Why I hate Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who #1:




This is the first post of my series attempting to detail everything that is horribly, horribly wrong with the modern state of Doctor Who, my favorite show. The basic premise is that I think Steven Moffat is an absolute narcissistic, sexist, hack, that he has turned Doctor Who into something that is idiotic and has none of the magic that it used to have, classic or revived, and that he should either quit or be fired as soon as possible. Each post will have it’s own specific reason that I personally hate the Moffat era. Enjoy.

1. He has failed to create a single character I give a damn about.

 One of the criticism’s frequently given to the Russel T. Davis era of Doctor Who that it focus far too much on Rose Tyler. Rose Tyler is my first and still one of my favorite Doctor Who companions, but it’s a fair point. The first two seasons obviously had Rose as the companion, the next season was about Rose having left, and the fourth season was about Rose coming back. While I liked both Martha Jones and Donna Noble, it could be true that the focus was on Rose at the expense of the other companions. But even then the thing that justified the focus on Rose was that she was a three-dimensional, well-written character, brilliantly acted by Billie Piper. Creating characters you loved and cared about was one of Russell T. Davis biggest strengths. While Rose is my personal favorite of his companions (I’m probably biased because she was my first), Martha and Donna were also believable, well-written, and well-acted Characters, brilliantly distinct from each other while still having their own strengths and weaknesses. 

Steven Moffat, on the other hand, has failed time and time again to create any character care about, relate to, or even like all that much. Steven Moffat cannot write characters, more especially he cannot write women. He has given us two companions, and neither of them have any dimensions to them at all besides a few quips and their obsession with the Doctor. Also his sexism comes out in the writing his women(I’ll get to his sexism in another post.) Of his two lead companions I prefer Clara(this is another thing I’ll get to in another post, but let me be clear, Amelia Pond is one of the worst companions to ever travel with the Doctor.) One of the joys of Doctor Who, in the both the classic series, revived series, and Big Finish audios, is meeting these new characters, falling in love with them, experiencing the Doctor’s adventures through them, feel for their pains and loves, and emotionally bid them farewell once their time in the Tardis is done. 

I remember hearing a few months that River Song was returning for the Christmas special, and being startled at just how apathetic I was to the notion. I realized how throughly Moffat had failed to develop the character and establish her relationship to the rest of the cast. Basically what he did was throw her into the show, say, “She’s the Doctor’s Wife” and expect us to follow along with just that. He did the same for the Paternoster gang and basically every character he has ever written for his seasons. Since he doesn’t put any work into his character, I can’t possibly put any investment into their conflicts. As a head writer this is unforgivable. Doctor Who should have the best characters in the world, not these basic cut-outs. But it is still only of his many, many offenses against the show. 

Congratulations! You’ve made it very clear you haven’t been paying any attention to Moffat’s characters in a vapid, trite criticism that’s been said and countered a thousand times before.

“Steven Moffat cannot write characters” is a claim you have provided absolutely no support for, not to mention is fundamentally ridiculous. Amy, River, Clara, and all the rest are characters, simple enough. You can argue about not liking them, but you aren’t even doing that. You’re claiming that they don’t have complexities and unique characteristics, which is fundamentally wrong.

Let’s start with River, since you’ve so grossly dumped this post in her tag. River Song is, let me first remind you, not introduced as River’s wife. That point isn’t cemented until her twelfth episode, several years after her introduction. She’s introduced as someone who is every bit as brilliant and stubborn as the Doctor in Silence in the Library, as well as one who suffers from meeting him in the wrong order. Over the course of her run, this develops into a story about her own fight for agency in a subversion of a rape/revenge storyline in which the angsty male antihero is refuted. River’s story is about fighting for an identity against her mother’s abusers, the Silence, and against fate itself. And she wins. She has her own career, her own life as an archaeologist, breaking out of prison whenever she feels like it. She loves the Doctor on her own terms, threatening to destroy reality just so she doesn’t have to succumb to the demands of the Silence and kill him. She calls the Doctor out whenever necessary, which is rather often in her stories. And even after her death, she refuses to let it keep her down, going on yet another posthumous adventure in The Name of the Doctor. River is always a woman who will not be contained.

Amy, since you call her “one of the worst companions”, shall come next. Her story is a critique on characters like Wendy from Peter Pan, focusing on the damage an impossible hero can create as well as the freedom for her to have both lives, adventure and marriage. Series 5 particularly plays up the angle of mental health, Amy fighting all her life against therapists she’s been forced to see due to her experiences with the Doctor. Perhaps you don’t find it particularly relatable, but plenty of people do, myself included. Series 6 focuses on her as a character that is violated by the Silence and ultimately reclaims her agency, just as her daughter did, killing Kovarian and shooting down the Silence. And she feels guilty over it, because she is flawed. Series 7 follows her eventual need for the adventure story to end, as are the whims of Doctor Who, and it is ultimately all done on her terms, the Doctor little more than a passive observer in The Angels Take Mahattan. There is far, far more to her than I can cover in this paragraph, but suffice to say she is complex and fascinating.

And Clara, oh, Clara. If I’m covering Moffat’s ladies, I’ve got to cover her. She’s another flawed character, selfish and bossy and occasionally callous. And yet despite her flaws, she is a hero. She is, in fact, the Doctor as a young woman, something Moffat himself has said many times. Her story arc has been about her increasingly filling this role, both for better and for worse. She doesn’t even see herself as the companion. She sees herself as the lead. The Doctor’s just a hobby of hers, her ticket to time and space and impossible adventures. From her first great heroic sacrifice in The Name of the Doctor, she’s been the big damn hero. And it’s not always good. Danny was around to help show that. She couldn’t be honest with him, couldn’t let him in, and that whole relationship went down in flames. Despite all of her flaws, however, the Doctor absolutely adores her, endorsing the audience to do the same.

Look, I’m sorry his era interests you so little that you don’t pick up on any of the character arcs, but please don’t frame your ignorance and disinterest as objective fact. Doing so is nothing short of a mockery of criticism.

The OP is not only remarkably vague on the characterization of Amy, Clara, and River, it contains very little about what makes Rose a rounded character.

And, I mean, it’s okay not to know what makes a character click for you, or what makes you completely alienating from another one.  But it’s a mistake to think that because a character leaves you completely cold, that nobody can relate to them, ever.  And when the traits you’re describing as “unrelatable,” “worst,” and “cardboard cut-out” include such things as “was forced into therapy and struggled with misdiagnosis throughout her childhood”—well, I hope you understand how that leaves mentally ill people (as well as people with certain invisible disabilities) a bit out in the cold.

Ah, I hear the hit song Amy Pond Is A Mentally Ill Character (No Wonder Everyone Hates Her!). But I’m too tired to groove along to the beat. So here’s some posts instead:

Amy’s abandonment issues (bisexualamy)
Amy Pond and depression (bisexualamy)
Amy Pond and PTSD (me)
Amy Pond and PTSD (bisexualamy)
Amy isn’t normal (me)
Amy’s consistency (me)
The girl who waited (amypuddles)
Amy Pond, Aunt Sharon, mental health and child neglect (me)
Amy Pond Claiming All Of It Back (tillthenexttimedoctor)
Amy Is Not A Badass (me)
Amy Pond Has No Characteristics, The Sarcastic Masterlist (me)