The long-awaited tenth season of Doctor Who is just over seven weeks away. Recently, all of Doctor Who fans’ attention has been focused on Peter Capaldi, after the Scot announced the upcoming season would be his last as the Doctor. But what has long-term head writer and executive producer Steven Moffat got left to prove? As we enter his sixth season and final season as show runner, I look to see what could make and what could break the legacy that Moffat will leave behind.
By the time Steven Moffat hangs up his pen (or keyboard) at the end of the year, he will have overseen the tenure of two Doctors, as well as introducing us to the War Doctor, and giving Paul McGann a deserved regeneration scene. Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi each will have served under Steven Moffat for more or less the same amount of time. Three seasons seems to be the norm now for an actor in the show’s starring role. I think it’s fair to say that three seasons of twelve to thirteen episodes each, as well as numerous specials, is more than enough time to develop a character to a place where you’d want them to be. So has Steven Moffat done that with his respective Doctors?
Well, Matt Smith’s tenure was unarguably more consistent than Peter Capaldi’s to date. From the off, Smith was branded as a goofier and more energetic Doctor, and that’s exactly what we got. For four years, the youngest ever man to play the Doctor was a joy to watch, dashing about, limbs flying everywhere. Throughout his three seasons, his character rarely wavered from his youthful and vigorous persona, but there were the odd flashes of darkness too that helped neutralise his childishness to an extent. When it was announced that Peter Capaldi would take over from Smith, it seemed the show was about to embark on a journey to a million miles away from where it had been for the past few years. Capaldi was going to be a “Rebel Timelord”, and the most stripped back version of the time traveller since William Hartnell. Capaldi’s costume and all of the marketing suggested such. And to be fair, that’s what we got in season eight. For a time, we as viewers, along with the Doctor himself, were questioning the integrity of the character and whether or not he was a “good man”. He was brilliantly rude and blunt while maintaining a caring glint in his eye that the Doctor has and always will need. There were some moments in season nine like this too; the Doctor was remarkable in The Zygon Inversion, Face the Raven and Heaven Sent. But he was written so inconsistently. The Sonic Sunglasses were a cheap gimmick, and while seeing him rock out on his guitar once or twice was great, watching him playing it almost each week became tiring. Sliding down chutes, referring to himself as “Doctor Disco” and other eleventh Doctor-esque acts made it feel like Moffat was still writing for Smith, rather than Capaldi. In season ten, he must get the twelfth Doctor back on track. With this being Moffat and Capaldi’s last season, it’s both men’s last chance to leave their mark on the show. Moffat has to prove he can write the Doctor consistently like he did for Matt Smith. Get Capaldi back to his best. Drop the ridiculous shades and get back to scripting quick-witted grumps for the Doctor to entertain us with.
Steven Moffat also must prove he can still scare viewers. While writing under Russell T. Davies, Moffat consistently wrote stories that spooked and hooked the audience. The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink and Silence in the Library/ Forest of the Dead are three of the finest Doctor Who stories of all time. Since he’s taken over as show runner, Moffat seems to have put more of his focus on series arcs, character development and making everything as complicated as possible. Listen aside, it’s hard to pinpoint a Moffat script from the middle of a season that really captured the imagination, like his episodes used to. Efforts like The Beast Below and Let’s Kill Hitler perhaps suggest Moffat’s days of writing memorable standalone episodes are behind him. Season ten will hopefully be the time where Moffat rediscovers his top form and produces more classics as he did throughout the Russell T. Davies era.
Lastly, Moffat needs to show fans, viewers and himself that he is capable of finishing off a story or character properly. Two of the biggest criticisms of his era have been his inability to kill off a character for good and dragging out storylines for too long. It doesn’t take very much searching to find examples of this either. Rory Williams and Clara Oswald both died on screen several times, as well as appearing to on the brink of being written out of the show, yet always returned. Hell Bent was a total mess, only because Moffat couldn’t accept that Clara was dead, even though her death was perfect in Face the Raven. If he, Pearl Mackie or Chris Chibnall decide that Bill will be the companion for just one season, then Moffat must write her out of the show properly. One thing I don’t want to see is Bill leaving with the option of a future return. In a way it’s insulting to viewers. It’s lazy and just says “we can’t be bothered writing a proper ending so this character is just going away for a bit but they might be back soon so stayed tuned”. It’s happened throughout Moffat’s era. Before The Husbands of River Song, River Song herself spent years in Doctor Who limbo, and even since then, another return has been touted. If Bill, or any other character is set to leave in season ten, then Steven Moffat must prove he can satisfactorily round off storylines.
I, like most Doctor Who fans, am more upset about Peter Capaldi’s subsequent departure than Steven Moffat’s, though I’m not as against the head writer as a lot of his vocal detractors. Moffat has undeniably done a lot of good for the show; the fiftieth anniversary, John Hurt, Paul McGann’s regeneration and two relatively successful Doctors’ eras will have all been and gone since Moffat took over from Russell T. Davies in 2010. In my eyes, if he can round of Peter Capaldi’s era with a strong season, where the twelfth Doctor is back to his surly yet witty self and his scripts are as strong as we know they can be, his era will go down as a success. Yes, it’s been a long way from perfect, but there’s still an entire year for him to cement his legacy as something that’s looked back on with affection by most, if not all fans.