Despite no episodes of Doctor Who until Christmas in 2016, this year has already served up a lot of news. Steven Moffat will pen series ten of the sci-fi show before handing the TARDIS reigns over to Chris Chibnall, who’s first series will air in 2018. As time is running out on Moffat’s tenure, has his era been successful?
When Russell T Davies left Doctor Who in 2010, the show hung in the balance. Matt Smith was replacing one of the most popular Doctors in David Tennant and people were already turning their back on the show before series five had even begun. Steven Moffat had written some of the standout episodes in RTD’s era. “Blink” and “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead” were both near flawless stories, but even then, the Scotsman had a lot to prove as he had to fill huge shoes in the head writer role. And he did… at least initially. Series five, Matt Smith’s debut season as the Doctor was fantastic. It followed the same structure as the previous four series, 13 episodes with a few two part stories in there too. The crack that followed Amy Pond and the Doctor across the universe was an intriguing story arc and the finale “The Big Bang” emphatically rounded off a hit first season for Moffat as show runner.
Even series six began well, seeing the Doctor shot dead in the series opener “The Impossible Astronaut” was shocking and had everyone racking their brains. A few average episodes later in “A Good Man goes to War” part one of the series concluded fantastically with the twist that nobody saw coming, River Song was the daughter of Amy and Rory. But then it all seemed to fall apart. Moffat seemed to get lost in his own plots. The second part of series six didn’t live up to expectations. “Let’s Kill Hitler” was an episode with a misleading title that had a part to play in the series arc with the Teselecta saving the Doctor in this episode. Unfortunately Moffat couldn’t finish what he started and the season six finale “The Wedding of River Song” was a messy episode from start to finish. Although the Doctor’s escape from death on Lake Silencio was clever, hiding inside the Teselcta, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed at what felt like a bit of a cop out ending. Also, this is when the character of River Song started to become irritating. Her marriage to the Doctor was just pointless and I feel her character would’ve been a lot better if we hadn’t seen her again since then.
Moving on, Moffat replicated the formula of a split series from the previous year into series seven and sadly it didn’t work. Most of the stand alone episodes were poor as he ditched the two parter stories. To his credit he did write the Ponds (well Amy at least) out beautifully in “The Angels take Manhatten” although their stay in the TARDIS was perhaps a series or so too long. Part Two of series 7 saw the introduction of Clara Oswald, an intriguing companion whose curious nature became the focus of the end of the series. At the end of series 7, Moffat was back on form. The finale “The Name of the Doctor” nicely wrapped up Clara’s mystery as well as introducing us to John Hurt as the Doctor, probably the best cliffhanger in the modern era of the show. That took us into the fiftieth anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor”, Moffat’s finest hour as show runner. He wrote an almost perfect episode that beautifully doffed its cap to several aspects of the show’s history. It also set up a new story arc; finding Gallifrey. Just over a month later Moffat penned Matt Smith’s final episode as the Doctor. The episode itself was mostly average, but the eleventh Doctor’s final scenes were scripted to perfection.
Now, the best thing Moffat has done while in charge of the show is to appoint Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor. In series 8 and 9, Moffat returned to the traditional block series structure and the improvement was clear immediately. Capaldi was on form from day one. Series eight was the most consistent of Moffat’s tenure, it’s hard to pick out a weak episode (looking past “In The Forest of the Night”) and the series arc of Missy was again very intriguing. The series 8 finale was very brave from Moffat, using the dead to create an army of cybermen. It wasn’t a bad finale but I didn’t like it too much. There were some cringy moments including the opening sequence and Missy’s Mary Poppins-esque landing in the graveyard. I’m not entirely sure the Cybermen “pollenating” to make more of them was completely valid either. Series nine started very well, Moffat threw everything at it. Skaro, Daleks, Missy and most shockingly Davros all returned. The scenes with the Doctor and Davros were written perfectly by Moffat. And season nine continued in terrific form for the most part. Clara left beautifully in “Face the Raven” and the following episode “Heaven Sent” was a masterclass from Capaldi and Moffat alike. But what happened next was just awful. Series nine ended with “Hell Bent”, an episode that started so well with the Doctor returning to Gallifrey in some style. The decision Moffat made to save Clara from death was inexcusable. It ruined her perfect exit and ruined the finale. The return to Gallifrey, Whovians had been waiting on for a decade had been cut short as the Doctor spent the rest of the episode trying to save his companion. Even worse than that, the episode ended with the Doctor forgetting Clara completely. She then flew off in a large diner with Ashildr/Me. It was a random and frustrating end to what could’ve been Moffat’s best series to date.
Steven Moffat will oversee fourteen more episodes as Doctor Who show runner. It wouldn’t be fair to completely judge his tenure yet but so far it has been a mixed bag. After a strong start, he seemed to lose himself a little in the middle but he must receive credit for how beautifully he handled the fiftieth anniversary special. If Moffat left now his reign would be more positive than negative but there have been several instances in which he’s flattered to decieve. Let’s hope Moffat can sign off in style with series ten.