With only a Christmas Special waiting to be released this Christmas, it truly is the end of an era for Doctor Who, as it will be the swan song of both the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi), and show runner Steven Moffat. As we come to the end of Moffat's seven year tenure as Doctor Who's show runner, and as Whovians everywhere begin to make room for incoming show runner Chris Chibnall, let's take a look at what Moffat has contributed to Doctor Who over the years. Just a warning, there will be some slight spoilers, as we are looking at Moffat's entire tenure as Doctor Who's show runner.
Moffat should be a name that should be quite familiar with Whovians as he began his Doctor Who career with writing critically acclaimed and fan favorite episodes during the Russell T. Davies era such as The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace and Blink. Therefore, it wasn't much of a surprise that Davies approached Moffat to be the next show runner and head writer for the series.
And under Moffat, the show gained even more popularity globally, especially as the Moffat Era also encompassed the show's 50th Anniversary, which happened in 2013.
The Moffat Era (2010-2017)
Moffat's tenure as the show's show runner has spanned two Doctors- the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi). Their main companions included Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), Nardole (Matt Lucas), and Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie). Others that came along for the ride included River Song (Alex Kingston), Craig Owens (James Corden), Brian Williams (Mark Williams), Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart), Commander Strax (Dan Starkey), and sometimes, Ashildr/ Me (Maisie Williams).
This era saw the return of villains, concepts, characters and creatures from the different eras of the show, from the Classic Series, all the way to the ones that he created himself. From the Classic Series, he brought back the Silurians, Davros, the Sontarans, the Cybermen, the Daleks, the Zygons, the Ice Warriors, the Great Intelligence, the Sisterhood of Karn, Skaro, Gallifrey, Rassilon, the Matrix, and the Master in female form or Missy (Michelle Gomez); while he brought in the Judoon, the Sycorax and the Shadow Proclamation from the Russell T. Davies (RTD) Era. From his own tenure as show runner and writer, he brought his own original concepts and characters, which included villains such as the Weeping Angel and the Silence; and characters such as Idris (Suranne Jones), a human manifestation of the TARDIS, River Song, and the War Doctor (John Hurt).
He also dealt heavily with the Time War, and the concept of regenerations for Time Lords, including the fact that they can also change gender and race in their next regeneration.
His tenure also saw the show hitting its 50th Anniversary, which called for him to create a multi Doctor story that truly won the hearts of the fans.
Characteristics of the Moffat Era
By the time the Moffat Era came around, the show was beginning to become more successful and more popular, which prompted the BBC to give them a bigger budget. This, plus the advent of newer technologies, meant that their special effects were sleeker and looked better than before.
Aside from better special effects, Moffat's era was characterized by a lot of high concept science fiction, complex plots that really made full use of the concept of time travel, and by allowing the companion to somehow avoid true death.
From Series 5 to 9 the Doctor's companions (Amy, Rory, River, and Clara), were people who all were connected to the Doctor in a very specific and special way; while Series 10 companions Nardole and Bill, were a throwback to the Classic Era and to the beginning of the revival, as Moffat deliberately decided to step away from the formula he had been using for his companions for the past four years.
Moffat's Doctors greatly differed from Davies' Doctors as his Doctors were ancient and alien beings who knew that they have done unspeakable things in the past, but try their best to be kind and to do the right thing. These are men who readily admit that they aren't heroes, and are less concerned about the moral high ground if it means saving more lives in the end.
Steven Moffat as a Writer
Moffat has been writing for the show ever since the RTD Era, giving us classics such as The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, and Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.
During his tenure as show runner, he wrote most of the plot heavy episodes, including the series premieres, series finales, all of the Christmas Specials from 2010 to 2017, and the 50th Anniversary Special as well. So in total, he has written 42 episodes and co-wrote six of them.
Among other awards he won for his involvement in Doctor Who, he also won Hugo Awards for The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances in 2006, The Girl in the Fireplace in 2007, Blink in 2008, and The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang in 2011, all under the category of Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.
Moffat's stories range from being lore heavy to complex plots, to well written stories with smart dialogue. Some of his best stories seem to be the ones that focused on particular primal fears, such as statues (Blink), the fear of the dark and what's under your bed (The Girl in the Fireplace, Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, Listen), and the manifestation of death itself or being trapped in your own personal hell (Heaven Sent).
However, Moffat has also been criticized for over stuffing his plots with too many twists and turns and time travel that end up confusing the audience; and for creating scripts that are full of good ideas, but end up falling flat in terms of execution.
Another criticism that has been leveled at Moffat is the fact that it seems like he relies on one specific trope when it comes to writing his main female characters, as they all seemed to be snarky and sassy plot devices. The big exceptions here though are River, whom Moffat really managed to make into a well rounded character, and Bill, who was a clear throwback to the Classic companions and to the RTD Era companions.
Steven Moffat as a Show Runner
More than his written works, Moffat's show running has often been criticized by Whovians.
Just like his scripts, there are times when the main series long story arc becomes too complicated and "timey wimey" to the point that the audience gets very confused about what exactly his happening. Aside from this, he also has a tendency to hype up series long arcs, with a pay off that falls flat in its execution.
Another complaint is that there were a lot of inconsistencies when it came to the behaviors of the characters as they developed during a particular series, and that Amy and Clara were more of plot devices rather than actual characters.
This did change though during Series 10, as Moffat decided to have a companion, Bill, who was not connected to the Doctor in a special way.
Interestingly enough, for majority of his tenure, in contrast to the RTD Era, Moffat's Doctor Who was really the story of the Doctor rather than the companions.
His tenure also did see an increase in becoming more experimental and innovative, which succeeded at times, and sometimes failed.
He was also the one who managed to get award winning writer Neil Gaiman to finally pen two episodes for the show (The Doctor's Wife, Nightmare in Silver); and managed to marry the different eras of the show by introducing and showing elements not only from the Classic Series but from the RTD Era as well, while maintaining the slick look and high concept science fiction feel that this era had.
All in all, Steven Moffat will be remembered for pushing the show to become more known commercially and globally, building upon the groundwork that was laid by his predecessor, Russell T. Davies. Now, all that fans and viewers alike have to do is enjoy Moffat's swan song this Christmas, and look forward to the future that incoming show runner Chris Chibnall will bring.
Which era of Nu Who do you prefer? The RTD Era or the Moffat Era? Do you think that Moffat is a better writer or show runner or vice versa?
Source: Justin Richards, Doctor Who: The Essential Guide to 50 Years of Doctor Who