The 11th season of Doctor Who saved the series from the mistakes of Steven Moffat's time as showrunner. Moffat is a polarizing figure among the Doctor Who fandom, beloved for having written some of the greatest episodes of all time and reviled for his excesses as an executive producer. Many of the changes to the show's formula during its latest season can be seen as direct responses to those excesses and a desperate attempt to save the series.
Most Whovians would not deny that Moffat is a tremendous talent and that he accomplished many great things while acting as Doctor Who's showrunner. Nevertheless, most of Moffat's defenders would also not deny that the quality of the series under Moffat's leadership became more erratic as time went on. Towards the end of his tenure, Moffat became more concerned with revealing shocking twists and spinning epic sagas than simple, basic storytelling.
The audience seems to have responded favorably to the changes since Chris Chibnall took over Doctor Who earlier this year. While some viewers have decried the new season for Jodie Whittaker's performance as the Doctor and complained that the new ensemble of companions is too large, most fans seem to approve of the changes. The fact that the show has begun receiving its highest ratings since before the Moffat era started speaks volumes as to the audience's opinion. As such, it seems appropriate to reassess the Moffat era before comparing it to the changes wrought by Chibnall.
- This Page: Moffat's Doctor Who Problem
- Page 2: How Doctor Who Season 11 Corrected Moffat
How Moffat Energized, Then Undid, Doctor Who
Fans were originally ecstatic when it was announced that Steven Moffat would be taking over as Doctor Who's showrunner in 2010. Serving as one of the show's writers since its revival in 2005, Moffat wrote some of the most beloved and critically acclaimed Doctor Who stories of the new series. His first four scripts - the two-part "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances," "The Girl In The Fireplace" and "Blink" - went on to win Doctor Who the Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form for three years in a row. His creation of the character of Captain Jack Harkness also led to the spin-off series Torchwood.
Unfortunately, it ultimately proved to be too much for Moffat to handle writing for the show and acting as the executive producer and script editor for a prolonged period. Moffat still managed to tell some tremendous tales during the fifth season, with his first story for Matt Smith's 11th Doctor, "The Eleventh Hour", being ranked by some as the greatest introduction to Doctor Who for new viewers ever written. The season 5 finale "The Big Bang" also drew high praise and inspired some critics to say that if Doctor Who was ever to come to an end, it should have come as Moffat wrote it, with the Doctor sacrificing himself to save all reality and existing forever more only as a child's memory of her imaginary friend.
Things became progressively worse as Moffat became a victim of his own success. At the same time he became showrunner on Doctor Who, he also began producing Sherlock - a highly-acclaimed modernization of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories. Even with being limited to three episodes per season, each episode was the length of a feature-length film and plotted accordingly. Something had to give and many felt it was Moffat's work on Doctor Who.
As Moffat's time on Doctor Who dragged on, his scripts and the series as a whole became more dependent on shocking twists, high concepts and ludicrous humor. The end results were decidedly mixed. Some enjoyed the revelation that the Doctor's future wife River Song was the grown-up daughter of his companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams in "A Good Man Goes To War." By contrast, few enjoyed the farcical follow-up "Let's Kill Hitler," which seemed to have no point to it beyond the joke of sticking Hitler in a cupboard while Amy and Rory dealt with the revelation that their best friend from childhood was also their future daughter in another body.
By the time of Peter Capaldi's 12th Doctor, Moffat had ceased writing stories to fit the characters and began bending the characters to fit the season-long story arcs he crafted around the philosophical issues he wished to explore. Clara Oswald - The Impossible Girl who existed in multiple times - was not so much a character as she was a living mystery for the Doctor to solve and then a deus ex machina who could save the Doctor whenever he needed someone as clever as himself to get out of this week's jam. It is telling that Capaldi's Doctor seemed to suffer from an identity crisis as the show went on, first wondering if he was a good man and then changing personalities in successive seasons to accommodate new characterizations as an aging punk rocker and an eccentric professor.