventures. It was like every episode under Moffat’s era ended with a question, and the Doctor never came back to the question, and Doctor Who moves on.

  47. The Impossible Astronaut:

    River Song said she was pretending she did not know what happened at the lake when she was there in the finale; however, the anger and the slap she gave the 908 years old were real. Then, which time lapse did she come from?

    Time of the Moon:

    What’s the point of imprisoned the Doctor for 3 months while others investigate the Silence? And how, in first place, they remember encounter the Silence? (Amy referred to it as facing Canton, implied that she remembered?) Especially, “You should kill us on sight” was enough for the human race goes and kill the Silence? And, wait, the Doctor would do something as creating a war, maybe even genocide, between the Silence and the human? It happened in 1969, hence, by 2012, does it mean the Silence have been wiped out by human? Or did they get weapons and go to war with human? The recorder from Amy was taken out, so…where is the microphone in her body which enabled her to continue calling out for helps after being captured? So it was not a recorder, but a nano-mobile-phone? None of them, including the Doctor, could remember what the Silence looked like; yet, they were able to project an image of the Silence? Oh, and why did the Silence need the spacesuit? They have 14 different alien technologies inside the suit, can they make a suit themselves? Ah… isn’t it just getting more interesting as there are more questions that never-to-be-answered?

    The Curse of the Black Spot:

    It is okay. Enjoyable.

    The Doctor’s Wife:

    Third favorite. I especially like the idea that the TARDIS “take [the
    Doctor] to where [he] needed to be”

    The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People:

    The only thing that annoyed me was the last scene in the factory. The flesh Doctor said if he stays, he can stop the flesh monster. The thing is, the factory is going to explode anyway, and there is a moment when the flesh lady (I do not remember her name) could hold the door by herself while the flesh Doctor hugged Amy. Ah… so there cannot be two Matt Smith, therefore, despite the weird filming and holes, the flesh Doctor must die?

    A Good Man Goes to War:

    I love “Demons Run when a good man goes to war.” Yet, since when the Cybermen have a base and The Doctor knew where their base was? On top of that, why haven’t the Cybermen started any invasion yet? Most of all, the Doctor was willing to destroy/kill if he needed information?

    Headless monk = Stars War creature with laser swords. Yay !??!!!

    River Song appeared only to tell the Doctor who she is?

    The Doctor said he remembered the soldier girl and her name “Lorna”, but after she died, he turned around and “Who was she?”

    Who is Vastra (the lizard girl)? When and What did she owe the Doctor?

    The Doctor ran off leaving Rory and Amy behind after all that trouble to get there and save them?

    I totally did not see Amy’s love for her daughter at all. Her daughter went missing and she did not care, worry, want to have her back, figuring out where she was, save her, help her (neither the Doctor). Furthermore, why on Earth the mysterious lady with an eye patch kidnap Amy’s daughter for since after all, she threw her into a foster home in New York, way back in 1969, under the Silence’s care?

    Let’s kill Hitler:

    River Song can regenerate? How many hearts does she have then? So the time vortex enables people to regenerate like Time Lords, does it mean the Doctor can regenerate forever and ever?

    One big question: who raised River Song and planned the kill-the-Doctor idea in her head? Because when she was kidnapped again (after regenerate as River Song) by the lady with the eye patch, she was like “who are you?” That lady replied, “Your owner” Does that make the Silence River’s caretaker? If so, the human did not completely wipe out the Silence at all right?

    Other episodes were fine, except the finale, which you already have a separate article to talk about just every point I want to make.


    All I want from Moffat is to bring back the dark side of the Doctor, the intelligent/brilliant Doctor, the Doctor who never gives up, and not the Doctor who always have heroic/epic acts for kid’s show, and making no sense whatsoever to me.

    However, Moffat brought some good thing, especially the question "Doctor Who" plus "a terrible secret" (The Wedding of River Song) which made me went back and watch every single episode of the NuWho again to find clues and predict what it might be. Yet, I am not sure if Moffat is going to use anything from RTD's era (such as how did the Doctor escaped the Time Locked, why can't the Time Lords escape the Time Locked the Doctor created, why did Rassilon talked to the 10th Doctor with (at least to me) some respect, and calling him "Lord Doctor" He must have some good high position in the Time Lords society then.

    I am very sorry for the lengthy comment, but if I do not give them out, I will find myself drowning in the pool of questions Moffat left me with, and unable to control myself watching series 1-4 over and over and over again even if I remember every single episode.

    By the way, I am looking to see more of your analysis of Doctor Who. I enjoyed reading all of those you wrote.

  49. Lots of meaty stuff to ponder in those comments Lav. Thanks for stopping by and voicing them. :)

  50. Thanks for this article. I came across it on google as well. I feel very much the same about Moffat and the RTD eras. I think that Moffat can write excellent episodes, maybe better than RTD, but as a show runner he just doesn't work for me (at least for this show, I think Sherlock is amazing, but then maybe because the overall plot is already drawn out). I did enjoy most of season 5, particularly the last 4 episodes, but I really couldn't stand season 6. I like Matt Smith (not as much as 10), but Amy grated on my nerves, and I've wanted her gone since the end of season 5. I really have high hopes for the next companion though, and I enjoyed the Christmas special more than any episode of Doctor who since the fifth season. I wish RTD would come back as show runner, though I think that's a futile hope.

    The mid seven season finale was a great example of the holes in Moffat's writing. The statue of liberty as an angel, really? No one, in the city that never sleeps would see the statue of liberty moving across town, and it wasn't exactly silent, was it? And why exactly couldn't the Doctor find Amy again (I'm glad that he can't, don't get me wrong). He couldn't borrow River's thing, or even fly the TARDIS to NJ and then take a taxi to find them, especially since River was obviously able to find them and could tell the Doctor where they were?

    I also agree with you that the Rose/10 love story was much more believable than the River/11. I kind of enjoy River, she at least makes things interesting, but I've never gotten the sense that the Doctor loves her. Sorry for the long post.

  51. I love both. I love RTD and Moffat. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses, but what I don't like is viewers who start with one (it really doesn't matter which because it works both ways) and then hates the other! To me, it's like hating the very essence of what the show is. Doctor who is made for change. That's why it's so great, because you never really get the same thing twice. It's always changing. There's always a new element to it.
    I agree that I love how RTD played off of his origin a lot more, and sometimes I wish Moffat would as well, but the Doctor has grown. He,as Moffat views (I watch a lot of interviews...), is a god who wants to be human. He wants to ignore is origin. Not because he's ashamed of who is he is, but probably, because he's still ashamed of what he's done. The people he's lost -- which is probably which he treats Amy and Rory like children because he's so scared of losing them.

    but seriously, my biggest pet peeve of discussing Doctor Who with others is that they can't take the change. People are either complaining about any companion that isn't Rose, that the actor is Tennant, or the writer isn't who they want. To me, personally, that defeats the whole excitement and wonder of the show. I have loved every doctor, every companion (not that I don't have my favorites), and every writer.

    alright. just had to get that out there. Not trying to hate. just frustrated.

  52. No worries Tegan. We welcome all viewpoints here. And yes, I agree with you. It also bugs me when fans dismiss one writer/showrunner over the other (Sadly this is Doctor Who Fans home run swing normally)...and I hope I've at least tried to illustrate how I DO like Moffat's take in certain areas, and I've not dismissed him entirely. Do I prefer RTD? Yep. But I like Moffat's stuff for other reasons. And since this post is now quite old, I had actually planned to revisit this argument again after the rest of S7b finishes airing, as I loved ASYLUM OF THE DALEKS, THE SNOWMEN, and now THE BELLS OF SAINT JOHN as well. I think Moffat may have found his niche...and I've certainly changed my mind about Smith's colder, more card-to-the-chest portrayal. So stay tuned for that, and thanks for stopping by with your comment. We always appreciate input and diverse opinions.

  53. The thing is after Empty Child, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, etc, I expected soooo much from Moffat for season 5 and beyond. These episodes are really great and the plot is obviously very engaging, so it's not a surprise for Moffat's era to be plot-heavy. I was honestly excited for his era. However, after 2.5 season with Moffat, I'm ready to drive multiple holes into the wall out of frustration. The plotline is too convoluted for my taste. My brother tried watching a random episode with me and it takes WAY too long just to explain what leads up to that point, and then there are way too many unanswered questions (and paradoxes). It feels like I'm need a PhD just to understand the plot (maybe I'm just slow?). However, I can't deny that I still tune in religiously every week to it--that's the thing about Moffat; he really knows how to hold an audience. I HAVE to watch the following episodes in order to find out the answers, but then the more I watch, the MORE QUESTIONS THERE ARE... It's a never-ending cycle. I was extremely hyped about the 'silence' but seriously, dragging it out for 2 season...(and it's still going I think) By the time the 5th season concludes, I completely forgot about the 'silence.' Sixth season was like 'oh yeah, the silence...maybe we'll finally get some closure' which we did ultimately but I couldn't careless about it by the end of the season. And then, just recently, after the death of (spoilers!) Amy and Rory, I find myself missing the RTD era. I mean we've been through TWO AND A HALF seasons with them, longer than any of the previous (rebooted) companions and their deaths didn't do anything for me. I was so completely removed from it that it depresses me.

    This makes me reflect back on Moffat's episodes during RTD's era. The Girl in the Fireplace was the second episode of Doctor Who I saw and it WAS SPECTACULAR! But think about it, it's completely devoid of emotional development. First and foremost, he PROMISED Jackie that he'll keep Rose (and Mickey) safe, but then he abandoned them on a 51st spaceship to save a woman he'd only known for a day--Rose, the woman he just admitted to wanting her by his side for the rest of her life just one episode previously, for another man's woman. What was the doctor expected to do? Live 3000+ years to return to the space station and rescue Rose and Mickey? Too outlandish for me. And then the companions...ermahgerd the get so many companions with the RTD's era, and each of them has their moments--Rose's the selfish child who matures overtime, Martha learns to speak up for herself, Donna's improved self-importance...Amy--the only episode I like about her is 'the girl who waited' and what kind of message is that? All she does is wait and just when she becomes a strong independent woman for herself, the Doctor chooses the younger dependent one, completely erasing the awesome, older Amy.

    Not saying the RTD is the most amazing writer to have ever lived...His story line is cheesy at time, some episodes leave me wanting. At the same time, Moffat is amazing with words! This said, I've come to term with Moffat because he brings fresh stuffs to the table! Now that Rory and Amy are dead, I can't wait for Clara to begin. Excuse my English.

  54. The thing that really bugged me about Davies was how current he got with the show. What I mean is that in the future or the past, there were little bits of dialogue that dealt with current issues, and human problems. That is in no way a bad thing. I don't want anyone saying that I think it's a bad thing to connect a show to its viewers, but it was done almost relentlessly. Take, for example, The Unicorn and The Wasp. Roger Curbishley, the homosexual son of Lady Edison, has just been killed and his lover cannot mourn him. Donna talks about gay rights. It's the 1920's! Of course they don't like gay people and that's wrong but it's 90 years in the past! We've learned better, and much more importantly there is a giant wasp KILLING people one by one!. Doctor Who is supposed to be a timeless show, and the very best time travel episodes in my opinion were the episodes that didn't try and make the issues relevant to our times but instead took the time that it was, and gave us those emotions, plain and simple, and let them speak for themselves. I personally prefer Moffat mostly because it's much more watchable. Davies had some brilliant drama but it was so sad that it punched me in the gut and I simply cannot watch most of those episodes again. Moffat's drama is a bit more watered down, his characters are sillier, it's true, but that isn't necessarily always a bad thing.
    As for the story arcs, I suppose that I can't argue there. Still, though, Davies hardly said a thing about the huge ending at all. I guess that that would be good for casual watchers but if you don't pay attention to those tiny little clues- even if you watched every single episode- then the explanation for the end comes out of nowhere at 100 miles per hour, slams into you, and leaves you saying, "What the hell just hit me?" With Moffat we can see something coming. We can see a light at the end of the long tunnel. Whether that light turns out to be freedom or simply an oncoming train remains to be seen, of course, but that's the point.

  55. Davies was probably a better show runner, but when it comes to writing episode scripts I think moffat is streets ahead of Davies. most of the Davies written episodes reused old monsters with unoriginal new evil schemes and when he did think of a new monster they almost always seemed silly and goofy. the plots to Davies episodes were hardly ever very original and were not usually intriguing. moffat's episodes almost always have new monsters with clever abilities and schemes, an interesting and complex plot, and some sort of background season plot that was not just a series of Easter eggs that don't leave you to wonder what will happen in the next episode. however Davies did create better main characters and nostalgic themes.

  56. I kind of just googled around and I found your blog and you said in a manner far more eloquent than I the problems I've had with the show since RTD's stint as show-runner ended. I do believe my biggest complaint is that I don't really feel any connection with the characters now. During RTD's era I loved Rose, Jack, Donna, Martha, 9th-10th doctor, and Mickey (who I felt was criminally underdeveloped) and their relationship with the Doctor and each other. But when it comes to Amy and Rory, I didn't really care what happened to them or between them. The constant barrage of Rory feeling insecure around the Doctor grow old after awhile and Amy seemed less a character and more like something that was a manufactured in a 'tough, flippant girl' factory somewhere. Also since you mentioned it, I did like that the previous companions all felt instrumental to the saving the world/universe. I truly enjoyed how the Companions showed the Doctor his humanity, and in return the Doctor showed his companion's their greatness. And I think its that key aspect I miss the most. Well, I will end my rambling thoughts here. In any case, I loved your essay above.

  57. Re: Moffat claiming that DW is a childrens show and that is why he made the changes he did.

    Sarah Jane Adventures is literally a childrens show, broadcasted on CBBC (BBC kids network), and it has 3-dimensional characters (male and female), progressive values and themes, complex story lines, mystery, comedy, horror...and is much much MUCH better than SM DW. So, if you intend to make DW a children's show, it should at least be as good as The Sarah Jane Adventures, and it is far from it.

    I do not enjoy The Sarah Jane Adventures as much as RTDs DW, but the former reminds me of the DW that I grew to love and cuddle up with, cry with, laugh, and make puns later with my friends! :P SM DW is inferior to both.




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