Doctor Who – Top 5 Moffat Moments

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Steven Moffat has had a long association with Doctor Who, stretching as far back as July 1996, when he wrote a short story for the Virgin novel line; today, of course, his primary association with Doctor Who is as showrunner, a role he’s occupied since 2010. The tenth series, the first episode of which will be broadcast this evening, is going to be Moffat’s last as head writer – so now seems like a good time to take a look back across the past seven years, and celebrate some of his greatest triumphs.

This article was quite fun to write! It’s a selection of five YouTube clips from the Moffat era, with a little explanation/analysis of each one underneath. Of course, in testament to how great Moffat is, it’s the ones that I didn’t include that speak volumes – there are so many to choose from!

Writing this article really did make me appreciate Moffat more. Even I’ve had a few moments where I lost faith and struggled with some of his work (almost but not quite joining the STFU-Moffat bandwagon), I’ve come back around again in the years since. He’s bloody great, his Who has been great, and I’m going to miss it; hopefully, before Christmas, I’ll be able to write a few retrospectives about his era and why it’s so great.

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Doctor Who Review: Deep Breath

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You have replaced every piece of yourself, mechanical and organic, time and time again. There’s not a trace of the original you left. You probably can’t even remember where you got that face from.

Regeneration is a tricky old thing, isn’t it? It’s all well and good to say that life depends upon change and renewal, but it can be pretty weird to see a new Doctor in the role.

When Christopher Eccleston regenerated, I had only been watching the show for about two episodes, so I didn’t really get what was going on. When David Tennant regenerated, I was generally okay with it; I got the concept, and I thought he’d had a good run. With Matt Smith, it’d been quite a surprise, and I thought it was a bit of a shame – I think his last year wasn’t really as good as it could have been.

I like the fact that the show changes. I like that every few years, Doctor Who completely reinvents itself, and you end up with something new. I think it’s brilliant – it’s how it’s lasted 50 years, after all. So I’m never going to begrudge the show a change, though I might be a bit trepidant about it.

But there was no need for any trepidance here, was there? It was fantastic.

The most important thing about this episode was, obviously, to introduce Peter Capaldi. That’s the real job of it. And I think, on the whole, it did pretty well. The opening with the addled, confused Doctor was quite funny; I think maybe it was extended for a little too long (it’s about 25 minutes before he starts to settle down) but as a sort of tradition, it’s quite nice. And then after that, you’ve just got so many quality scenes with Capaldi – there’s the one with the tramp (it’s the next pigbin Josh!), his bantering with Clara in the restaurant, and the moment where they meet the robots (“Dormant. Hopefully.”) Loved that.

I think he really comes into his own though towards the end, especially where he offers the robot a drink. That moment I loved, and I felt like the new Doctor was really here. There he is; calm, collected, and with a cold, steely ruthlessness to him. And then the ambiguity surrounding the robots death, and just how involved the Doctor was with it. Did he intimidate the robot into committing suicide, or actually push him out himself?

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Companions! Clara, Vastra, Jenny and Strax. Clara was excellent here. Generally, I liked her over the last year, but I would certainly concede that she wasn’t the most well used or characterised. It’s really nice to see that changing here, and letting her come into her own a bit more. I’ve already said how I enjoyed her scene with the Doctor in the restaurant, but I think if I had to choose her best moment of the episode, it was where she was talking to the robot. Clara really held her own there; it was a well-written scene, with some pretty good acting to hold it up.

And Vastra and Jenny! Wow. I must admit, I am not normally a fan. I’m on the record as being totally bewildered by why they’re so popular, but I really, really liked them here. They were fantastic, as was the relationship between them. This was the first time, to me, it actually felt like a real relationship, as opposed to just the subject of a joke. In fact, this was their first appearance without a joke about their relationship – it’s finally grown beyond that. I’d be a lot more open to a spin off with them now. (With regards to the kiss, I did like it, but it might have been nicer if it wasn’t under those circumstances. Or better yet, they did that, and then again afterwards to celebrate or somesuch similar.)

Strax, still not such a fan. A lot of his humour just doesn’t wash with me. Bits of it were funny, but I think the comedy Sontaran is being pushed far too much now. It’d be better if he were played absolutely straight, and the jokes around him came from how serious he was. That’d be better I think. The bit where he was about to kill himself, to stop breathing – that’s the Strax I want to see more of. (Mind you, that was pretty dark, wasn’t it? Quite shocking even.)

The plot held up quite well too I think. In episodes like this, where you’re introducing the new Doctor, you don’t want to overdo it with something particularly complex. It’s best to just let the Doctor deal with something simple, and use the time to focus on characterisation. Still, it was pretty good, wasn’t it? Loved the return of the robots from The Girl in the Fireplace. It’s things like that that make me smile when I’m watching the episodes. Nice little callback.

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It wasn’t perfect though, to be fair. There were some jokes that just weren’t funny – some of the Strax jokes grated, like I already mentioned. The scenes with Clara and Vastra at the beginning, all of that veil stuff… it was just nonsense, wasn’t it? Trying to imply that Clara was an impostor, but really it’s about how much they trust her, and… nah, load of old nonsense really. I just don’t get how that’s meant to fit into things at all. Well acted though, from all involved.

But, on the topic of perfect, there was one thing in the episode which damn near was. That phone call, at the end. I knew it was coming – I’d read about it months ago, and I remembered about it half way through. When I first found out about it, I was ready to come along and whinge about it on tumblr, but I’m glad I didn’t. I hate being wrong in public, after all. It was really nice, and lovely to see Matt there. It felt like a passing of the baton in a way his regeneration didn’t exactly. It’s the same sort of thing as in The Eleventh Hour, when the Atraxi roll through holograms of the different incarnations. Except this goes one better. It really emphasises he’s the same man. And it was really sweet, too.

So overall, that’s a really good episode. It did brilliantly setting up Peter Capaldi, though it did have some faults. I think I’ll give it an 8/10 – it gets better with rewatches.

Note: Despite being very specific about leaving these old reviews mostly unedited, in terms of their content at least, there were a couple of lines in here that really grated with me when re-reading this piece in 2018 that I removed. 

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Doctor Who series 8 reviews

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Doctor Who Review: The Time of the Doctor

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And now it’s time for one last bow, like all your other selves. Eleven’s hour is over now, the clock is striking Twelve’s.

This is it now, isn’t it? Matt Smith no more, it’s the time of the Twelfth Doctor. It seems oddly surreal – Matt Smith has been the face of the Doctor for the best part of four years now. He took the show to new heights, new levels, new countries – it was his Doctor, after all, that opened up the show to America.

So, yeah, it’s rather odd to think of him as gone now. To think that, from now on, there won’t be any more Matt Smith stories. No more bow ties. No more fezzes. None of that.

Still, at least The Time of the Doctor was a fitting send off, right?

Right…?

The episode starts out pretty much pitch perfect – the scenes in the Dalek and Cyber spaceships were very fun, very Doctor Who. They also set up the premise for the episode as well, and I think it was a pretty good one too – there’s a message, and everyone is here to look at it. It’s an interesting hook, although maybe too reminiscent of The Pandorica Opens.

Clara’s family were nice, I suppose, but generally relatively superfluous. They didn’t exactly add much, nor develop Clara’s character or personality to huge degrees. In fact, they really seemed to be there just for the nudity jokes – which were, to be honest, puerile at best.

Anyways, after we’ve picked up Clara and got to the planet (which isn’t Gallifrey, it’s not orange!) the plot starts to pick up. It’s nice to see the crack in time back, and the explanation for it was, I think, really very good – Gallifrey is trying to make it’s way back through. That’s a great, non-linear explanation. (I do wonder if that had been the idea from the start, or if it was just added in for this episode. I hope it was the original idea)

It’s around there, though, that the episode sort of starts to falter. The idea of the Doctor giving up his life to guard the people of Trenzalore is a fantastic one – it’s an entirely different sacrifice to the type we’re used to, yet still a very Doctor-y one. Perhaps that’s even a more difficult one for the Doctor – he’s not used to sitting still.

However, the idea wasn’t really explored as best as it could have been I felt. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, obviously; just that it could have been… better. It should have mirrored, say, the Star Trek: Voyager episode Blink of an Eye or the Big Finish story Rise and Fall (I’ve linked to Big Finish’s SoundCloud, you can download the story for free. It’s very good)

If we’d seen the culture develop alongside the Doctor, everything would have hit home a little bit more – maybe all their buildings are blue, maybe the all wear bow ties. If they’d progressed just a little bit past the Victorian style lives they had, maybe it’d have worked a little bit better…

But anyways, the Doctor, protecting the people of Trenzalore. It might have been nice if we’d seen a little bit more of it – show, don’t tell, after all – but it didn’t impact on things too much. What we got was nice, after all.

The only other gripe I had was the Daleks – I think the episode might have worked better without them, and with the Kovarian chapter taking their place. It would have rounded things off a little better, and kept the episode more… I want to say discrete, but that’s not quite the word I mean. Hm.

(Also was Tasha Lem meant to be River Song? A lot of it felt as though she’d been written as River Song, but then had to be changed because… Alex Kingston wasn’t available or something?)

So, yes, that’s all the story and script stuff out of the way. Generally very good, but could have been better. I think that’s probably the best way to sum that up.

The acting, was, of course, exemplary. Especially from Matt Smith. Obviously, it would be. As it should be, in Eleven’s final hour.

I often struggle with what to say about Matt Smith and his acting, because… well, to say Matt Smith gave a great performance is like saying water is wet. Or the sky is blue. Just… so ridiculously completely obviously true it’s not exactly worth mentioning really.

Finally, then, the regeneration. The end, yes, but the moment had been prepared for. We were ready, more or less.

Matt Smith’s final lines were nice, very much so. Poignant really. The hallucination of Amy was a nice touch, and a nice callback to the Fifth Doctor’s regeneration. It was a really good send off for Matt.

We’ll never forget when the Doctor was him.

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Doctor Who Review: The Day of the Doctor

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Doctor Who Review: The Day of the Doctor

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Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I went to see The Day of the Doctor in cinema. It was one hell of an atmosphere, which was both brilliant, and, at times, completely surreal. (One of the strangest sights I’ve seen in a long while was a Matt Smith lookalike, in full purple frock coat costume, standing in line to buy a Big Mac)

There were so many people there – some in full costume, others with David Tennant T-Shirts (I personally preferred my Colin Baker shirt, but hey) and many more with sonic screwdrivers and scarves. It was a really, really fantastic sight to see – hundreds of people, who perhaps wouldn’t normally talk or know each other, all together because of one little TV show. That was one of the best parts of the evening, really – seeing, for example, someone who could have watched An Unearthly Child, way back at the start, here today to watch this 50th Anniversary special.

The opening titles were lovely; to see that old howlaround effect from fifty years ago on the big screen was fantastic, and a little bit heartwarming. There were plenty of other little moments like that as well, some more overt than others. My own personal favourite reference to the past was the Doctor’s promise – “Never cruel or cowardly. Never gives in and never gives up” being the maxim that Terrance Dicks used to describe the Doctor’s character. Other, more subtle ones filled the episode as well – Clara works at Coal Hill School, with Ian Chesterton, the code for the Vortex Manipulator is the date and time of An Unearthly Child’s first broadcast, etc etc.

From there, then, we’re introduced to our current Doctor (how strange it is to think of him otherwise), Matt Smith. Right from the off, he’s brilliant. As expected really; I don’t think Matt Smith has ever given a poor performance. The same goes for Jenna Coleman, who does a great job as the Doctor’s best friend, and later conscience.

The other actors all give stellar performances as well – Jemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver do great work as the new UNIT family. It was also really wonderful to see David Tennant back – he was my first Doctor, and it was really really exciting to see him back, as the Doctor, once again.

John Hurt, is, of course, the actor around whom all the questions were asked. Obviously, the questions weren’t going to be about his acting prowess – it’s John Hurt for goodness’ sake!

It’s his role in Doctor Who that people were, understandably, curious about. He was fantastic; he acted as the embodiment of the classic series, asking pertinent questions about just who he becomes (“Why are you so afraid of being grown ups?”) Mocking and sarcastic, his dynamic with Matt and David was what really made this special special.

In fairness, however, it may well have worked better with Paul McGann in that part – given that he was part of the Classic series, he could perhaps have better served as it’s voice. Given that has all been and gone though – and John Hurt really was amazing – there’s little point in wishing for what could have been…

Nick Hurran did a fantastic job with the direction – viewing it in 3D, there was a real depth to the visuals, which I think added another dimension (a third dimension!) to the episode. A few sequences which stand out would be the Eleventh Doctor under the TARDIS at the beginning, and the three Doctors together in the painting towards the end.

Steven Moffat deserves a fair amount of praise for this I think. He said a while back that this was the most difficult episode to write because there was so much riding on it, and so many people to please – for me, at least, the episode was a success. Every aspect of the plot linked in together perfectly – the story with UNIT and the Zygons mirroring the problem faced by John Hurt’s Doctor. (Some of the bits with Elizabeth I, however, were cringeworthy at best, and at other times completely inappropriate.)

My only gripe, I suppose, is losing RTD’s version of the Time War, a concept which I really loved. Still, I’m relatively sure there’s a way to reconcile the two interpretations – that’s what fanfiction is for, no?

Despite that though, the return of Gallifrey – through the work of all thirteen Doctors, no less! – was a moment of triumph which worked really, really well here. The montage of clips with previous Doctors was very nice, and rather fitting as well.

There’s a really lovely moment, which I think is worth mentioning. It’s at the point where Matt Smith tells his fellow Doctors that there is, in fact, another way to end the Time War.

David Tennant turns around and, in a moment of jubilation, high fives the TARDIS.

That’s absolutely fantastic, and it mirrors, I think, the way I reacted to this special –  I really, really loved it.

50/50, as it were.

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50 Days of the Doctor Who 50th

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