The Central Problem With Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who

Charlie Jane gets to the heart of the dilemma of the writing of DOCTOR WHO:

The Doctor and Friendsby Charlie Jane Anders

This Saturday [Actually, it’s last Saturday now], we witness the end of Steven Moffat’s third season as Doctor Who showrunner. And what an ambitious run thus far: a single story, starting with the crack and leading up to the Doctor’s greatest mystery. You have to admire the boldness and cleverness of Moffat’s plan. There’s just one huge problem with all of it.

We’ve seen “The Name of the Doctor,” the episode that airs in a couple days (except for the last scene, which was left off for mega-spoiler reasons, I guess.) And… it’s not going to change anybody’s mind about Moffat’s Who. If you’ve been enjoying this season, you’ll probably enjoy “Name of the Doctor,” and if you’ve found the direction of the series a bit frustrating, then this episode, too, will frustrate you. The most surprising thing about “The Name of the Doctor” is how unsurprising it all feels — it’s exactly what you expect from Moffat, at this point.

But watching “The Name of the Doctor” also cements how much Moffat has made Doctor Whohis own, at this point, redefining the show even more than Russell T. Davies had. Moffat is remaking Doctor Who‘s mythos along his own lines, and even though fans are polarized by the results, there’s something brilliant about seeing a talented writer take a classic story and rebuild it from the ground up.

We wondered before whether Moffat has a “master plan” for Doctor Who — and by now, it’s clear he doesn’t. He does, however, have themes and preoccupations that he keeps coming back to, over and over. (The Doctor’s fame, people becoming stories, memory and forgetting,monsters that gain power from not being seen, and so on.)

And there’s one huge, glaring problem with Moffat’s approach, that makes Doctor Who smaller and less amazing. A problem, in fact, that’s endemic in a lot of heroic stories these days.

It’s all about the Doctor

Moffat’s Doctor Who is all about the Doctor and his impact on the universe. His story arcs are all about how the Doctor affects people, and the endless debate over whether his crusade to save the universe has gone too far, or turned him into an egomaniac. (And maybe, whether the Doctor has created his opponents, the same way Christopher Nolan’s Batman creates the Joker.)

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