I woke to the news that Steven Moffat is leaving Doctor Who after this year. Hmm, I want to say. Hmmm. I will miss the complexity of his plots and his use of time. It is, after all, a program featuring time travel. I will miss some of the humour too and energy and the pathos of his references to past episodes. Characters such as River Song and the Paternoster Gang are highlights of his tenure, even if under deployed.
More than the above, for a writer, Moffat has a lot to say about story telling and that’s helpful. Sometimes it’s didactic and obviously so (see the latest Sherlock episode for that) and other times more nuanced. Thus, I have enjoyed most of what he did with Who, even if with some reservations.
What’s more concerning to me, is the gigantic gap between now and the next episode, which is at Christmas. Christmas. That feels like the 24 year night we saw this Christmas just gone. What is happening now is that Moffat’s writing the next series to air in 2017. As will the next episode of Sherlock. If anyone spots him outside, or away from a screen, can they shoo him back to somewhere appropriate and lock him away? Regardless of what people may think of his abilities, the writing just needs to get done.
Chris Chibnall will be taking over in 2018. Apart from creating Broadchurch (and Gracepoint) he has written the episodes: The Magician’s Apprentice, The Power of Three, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, the double hander Cold Blood and The Hungry Earth, and 42.
42 was a stand out of the Martha era. It was highly structured, which helped ratchet up the tension, what with time running out during a crash with weird murders to solve. Both The Doctor and Martha get plenty of action as well as emotional highs and lows that cement what they mean to each other. It was disciplined writing to reveal The Doctor terrified and Martha getting to be a medic, rather than a sad cakes.
For me, I was less interested in Cold Blood and Hungry Earth, although it set up Rory’s death theme. It was a little of the taste of Midnight, with humans visiting their fear and cruelty on ‘outsiders’. Cruelty again featured with Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, which features the whimsical (Rory’s Dad Brian Williams, The Doctor and Tricey). But it again demonstrates the lengths people go to, to protect themselves. Amy’s attitudes are revealing and funny, and she gets stuff to do, which is also good.
The Magician’s Apprentice had much going on. It shows Chibnall knows his back stories, with plenty of references to Old Who, but it was a bit….messy. The castle with The Doctor on a tank playing guitar is unnecessarily torturous for a set up for a joke. Meanwhile, the high lights were Missy and Clara’s interactions, which looking back, didn’t happen nearly enough in Clara’s entire arc.
Amy Pond: There was a time, there were years when I couldn’t live without you. Um, when just the whole every day thing would drive me crazy. But since you dropped us back here, since you gave us this hiatus, you know, we’ve built a life. And I don’t know if we can have both.
The Power of Three is from a different perspective, showing how The Doctor drops in and out of lives. This time he stays and The Doctor tries (and fails) to live ‘normally.’ Between Brian’s whimsy, The Doctor’s eccentricities, and Kate Stewart’s deadpan humour (raven’s of death) there was plenty to show balancing every day life with adventures with a time travelling alien are near impossible. It was also the Pond’s farewell to this life. The Doctor’s speech about ‘flaring and fading’ and Brian’s approval are important in this regard.
Probably, 42 and Power of Three are Chibnall’s best efforts, with Magician very close too. If he writes more for Kate Stewart to do, that will be great.
With Broadchurch, Chibnall controls a complex plot with many players with contrasting and conflicting motives. And he still manages to illicit emotional responses. Broadchurch was a small dose program for me. There were times I could only watch five minutes before I had to walk away and look at cats. Setting and the camera work were important to the atmosphere, so I’ll expect all of this and more in his iteration of Who.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see.