Features TV

The Legacy of Moffat

Written by John Hussey

With the recent news that Steven Moffat will be standing down as show-runner of Doctor Who I thought it’d be nice to look back and reflect upon what he has done for the show.

Moffat’s work stems back to 2005 where he wrote his first tale, ‘The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances’, for Christopher Eccleston‘s Ninth Doctor. This episode blended Blitz London with both a science-fiction and horror element. It was chilling for its catchphrase, “Are you my mummy?”, but also heart-warming through having a resolution where “everybody lives”.

It’s fair to say Moffat’s episodes were popular but nobody could prepare themselves for his masterpiece ‘Blink’. Moffat nominated himself for the Doctor-lite episode for Series Three, after he was unable to write what would become ‘Daleks in Manhattan’, and ultimately created a popular villain, the Weeping Angels, and a narrative that fans would use to introduce new fans to the show. Despite the absence of David Tennant‘s Tenth Doctor the episode works on so many different levels through its clever timey-wimey storytelling, its lovable characters and its tension.

hello-im-the-doctor

Come 2010 Moffat took over the show after Russell T Davies stood down. This introduced the world to Matt Smith‘s Eleventh Doctor. I absolutely loved his Doctor and I have to give a lot of credit to Moffat for his perfect choice in casting, and his continuous perfect writing for him throughout his era. Smith was so much fun but also had a certain edge through his usage of manipulation. He also portrayed a unique blend of youth and ancientness, further showcasing his talents as an actor.

What was great during Smith’s era was the engaging story-arcs. The “Silence Will Fall” arc was a clever construct which managed to delve deep within the Doctor’s development as a character over his, then, 50 year reign on television. To have an enemy, the Silence, that wanted to silence the Doctor, for something he wasn’t aware of, just made for interesting storytelling. The more we discovered the more intrigued we got. It was made all the more exciting when we discovered “The First Question”, a question that must never be answered, was actually “Doctor Who?” How ingenious of Moffat.

It was clever that the Doctor had to cheat his own fixed death in time and thereby erase himself from history. What also added to this on-going story-arc was the arcs of the companions. Moffat made it clear that his companions would be both unique and complicated. Amy and Rory certainly went through a lot by having their timelines manipulated constantly and having their child, Melody Pond, stolen from them only to find out that she becomes River Song. This ultimately made them the Doctor’s step-parents. I still believe that their relationship with the Doctor stands as one of the best Doctor/companion chemistries in the history of the show.

Clara’s story was taken one step further by having her splintered throughout time in order to protect the Doctor’s history from being erased by the Great Intelligence. This formulated the most complicated, but beloved, Doctor/companion chemistry of all time. The Doctor wanted her aboard the TARDIS because he was curious about her mystery but in the end their lives became entwined.

A_Day_in_the_life_of_Doctor_Who__A_50th_anniversary_review

One of Moffat’s greatest achievements was the 50th Anniversary. It was a big ask from him but he managed to deliver so much in 2013, from creating a brand-new Doctor, i.e. The War Doctor played by John Hurt, finally giving Paul McGann‘s Eighth Doctor a regeneration scene, having every single Doctor save Gallifrey from its destruction in the Time War, bridging the gap between New and Classic Who, bringing Tom Baker back for a cameo, to finally dealing with the limitation of regenerations.

He then closed off Smith’s journey by having him age to death in a struggle on Trenzalore to protect Gallifrey from the Daleks, ultimately answering why the Silence wanted him dead. It all wrapped up beautifully, granting Smith one hell of a swansong that ended in tears as he regenerated with dignity and style.

This led to the birth of Peter Capaldi‘s Twelfth Doctor. His Doctor has been exciting to watch as Capaldi raises to each and every challenge Moffat has thrown at him and he never disappoints. Moffat knows exactly how to write for the Doctor and between Smith and Capaldi he has delivered a pair of outstanding incarnations. Capaldi’s Doctor is dark, complicated and downright entertaining. Who’d have thought we’d ever see the Doctor ride a tank into a medieval arena playing the electric guitar?

It was also brilliant how Moffat ended Clara’s arc by having her die and the Doctor being pushed over the edge to rescue her. ‘Heaven Sent’ remains to be one of the most poetic storylines within Doctor Who, and a perfect example of Moffat’s talents. Plus it showcased how brilliant Capaldi is through having him deliver a narrative on his own. The torment that the Doctor went through to achieve the victory was painful to watch but it was also beautiful.

‘Hell Bent’ had a great return to Gallifrey, where the Doctor, in the most badass way possible, kicked Rassilon off the planet. He eventually went too far and broke every rule he stood for in order to save his best friend. In the end she proved that she was his equal and the two of them parted ways in the most tragic way possible.

doctorwho0913__article-house-780x440

Moffat also created one of my favourite characters of all time: River Song. Her character is wild and always delivers an entertaining performance. Alex Kingston brings so much to the character and her complicated, and tragic, storyline makes for an enjoyable journey. Her relationship with the Doctor is what sells it. I especially loved Kingston’s chemistry with Smith. I always cry during their goodbye scene in ‘The Name of the Doctor’ which perfectly sums up why they have one of the best love story of all time.

It’s also beautiful how in ‘The Husbands of River Song’ the narrative comes full circle and we see the Doctor say his goodbye on their final journey together before she goes to die, the episode in which the Doctor first met her. It’s also beautiful when River believes the Doctor never truly loved her, and wouldn’t come to her rescue, only to be proven wrong twice. This storyline is another testament to everything Moffat has contributed to the show.

These are only some of the things Moffat has brought to Doctor Who. There is so much more.  This article serves as an apology for my negative views towards Moffat in recent years and I just want to make it clear how much I admire his work and how much I am grateful for what he has done for the show. Thank you Steven Moffat. I look forward to your last series and bid you good luck in your future.

Please share your favourite moments and ideas that Moffat has contributed to the show in the comments below or on our Twitter page.

About the author

John Hussey