Remember when the Internet was a force for good? Remember when fandom was made up of, y’know, fans who loved the show, whatever anyone said?
He gets a lot of stick, but it’s not called for. We’ve a lot to be thankful for.
Steven Moffat has heralded everyone’s favourite TV show for over four years now, and before that, wrote some of the most memorable Ninth and Tenth Doctor stories including The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances, Blink, and Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. He was an obvious successor to RTD’s showrunner mantle and I personally don’t think he gets enough credit for what he’s done.
Detractors are always the most vocal – but he still has plenty of fans, including Extant scribe, Mickey Fisher, who had a post-it note by his computer screen reading: WWSMD. What Would Steven Moffat Do? And his answer, according to Fisher was always the same: “He would just write it better!”
With the 50th anniversary just behind us and a new series (and Doctor!) on the horizon, it’s time to thank Mr. Moffat for the extensive work he’s put in. Here are just a few things to be grateful about.
5. Paul McGann IS The Doctor
What a birthday treat for Doctor Who – not just having McGann return to the role he spent woefully little time in on screen (nonetheless, a job he loved so much, he carried it on in audio form many years later), but also finally seeing the Eighth Doctor regenerate.
The Night of the Doctor was a particular 50th anniversary highlight for the majority of fans. It came as such a lovely surprise, like a Christmas present you get to open early. And this present was a last-minute addition to the celebrations… at least, that’s what McGann thinks: “I felt when I arrived in Cardiff that [Moffat] had probably written it the day before. That was the only gap he had, on that Sunday, because they were trying to finish the big 50th!”
Suddenly, the world was victim to McGann Fever.
Thanks to Steven, we got five-or-so minutes more of the Doctor with the least airtime, but a Doctor who is deservedly loved. And that’s not all Night of the Doctor gave us…
4. Big Finish is Canon
Oh, canon is a grumpy beast. You’ll finally sooth everything out in your head and then suddenly, one comment can make it all change. Reading a novel, poring through a comic, watching charity specials: they’re all great, of course, but lingering at the back of many fans’ heads is one simple question. The oldest question in the universe, hidden in plain sight. Is this canon?
Thanks to one simple line, Moffat made sure that those brilliant audio adventures are about as in-continuity as they can be without Evelyn popping up on screen: “Charley, C’rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, Molly, friends, companions I’ve known: I salute you.”
Making many hours’ worth of entertainment canon? Moffat, I salute you!
3. Expanding Our Horizons
It’s easy to underrate the importance of conquering America.
Kasterborous has always had American contributors (they’re the ones who spell ‘flavour,’ ‘grey’ and ‘maths’ wrong), but without Moffat, we probably wouldn’t have so many. But that’s a very small example of why succeeding where the 1996 TV Movie didn’t is so important.
Frankly, any expansion of fandom is a good thing, but it’s deeper than that.
With stories like The Impossible Astronaut/ Day of the Moon and A Town Called Mercy, Moffat grabbed the attention of fans and filmmakers across America. More importantly, Doctor Who was taken to the USA and retained its intangible Britishness – and I think that’s why Americans fell in love with the crazy show about a man with two hearts and a big blue box.
When Russell T. Davies brought the show back, he ensured its future, a place in the hearts of whole new generations; when Moffat took the show to vast landscapes to the West (then reeled it back in, taking it to the streets of England once more), he ensured a passion for the show internationally. Because Doctor Who can go anywhere, land on anyone’s doorstep. It always could, in theory. Now, it really can.
2. Matt Smith IS The Doctor
A massive reason to thank Steven Moffat is, alongside Andy Pryor, for casting the perfect actor as the Doctor.
Matt had massive sand-shoes to fill, but he did it. And then some.
Just watch The Eleventh Hour… No, actually, just watch The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone. This was the first story the new team filmed and straight away, Matt knows who his Doctor is. He’s got the patter, the alienness, and the confidence – even though Matt must’ve been anything but confident back in those days.
All the previous Doctors loved him too. Watching Doctors Ten and Eleven together in The Day of the Doctor was a dream come true. And when the time came, Matt stepped down at the height of his powers, breaking the hearts of fandom. We have to thank Moffat for seeing Matt as the Doctor through and through, and I’m sure we’ll thank the showrunner, too, when Peter Capaldi makes his full debut in Deep Breath. Nonetheless, we’ll never forget Matt.
Matt simply is the Doctor. And he always will be.
I don’t care what detractors say: Moffat’s tenure has been full of the most incredible storytelling. That includes not just the Eleventh Doctor era, but also his work since 2005. Blink is widely celebrated as one of the best stories ever. The Girl in the Fireplace is an overlooked classic. The highlight of Series 1 was, arguably, seeing the Doctor come face-to-face with a scared little boy looking for his mummy. In Silence in the Library, we met an enigmatic new character from the Doctor’s future. And in Forest of the Dead, she died.
Take another look at Series 5, 6 and 7. Matt, Karen and Arthur’s first series remains my favourite, but it faces tough competition from the subsequent two.
The storytelling is not solely down to Moffat, of course: further writers like Tom MacRae, Toby Whithouse, Gareth Roberts, Mark Gatiss, and Neil Cross have delivered us some sublime tales, but all have been nurtured and encouraged by Steven; all have been given that canvas, confidence and bravery.
The amazing thing is, Doctor Who remains exactly the same show as it was in 1963 – but now, I genuinely feel that it could do anything. Absolutely anything. It will never fail to surprise, to scare, to upset, to (yes, at times) annoy, to please, to make you feel warm inside. To be Doctor Who, basically!