So, while watching Series 3, I’ve finally figured out what has bugged me so much about Moffat’s series and the way he approaches big reveals and whatnot particularly as compared to Davies.
Spoilers to follow, some pretty big ones, if you aren’t caught up on your 11th Doctor, so beware.
When we’re introduced to Yana in ‘Utopia,’ we notice the dude’s got some problems with hearing drums. We come to find out he’s the Master, and yet the mad drum beat continues. They dwell on the drum beat, but it never gets played up like this gigantic uber-mystery. We’re explicitly told that the dude is kind of fucking nuts from looking into the time vortex, and we infer that the drum beat came from there. Davies doesn’t give us room to infer much else.
Yet, come time for the 10th Doctor to depart after the end of the 4th series, upon the Master’s return, and the whole bringing back the Time Lords thing, we find out that the Time Lords actually put the incessant drum beat in the Master’s head so that they could find a way back, driving one of their own species mad all in the name of a shot at self preservation.
That’s fucked up. It paints the awful picture of the Time Lords as being desperate towards the end of the war with the Daleks, just like the 10th Doctor wanted us to understand. It adds an entirely new dimension to the Master’s character. There’s already some degree of sympathy when he apparently dies at the end of the 3rd series (I know I cried), but when we find out that his own brethren drove him mad for their own sake? My goodness.
And we weren’t baited at all, waiting for this to happen. There was no sensationalism involved, no big, name-brand, catch-phrase vehicle of suspense that had us waiting to find out more about the drum beat in the Master’s head. We had simply seen someone take his ring at the end of the 3rd series, then we saw him return, and then, given only his character and the desperation of the Time Lords, we got an entirely new dimension of the Master’s character.
With Moffat, plot turns and twists and major events are all branded and sensationalized, and often leave me feeling let down. For instance, from this last, 6th series, *ahem*, SILENCE WILL FALL WHEN THE QUESTION IS ASKED SILENCE WILL FALL WHEN THE QUESTION IS ASKED SILENCE WILL FALL WHEN THE QUESTION IS ASKED SILENCE WILL FALL WHEN THE QUESTION IS ASKED
At some point, Moffat, I just don’t give a shit. Am I supposed to be wondering what silence means? Am I supposed to be wondering what the question is? If that’s the case, I get let down on both because ‘the silence’ just turns out to be some rubbish organization that I don’t give a fuck about. Like, the creatures were cool, but the organization, the bitch with the eye-patch, she is literally the most vague and uninteresting villain in the entirety of the new series. And the question? Doctor Who? What, are we being set up for something this next season? I don’t actually give a shit. A series finale shouldn’t be a blatant setup for a future event. It should resolve all of the questions being raised within itself.
Davies was great at this. He would bring back elements from the past, or have elements of finales matter later, but not blatantly. Jack’s immortality, Rose’s position in another universe, all of these things come to matter at a later date, but they didn’t happen such that this was necessary. Davies just made it happen.
And then all the “oh, bleh bleh bleh when a good man goes to war.” What war? Are you fucking kidding me? I get a typical 10 minute Doctor insurrection against a bunch of headless monks that I want to care about but don’t really care about, and the build up to this was this epic fucking poem about the Doctor going to war. The idea of the Doctor actually fucking going to war is terrifying to anybody that knows anything about him, but that’s what I get in return? Why did Moffat have to be so fucking sensational for such a small event?
“Oh come on Austin it’s a huge event, getting Melody and Amy back and bleh bler bleh.” I mean, yeah, it’s a big deal getting them back. But it’s really not a very dramatic rescue, to be honest. And the whole River Song thing, jesus christ. Moffat: I don’t care about River Song. I was intrigued for a little while, but, as Moffat does, he kept shoving it down my throat. YOU SHOULD BE WONDERING WHO RIVER SONG IS! WHO IS RIVER SONG TO THE DOCTOR? DON’T YOU WANT TO KNOW?! WHY IS SHE IN JAIL?!? YOU WANT TO KNOW RIGHT?!?! WHY IS SHE SO SASSY WITH THE DOCTOR?!?! THIS IS SUPER INTERESTING!!
Don’t shove it in my face. Just deliver. Just make it interesting. You don’t have to bait me. I’m serious. Do you know how Davies baited me? He left shit like Bad Wolf everywhere, or talked about Torchwood, or Saxon, or disappearing fucking bees and PICTURES OF ROSE ON MONITORS. All of these things were very clear indicators that something was going on, and I should wonder what, but it wasn’t begging me to give a shit. It was never sensational. But then things came full circle in the end. Finding out about Rose and Bad Wolf (and Bad Wolf Bay? <3) or the true details of Torchwood, or the Master being Saxon, or the walls of the universes breaking down and the return of Rose? Holy Christ, these things deliver. In each instance I get a massive payoff for something that was just a vague teaser all season.
But with Moffat, I get sensationalism sensationalism sensationalism. Even if the twist or reveal or event turns out to be fucking awesome, he’s already gone out of his way to bludgeon me over the head with how high I’m supposed to expect the bar to be set. I mean, the fucking pandorica? WHAT’S IN THE PANDORICA WHAT’S IN THE PANDORICA WHAT’S IN THE PANDORICA!?!?! HEY, HEY, YOU, OVER THERE, WHAT’S IN THE FUCKING PANDORICA?!?! Oh hey, it’s a prison built for the Doctor.
That was a great twist. It really was. But even when it comes to the final event of the series, Moffat shoves it in my fucking face right away, and then when he finally explains it, I’m super disappointed. Series 5: “Tardis shards! Tardis shards! Shit’s going to blow up! Cracks in the universe!” And then the Tardis blows up and everything gets reset by Amy Pond. Eh. And Series 6: “River Song is super important you guys. The most important. She matters so much. But you don’t know why yet hehehehe.” If you haven’t inferred before Series 6 even starts that the Doctor and River are married and that she’s in jail for at least trying to kill the Doctor, you’re an idiot. And lo and behold, someone shoots the Doctor in the first 10 minutes of the 6th series and I’m supposed to be mystified by who it is? Fuck off. And then the whole time-stop alternate universe… it’s just so untenable.
And seriously, the whole Silence organization is SUCH a stretch. It’s so vague, it’s hardly explained at all, and they’re incredibly uninteresting. I mean, the Doctor actually went around CALLING IN FAVORS to go to war with these people. And it was such a limp dicked result. Blah.
So yeah. Davies always delivered with solid themes, solid explanations, solid tension, and solid payoffs. Moffat just sensationalizes the balls right off of his stories, like they can’t hold my attention on their own or something, and then the payoffs are just so flat when compared to the unnecessary level of build up.
Moffat really needs to dig in deep to win me back with this next series.
Oh! Just for the record, there are a few instances where things that are said, catch-phrasey, Moffat-esque things, do happen in Davies’ writing. They’re hardly as egregious though. For instance, the face of Boe’s, “You Are Not Alone,” doesn’t even come up again until Yana is opening his fob watch. It’s hardly shoved down our throats. Then, the case of the Doctor-Donna just seems like an eccentricity of the Ood, which we are able to later appreciate when we get a Doctor-Donna (an instance of Davies taking something subtle and making it a great twist). It’s hinted that the Doctor’s song is coming to an end, and then we get the “he will knock four times.” This is, once again, not shoved down our throats. It comes up a few times, and we’re sort of misdirected to think it has something to do with the Master’s drum beat. And then good old Wilfy knocks on that glass… what a moment.
So yeah. Moffat needs to step up his game and cut the middle school sensationalism bull shit and just deliver.