This is just me needing to vent a little bit.
I like Doctor Who. As a kid, I liked the original series. As an adult, I am really charmed by the new incarnations. The series has some original ideas, enjoyable characters, is sometimes a bit scary, and can even be profound at times. It is literally (and I mean “literally”) the only television program that I care to watch.
Which is why the seventh season of New Who, which just finished last night, was such a deplorable disappointment to me.
WARNING: Spoilers follow.
Apart from one single episode, the seventh season consists of episodes which are at best “mediocre”. And the reason, I am afraid, is the guiding hand of Lead Writer Stephen Moffat.
Here’s the problem. A great film director (I forget who it was, it might have been Stanley Kubrick) once said that if there is a scene in your movie that you think is really great and you do not want to cut at any cost, then that scene is the first one that should go. Why? Because scenes are there to serve the movie. If there is a scene that you are unwilling to cut, then you are creating a movie that serves the scene. Which means you will probably get a great scene in an otherwise crappy movie.
The seventh season of Doctor Who seems to be created by a man who designs one great scene, and then creates a 45-minute television show around it. And to get to that great scene, he needs to fill that episode with confused and frantic scenery, a muddled story, and blathering explanations which are completely meaningless on deeper inspection.
A good example is the Weeping Angels episode of this season. I imagine Moffat in a meeting with his writers, standing on a chair, gesturing wildly and enthusiastically shouting: “You know what would be really cool? If the Statue of Liberty was an Angel! Now write me a show about that!” And you can fill in such statements for many of the other episodes too. (“You know what would be really cool? Dinosaurs on a Spaceship! All the Daleks ever created in one room! The Doctor in a Sergio Leone duel!”)
The last episode of the season is the biggest mess ever. It is filled with confusing and meaningless babbling, written to introduce beautiful but senseless visuals, all created to lead up to the incredibly cool final scene, which is only cool because of meta-knowledge of the viewer.
The element that makes it cool is the actor that is introduced to play The Doctor’s nemesis for the coming special episode. And I must say, I am indeed keen to see what he does with the role. But the fact that that particular actor is introduced has absolutely nothing to do with the Doctor Who universe.
I hope that the BBC takes a wise lesson from this season, takes the reigns from Moffat’s hand, and makes him a supporting writer again. Because there is no doubt that Moffat can integrate good ideas into Doctor Who stories. But he needs co-writers to calm him down and give direction and purpose to his ideas. Otherwise I am afraid that he will bring the brilliant resurgence of the Doctor after one more season to a sad end.
Addendum (June 2, 2013): Until recently I thought that Moffat had taken over the reigns of the show from Davies for the seventh season of Doctor Who. I just learned it was the fifth. And arguably, the fifth and sixth season of Doctor Who are of much higher quality than the seventh. So maybe the deterioration of the show’s quality is not primarily caused by Moffat, but by some other factor. Which means the solution must be found somewhere else. A replacement of Matt Smith as the Doctor? That’s going to happen soon, so who knows…