Monday, 10 November 2014

Dear Stephen Moffatt…

by Tim Bustin

A shared opinion: please kindly step down as head writer of Doctor Who. Don’t worry, I have reasons and things to go with this outrageous request.

Ever since the relaunch of Doctor Who, I have had a near unquestionable faith in the brilliance of the investable characters, ingenious monsters and clever storylines, following the exploits of Eccelstone to Smith, Rose to Clara. Recently however, you have shaken that faith. I’m not happy, Mr. Moffatt. Not happy.

Let’s begin with the obvious problem. No, not Capaldi – I am, in fact a fan, and I’m questioning your writing not his acting. You have attempted to make Doctor Who far, far too clever. This works in your other hit series, Sherlock, because it is meant to be intelligent (and the explanations can’t just be some invented science fiction item). In Doctor Who, a show designed for, let’s face it, primarily children, you should not try and bamboozle us with crazy several-series plots, with potentially contradictory moments, and the logic “Oh, it’s a fixed point in time. You know, cause I said so”. 

I mean, does the average viewer really understand what the whole Trenzalore thing was (average viewer = regular child/parent, not obsessed fandomers, with access to limitless Whovian knowledge and several swirly diagrams explaining what’s going on)? I’m sure it did make some sort of sense in the end, but how can you expect us to follow this when all we really want to do is hide behind the sofa?

Secondly, I have to basically say "What on Earth?" to some of this series’ episodes. Now, Doctor Who has been famous for very clever conceptual monsters, both physically and psychologically frightening, that we’ve all come to know and love – you yourself invented the simple yet brilliant Weeping Angels, where you simply have to not blink to stay alive – but how hard that really is. Unfortunately, we’ve had only a couple of these of late. The Mummy that gave you 90 seconds to live. ‘Flatline’, with creatures dragging you into a 2-D world, was imaginative and encapsulating. BUT WHAT WAS THAT WITH THE MOON?

In a science fiction program, if you are attempting to use genuine science to explain things, you should not then mess that science up. Things wrong with the Moon episode:

1)     The Moon was an egg. From the start, this is all wrong.
2)      Single-celled organisms the size of footballs (btw, if you are using a proportionality argument here, forget it). Also these creatures had pincers and legs – i.e. clearly had more than one cell.
3)    A baby creature, that hatched from the moon (in itself, mind-bogglingly ridiculous), instantly laid a new egg. In general, nature’s not a fan of newborns as parents.
4)    The egg it laid was the same size as the old moon. How, please tell? Lavoisier would be turning in his grave (but I guess he’s a Cyberman now, so he can just get revenge in person).
5)    The episode was called “Kill the Moon”. This, quite simply, is lame.
6)    Not a science thing, but Courtney was awful. Like, she was the epitome of awful.
7)    There was a monster for 5 minutes. Only 5 minutes. A show about an alien defeating other aliens only tried defeating aliens for about 5 minutes. Not quite as bad as the stupid tree episode, where there wasn’t even anything to be scared of.
Finally, point number 8 would be how the episode was all about relationships, rather than monsters. Who cares! Honestly, who gives a damn about Clara liking Danny Pink, or the Doctor not liking Danny Pink? Nobody! (okay, maybe some people, but still, Doctor Who is a monster-based programme, and, dammit, should stay that way). Now, I know you didn’t write the Moon episode, but you approved it, and it really does sum up the general themes of the majority of the series, that need to be done away with.

Last but not least: this series’ finale. Fair enough, good concept, can’t go wrong with zombie Cybermen (and actually that Steve Jobs joke was pretty good), but once again the combination of daftness and weird explanations (that I can’t figure are deliberately too clever or just naff), definitely tainted what could have been amazing.

Was the Master/Missy’s whole motivation loneliness? Because if so, that was a really complicated way to go about it.

And also, why did she then let the Doctor nearly fall to his death, if her plan was to give him an army (btw, giving the Doctor limitless power has been done before (for example, “School Reunion”, series 2) and he said no then)? 

Or was Missy just lying to the Doctor (but then, what would be the point)? 

Also, aren’t Cybermen meant to be just the brains of humans, not their skeletons, hence dismissing the whole fish tank thing (though that was cool)?

And was it just sheer coincidence that Danny’s emotional inhibitor didn’t work, because, if the explanation was love, then millions of the Cybermen surely wouldn’t work? 

Also, and most importantly, the Cybermen weren’t frightening. Like, what did they actually do? Their rising from the grave was scary, granted, but how many people did they actually kill? Like, I swear they just hung about and flew a bit.

So, summarizing (before I burst in rage). The most important parts of Doctor Who are being shot to shreds. How many times has Clara taken charge this series, making us believe the Doctor is incapable of making proper decisions? Maybe it should be retitled as ‘Clara Who’, because this is not on. The Doctor is not incompetent, nor immoral, nor incapable. What he is is a bad-ass alien with a conscience, a few thousand years more experience under his belt than any companion, a big blue box, and a desire to save innocent people from horrifying monsters. As a general writer, you were fantastic, and came up with some of these monsters yourself. But the direction Doctor Who has taken is wrong.

We need it taken back to the old days – before your eloquent speeches 12-and-below-year-olds can’t understand, before confusing storylines where the explanation isn’t (at the end) laid out before us, before lesbian lizard couples (not that I’d be against interspecies homosexuality – erm, I think – but to be both really does feel forced), before the show became less about clever ways of defeating monsters and more about the psychology of the Doctor. 

Please, Mr. Moffatt, keep writing for Doctor Who – but relinquish command, and let someone else lead the way.


  1. Sadly true on many counts... It is also unfortunate that Peter has had about as much character development as a stick of 'strangely' shaped celery. Well written btw

  2. I like him. You should too.

  3. THANK YOU! Someone who's sick of exactly the same things within the series as I am. Moffat definitely needs to step down, the storylines have been atrocious and some of the characters (i.e. Danny Pink) have been incredibly annoying. When Russel T. Davies was at the helm the episodes were quality, however after the conclusion of this series of dire episodes I have finally persuaded myself to stop watching the show.

    Great article, I wish Peter Capaldi had some decent material to work with because I like him as the doctor.

  4. Dear Tim
    The solution is staring you in the face


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