Why on earth everyone on Tumblr hates Steven Moffat, almost as though everyone is being controlled by an alien intelligence, is beyond me. Everyone keeps acting like the Russell T. Davies era was absolutely perfect and the Moffat era is horrible, even as they say how much they love individual Moffat episodes. I have taken it upon myself to point out a few things about both eras which will even the score a bit. (Let me preface this by stating that I loved the Davies era too, and David Tennant is still in my top 3 favorite Doctors, so I’m not trying to hate on Davies at all.)
1) Moffat has created more iconic villains than Davies.
My definition of iconic is either ”likely to be used by a future production team.” or “memorable enough to be famous from their single appearance.” Thus, the Daleks are iconic, as are the Cybermen. Moffat created the Weeping Angels and the Silence, both of whom will be used again (if they weren’t the next production team would be idiots), while Davies created the Judoon, which have reappeared in the Moffat area (specifically, in the Pandorica episode.) Davies created some iconic creatures too: the Sycorax (unlikely to come back again) and the Judoon (more likely.) I love the Sycorax design and wish that they would come back, but unless someone writes a story like Mark Gatiss did with the Ice Warriors, its pretty unlikely. And everyone loves the Judoon, those big rhino police created to test David Tennant’s accent (really). They’re more likely to come back. The other villains solely created by Davies, the Adipose and the Slitheen, are the ones we’re all trying to forget. So Moffat is better at creating iconic villains (“Are you my Mummy?” will be a part of Doctor Who forever), while Davies is very good at refining existing villains. Which is just fine.
2. Davies’ heroines had similar backstories as well.
Everyone seems to really hate it that the Eleventh Doctor picked up both Amy Pond and Clara Oswald because there was something about them that intrigued/baffled him. What they don’t realize is that Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, and Donna Noble all left with the Doctor because they had horrible home lives and wanted to escape, and the Doctor subsequently fixed their lives when they left him. No one would say that Rose, Martha, and Donna are too similar, so why are Amy and Clara too similar?
3. Moffat’s gay characters are likeable.
Who doesn’t love Captain Jack Harkness and Madam Vastra? It’s easy to think that Captain Jack was created by Davies, since Davies helmed Torchwood and wrote the big episodes that Jack had with the Tenth Doctor, but remember that Moffat actually created Jack (his first appearance was with the Empty Child). Moffat writes characters who happen to be gay (like Canton Everett Delaware III, if I’ve got it right) but whose sexual orientation is not the whole reason for their existence. During the Davies era, the number of gay characters the Doctor ran into could almost get to self parody levels, and they were really only there for “shock value”.
4. There were some awful episodes under Davies, too.
Confession time: I didn’t hate The Rings of Akhaten. Sure, it wasn’t as good as some of the other ones, but it introduced Clara well, gave us some wonderful new aliens to use again someday, and some pretty impressive special effects. It was certainly better than Midnight, probably the single worst thing to come out of the Davies era. You know the one, where the alien repeated everything that the Doctor said for 45 minutes. I’m also not a fan of the Lady Cassandra (we usually skip the Platform One episode, which is probably why I don’t even remember the title), or of the Slitheen (it’s sad that Christopher Eccleston was up against some of the worst villains when he had so few episodes.) Moffat has made some mistakes, certainly (I’m not a fan of the new Daleks), but he and Davies are both human. They’re bound to make mistakes.
In conclusion, don’t expect anyone to be infallible. Everyone is going to screw up, and what is perceived as awful today may become tomorrow’s classic. Moffat is a great writer, and we are lucky to have him working on Doctor Who. May his reign be long and glorious.
Whoa whoa whoa, let me explain to you a— actually, no. Allow me to explain why your description of why Moffat is awesome is flawed. I promise to be nice, seeing as you’ve been very reasonable about your points. (I do swear a lot, but not because I’m angry or trying to be rude, I promise you.) I know noworshipformoffat did a rebuttal, but I started writing this before that happened and I think more than one anti-Moffat rebuttal may be helpful.
Believe me, not everyone on Tumblr hates Moffat. If they did, the “moffat hate” tag wouldn’t be the ridiculous quagmire of “hating on the haters” and genuine critique and complaints it is now. Even so, there are perfectly legitimate reasons to dislike Moffat’s writing, from the brazen sexism to the incredibly messy and inconsistent plotting. Time travel is now the plot of the show, rather than the facilitator of the plot. Characters lack rounding and development. Representation of media minorities isn’t doing so well.
I wrote a 7000 word piece on why I think Moffat’s era is lacking (and this was prior to the ____ of the Doctor fuck-ups), and it didn’t even touch the representation issues. I’m not being mind-controlled and the implication that my opinion differing from the norm is somehow abnormal and caused externally rather than me performing analysis on the media I watch feels a little rude. I’ve mentioned loads of other people who would disagree with your assessment in this response as well, and if you’d like citations I will be happy to track down posts and articles to back up my points.
And no, I don’t find the Davies era perfect (good heavens, no!). I happen to prefer it and I am a compare/contrast essayist by nature, so I use the best of Davies’ era to highlight the many pitfalls of the Moffat era, but that’s hardly equal to putting him on a pedestal. But I have noticed a consistent pattern with my favourites in Davies’ and Moffat’s eras. RTD wrote several of my favourite episodes in his era, and Moffat only contributed “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances”. Moffat has never written an episode within his own era that I would count in my favourites (there were moments I liked, but in the end the episode would on the whole be soured by something).
So, if I may…
1) Moffat’s iconic villains are internally inconsistent/poorly developed
The Weeping Angels are probably the most famous monsters to come from New Who, and for good reason. Their introduction, while not a particular favourite of mine, resonated with the fandom and the concept/execution of the Angels in “Blink” suits the love of meta-fiction that this generation of media has. In “Blink” there are several points where Sally is not looking and yet she is not zapped. This, combined with the ending of the episode, implies that the audience is affecting the Angels through the fourth wall, which is very cool.
The Angels become one of the most interesting oneshot baddies of the RTD era. Not the scariest, in my opinion (I find 90% of jump-scares boring, and the Angels use a lot of jump-scaring) but definitely iconic. Then the Angels return in series 5, the fandom goes ballistic, and the Fridge Logic sets in. The new rules from the Angel two-parter make Sally’s victory impossible, or at least extremely unlikely. She looks the Angels in the eyes more than once and keeps photographs of them with her long after her encounter with no problems.
And while I liked Angel Bob (mostly for the voice actor) giving the Angels a voice spoils their menace. The Angels are frightening because they are other, because their biology is directly related to quantum physics in a way no life on earth is, because they cannot be reasoned with or explained. Giving the Angels a voice makes them into beings with motives that can be understood and manipulated. Letting Angel Bob speak reduces the Angels from a force of nature to just-a-baddie. And the neck-breaking thing was pretty unnecessary and further removed the Angels from forces of natures to just more villains.
They also move onscreen, and while I was able to justify it and keep the “audience is protecting the characters through the fourth wall” by saying they’re moving in the dark spaces between the frames, it directly contradicts what Ten said about them in “Blink”. If they’re observed, they turn to stone. Now, it’s if they think they’re observed, which is really lame because it removes their relationship with quantum physics and the business with observation of particles.
And don’t even get me started on the problems with “The Angels Take Manhattan”, because we’ll be here all day. Suffice to say, the Angels don’t become more canonically consistent in that episode.
The Silence have similar problems. They are creatures who are manipulated by perception, but no longer are they able to reach through the screen and allow us to become part of their menace, as was the case with the Angels. We remember the Silence when the characters don’t. And while I guess the available dramatic irony is cool, I think that sort of thing should be left to Hannibal, since they are able to perform some sustained irony over seasons with dark-as-fuck-puns, rather than holding the irony and mystery for exactly one-and-a-half episodes.
The only time the Silence’s ability to be forgotten is exploited in any memorable fashion in the meta-text, it’s to avoid showing a badass fight in “The Wedding of River Song”. So, uh, I was disappointed. And beyond that, while the Silence have an interesting shtick their motives and actions tend to be super inconsistent. They kill exactly one human for no fucking reason (except to show that they’re villains), for a plan that is convoluted beyond reasonable expectation, then team up with the Doctor because….? Rule of Cool, as far as I can tell.
And their presence in humanity runs against one of the best themes in the RTD era: the incredible potential of humanity. The Moon two-parter tells us that all of human achievement until 1969 came from the Silence manipulating us, not by our own abilities and talents. What an utterly demoralising message.
And then the Doctor arranges to have them all killed by the human race, which is so out of character from what is established by Nine and Ten (especially Ten!!!) that it aches.
Once you take the Angels out of the equation, which really should be done by “The Angels Take Manhattan” because wow did that episode spoil everything interesting about the Angels and ruin their canon, the following Moffat monsters get weaker and weaker. The Snowmen are silly, nonsensical, and are fuelled by perception (that being the third Moffat monster with that trait, he’s run out of interesting things to do with it). The Whispermen… wear top hats? Honestly, watching the episode I had no clue what made them menacing at all, beyond the fact a dude in prison says a nursery rhyme about them. And how prison dude knew about them is anybody’s guess. And the Great Intelligence, a somewhat obscure Classic Who character, is introduced so badly I had no fucking clue he was an established Classic character until I looked him up to see if external materials established more motive and characterisation for him than “I will kill the Doctor”, which was Korvarian’s vague motive, if I remember rightly. That’s a genuinely awful introduction, if I do say so myself.
This isn’t to say these monsters haven’t become emblematic of Moffat’s era. A strong start in the RTD episodes, rehashing some of the same material used there by series six, completely repeating himself (badly) by series seven. But iconic and brilliant? Once you get past the Weeping Angels, intriguing beings that they are upon introduction, where is that collection of iconic and brilliant Moffat monsters? Because I don’t really see them.
RTD may not have made as many monsters you like, but that doesn’t mean that popular culture doesn’t remember the Ood or the Slitheen (and we’re not all trying to forget them, trust me. I love the Slitheen episodes and was a huge fan of their appearance in the Sarah Jane Adventures). And try telling the official Doctor Who tumblr that we’re all trying to forget the Adipose, because they haven’t gotten the memo. Your personal experience with the creatures of Doctor Who does not equal the experience of all people. I more or less feel the exact opposite to everything you feel about them, and I know people who fully agree with me, too. And that doesn’t make my personal experience any more representative of the majority. In a fandom as vast and wildly broken as Doctor Who, any majority opinion is still going to only represent a fraction of the fandom at large. What validates my point is analysis of the media I take in. Like in any Literature essay ever, your viewpoint and argument is valid if you can find evidence to support your point. Which I can.
2) Davies’ heroines did not have similar backgrounds, they had vaguely-similarish heroic character arcs, and that’s not the same thing
Rose, Martha, and Donna had the same background? Seriously? Rose was working-class with a loving but smothering mother (who thought that working as a shopgirl somewhere like Henrik’s would give her airs and graces) and boyfriend she went on cruise control with, the loss of her father had a key and powerful impact on her life through her mother’s stories. Rose’s backstory left her drifting in a life where she could never use her fully potential and didn’t know she had that potential. The Doctor gave her knowledge of her own strength in series one and a full grasp of her abilities by series two.
Martha was raised in a big upper-middle class family that also happened to be broken. Her relationship with both her mum and dad seems to be good, but she’s a go-between for them and appears to be The Great Negotiator in her family. Meanwhile, she clearly loves both her sister and brother and gets along well with them. Martha is getting higher education and has the very high goal of being a doctor (and her whole family is supporting her, not trying to pin her down like Jackie tried, with good intentions, with Rose), and she’s almost there. Martha may not fully understand how amazing she is, but she’s wielding her potential already and aiming for a goal. The Doctor shows her how amazing she is to herself and by the end of series three Martha is ready to leave, knowing how amazing she is, giving her family priority because that’s what she believes is right, and getting the Doctor to come when she calls.
Donna is older than both Martha and Rose, and part of her story is about how she hasn’t lost this potential even if she missed her chance to go with the Doctor the first time. She lacks the confidence of both Martha and Rose, even half a series in when both of them were more or less confident about themselves. That can be owed to her own home life, where Sylvia is verbally abusive and tears Donna down, and Wilf is kind and supportive but doesn’t necessarily push Donna into being more, or better.
How are these three women the same?
The backstories of Moffat’s heroines — Amy, Clara, and River — may be different, but that seems to do diddly for their characterisation. The Moffat heroine tends to be constructed from the same scaffolding tropes with different colours of paint.
And my objection to the Doctor picking up Clara the way he did is not because it’s similar to the way he picked up Amy, it’s because he chooses to take Clara along because she is a metaphorical Rubik’s Cube. Clara is treated as a puzzle to be solved, and despite all characters insisting that Clara is an ordinary girl, Eleven never faces the consequences for treating her as a mystery instead of a person. Instead, he is vindicated. He gets his answer. And then Clara just sort of fades into the background of the following stories until she is needed to emotionally manipulate Eleven, rather than getting more character development.
You seem to think I’m mad about Amy and Clara and River for completely different reasons than I am.
3) Moffat’s queer characters don’t serve as adequate representation
First off, and I cannot scream this loudly enough, Jack was designed by RTD and Moffat’s writing did not give Jack his omnisexual orientation. The assumption that Jack was a Moffat creation flies in the face of everything known in television writing. Please please please don’t start preaching that Moffat designed Jack, because that takes away the success of a gay writer creating a wildly popular and memorable character and gives it to the man who writes and allows sexual assault to be written as a joke.
And I’m not terribly fond of Vastra and Jenny. Even if I was, their relationship exists in the realm of “because I said so” and innuendoes. Compare the loving and very visually obvious relationship between Amy and Rory to Vastra and Jenny. And I would be okay with the lack of any visual cues to their relationship if there was better representation elsewhere. But there isn’t. Canton’s sexuality is written as a punchline and there’s no visual evidence of it existing at all. River’s apparent bisexuality had to be confirmed on Twitter, because there’s no sign of it anywhere in the show. The married marines don’t even have names because they’re such a long list of identifiers, who needs to acknowledge them as people with names?
Really, the number of gay characters in the RTD era was self-parody? Really? Off the top of my head, Shakespeare was bi (as has been speculated in academia for a while), Skye Silvestre’s previous partner had been a woman, Jake was not confirmed to be gay but the writing left loads of people assuming so, Torchwood is its own thing (and I don’t watch it much, so I can’t really say anything about the characters), and the son and footman in “The Unicorn and the Wasp” (who had to keep their relationship secret and still managed to be physically affectionate on screen) were definitely together and it was remarked how cruel that the footman couldn’t openly mourn the death of his lover. I’m certainly there were more, but off the top of my head that’s not a vast majority.
The words “gay agenda” were thrown about during the RTD era, but the four most important characters were three women who were only in heterosexual romances (Rose, Martha, and Donna) and the Doctor, whose sexuality allowed a romance with Rose but was not openly sexual except in Moffat’s episodes, allowing for the argument that the Doctor is on the asexual spectrum or is demisexual. Moffat’s writing for the Doctor has actively defied that theory.
Of course, if RTD was pushing a gay agenda for writing more than a few characters who aren’t straight, then Moffat is a progressive hero for sensationalising people who aren’t straight and making their sexualities into punchlines.
4) Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean everyone agrees
Confession: I am head-over-heels in love with “Rings of Akhaten” and “Hide” and “Nightmare in Silver” and “The Crimson Horror” (assault of Jenny excluded), but I still think Moffat’s era is weaker than American beer.
Here are some interesting facts for you: “Midnight” is absolutely beloved in my neck of the woods and you disliking it would not appear to be the majority opinion. “The Name of the Doctor” pulled 70% of the viewers “Journey’s End” pulled despite the hype building up to it. Of the ten lowest-viewed regular episodes of New Who, four came from the second half of series seven. Kilodalton did some stats that show audience numbers, on the whole, appear to be dropping. Your praise for “Rings of Akhaten” apply almost word-for-word to “The End of the World” (the Platform One episode that kick-starts Rose’s character growth and shows off some of effects the Time War had on Nine).
You like Moffat, which is great for you, but your critique falls very flat because it relies on deliberate misrepresentations of arguments and personal opinion. Like Moffat all you want, but you’ll not be changing people’s opinion with this.
edited 06/29/14 for readability and tagging