I've been going back and forth about watching series five of Doctor Who for some time. I waffle because I do genuinely love the show, the Doctor, the premise of it all so I don't want to lose that. On the other hand, I am not a fan of Steven Moffat's style and he is taking over the show come series five. At first, I had decided that if David Tennant left the show after the Russell T. Davies-specials next year that I would be more likely to give Moffat's Who a chance, because while I freely accept and embrace that the different regenerations of the Doctor are all the Doctor, my heart associates Christopher Eccelston's Nine and David Tennant's Ten with Rose. I figured that with neither actor playing the role, as long as Rose wasn't mentioned -- which would make sense in light of the series four finale -- I could just blithely accept a new Doctor without the Rose-colored memories (yes, I went there) under Moffat's direction.
As anyone reading this knows, David Tennant has announced that he is indeed NOT returning to Who in series five and is exiting with RTD. So my decision should be made for me, right? Well, not so fast. We still have the Moffat issue which I originally put down to being just about my Doctor/Rose love. Whether you like the man or not, his writing or not, it really can not be argued that he is NOT a fan of the Doctor/Rose love story and he has sought to underscore it and, in fact, has spat all over it in three of his last four ventures for the show. (And it should be mentioned that in the fourth one in which he did not do so, it was a Doctor-lite episode.) So naturally as a die-hard Doctor/Rose fan, I did quite easily just put my dislike of Moffat down to my love of Doctor/Rose. However, there's more to it I've come to realize and with that more, I've reached my final and firm decision. Unless they cast an actor I absolutely, positively adore, I will NOT be watching series five of Doctor Who mainly because it won't be the program, the Doctor with which I fell in love.
Going back to my history with new Who, let me chart my "history" with Steven Moffat as well. I watched series one and was devastated when Christopher Eccleston was replaced in a glowy, burning burst of regeneration by David Tennant. I stopped watching the show. A few years later, a friend of my sister's began pushing me to take it up and assured me that Tennant would win me over (hah! I thought). Sometime amid this conversation, my sister asked me which episode I would recommend that showed the best of Who in order to get her watching. I recall absolutely that I said a two-parter that took place in World War II. I had no idea who wrote it or its popularity in the fandom.
Anyhoo, I got series two and three + "The Runaway Bride" from my sister's friend and began watching them. I was also reading stuff on the internet after each episode so when I finished "School Reunion," I began to read a lot of grumbling, jokes about the Doctor/Rose shippers boycotting the next episode. Which was, of course, "The Girl in the Fireplace." So I went into it (at this point, only four episodes into Tennant's reign, the Ten/Rose-portion of the Doctor/Rose love story and it had been almost two full years since I'd watched series one) expecting that I'd have issues based on the fact that I did like the Doctor and Rose relationship. Still, back then I wasn't even remotely obsessed with the couple, I liked them, but that was all. I was still casually watching the show. So I watched GitF and I loved it. I thought it was gorgeous, romantic, thrilling. I checked to see what else that show's writer had written and saw that he had done that fabulous two-parter I remembered, and then I saw that he wrote another episode coming up in series three. Ooh, fun! Moving along, I finished series two, and by the end of it, yes, my sister's friend was right: Tennant had won me over; as well, I was in love with the Doctor/Rose love story despite the different actor.
I waited a few weeks, and then watched series three, enjoyed it, missed Rose, loved "Blink" and moved onto series four currently in progress. After I finished watching "The Doctor's Daughter" -- the last episode that had aired -- I recalled a few tidbits I'd caught reading stuff here and there, namely that Moffat had another two-parter coming up and that he was taking over series five. I was thrilled and excited about both so much because I recalled loving "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances," "The Girl in the Fireplace" and "Blink." All of this, despite now being a die-hard Doctor/Rose shipper.
And then I decided to rewatch series one and two. Suddenly, I had a few issues -- not major, but still there -- with that two-parter. Rose acted a tad out of character. Hmm. Moving along. Got to "The Girl in the Fireplace" and I was excited to watch it again because I had loved it so the first time ... when I was a casual viewer, and not one who carefully followed the arcs, the character beats, analyzed and broke down moments in the series. It will surprise no one to read that this time I did not love it. I did not like it; I didn't even dislike it. No, I flat-out hated it with a passion that had previously been reserved for particuarly crap-tastic episodes of Veronica Mars.
What was the big difference? Read that last paragraph again.
I was a casual viewer, and not one who carefully followed the arcs, the character beats, analyzed and broke down moments in the series
NOW, I carefully followed the arcs, I watched and saw the character beats and how those beats played out, spreading themselves across the series as a whole, broadening and enriching each subsequent episode. Seeing this episode with all of that in mind, it made no bloody sense for any of the main characters involved. History buffs will also point out that Madame du Pompadour was horribly, inaccurately written, and that Moffat/Sophia Myles combined to make her come across as a vapid twit. Honestly, I don't care because I knew I'd never see her again. No, all of my righteous condemnation of the episode revolved solely around the absolute horrific mischaracterization of the Doctor, of Rose, even of Mickey for goodness' sake.
Even moreso, the writer in me was livid, infuriated that Moffat -- by ADMITTEDLY not reading the previous script -- completely missed a brilliant opportunity to enhance, enrich and continue the Doctor/Rose arc by using Reinette in a fashion that she was essentially tailor-made for in the previous episode. I wrote in my review-rewatch for World War III this little bit:
[A] scene that may or may not further illustrate the Doctor's growing feelings for Rose is his face to face conversation with Mickey. Like in "School Reunion," the Doctor asks Mickey to join he and Rose on their adventuring and it was quite clear to me (and I think, most viewers) that his intention was to put a buffer between he and Rose and their growing closeness after their "humans wither and die" conversation. The same, I do believe, can be said about this invitation. The Doctor had revealed his strong feelings for Rose on two separate occasions in the last couple of hours. The first could be excused and dismissed in the heat of battle, but the latter -- a blatant plea disguised as temptation to keep her with him -- had no such excuse, and coupled with the earlier reveal made it quite clear to the Doctor *and* Rose that something was there.
So, Mickey showed that he wasn't quite the idiot that the Doctor had assumed, and here he was, a handy way to widen that ever-growing closeness between the Doctor and Rose before he did something stupid like choose her over the many. So, he asked Mickey to join them, good buffer. Again, I could be wrong, but I don't think I am. After all, it's very similar in situation to why the Doctor asked him in "School Reunion."
And if you take the whole comparison further, remember that he'd asked Sarah Jane first, and then Mickey ... and then Reinette (we'll just ignore Moffat's out-of-character take on the Doctor asking, and stick with how it *should* have flowed within canon) in the following episode, looking for someone, anyone to create that buffer between them. Here, when Mickey declines, the Doctor -- as in the series two episodes, doesn't stop there -- he agrees to let Adam join them in the very next episode, and a few episodes later (after doing an *incredibly* stupid thing for Rose), he asks Jack ... yet another attempt at a buffer.
My point is -- as stated above: how it *should* have flowed within canon -- it COULD and SHOULD have been perfectly placed in the series had Moffat had the Doctor use Reinette as he was using Mickey (and tried with Sarah Jane) in the last episode as a buffer between he and Rose. That would have PERFECTLY carried over the emotional and character continuity. Instead, Moffat chose to not read the script before his, chose not to follow the story arc that was being crafted beautifully by EVERYONE ELSE involved with the making of this show because he simply didn't care? Considered himself above it? Felt that his vision was the only one worth following even if he was playing in someone else's playground and messing up the character and arc continuity?
All I know is that the rewatch of "The Girl in the Fireplace" was the beginning of the end of my love for Steven Moffat. Then came "Silence of the Library/Forest of the Dead" and here, I'll simply quote butterfly's response to this comment by me: Moffat wrote and Tennant acted out a tragically beautiful love story between the Doctor and Madame Du Pompadour ... in between seventeen episodes prior and nine episodes and two more series' following of a love story between the Doctor and Rose Tyler.
"And then he attempts to do exactly the same thing in "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead", only with David refusing to play along that time."
After that? I was done. Just absolutely done with Steven Moffat as a writer. But he wasn't done with me. Some who read this may be aware of the fact that I've been doing long, analytical rewatch-reviews of all of the Rose-related episodes from Who and I recently finished "The Empty Child," the first of that World War II two-parter and found that the characterization of the Doctor and (especially) Rose was not just a "tad" off as I recalled from my first, non-analytical rewatch. No, no, the two characters were horrifically off. In the case of Rose, it was damn-near close to character assassination. Oh, Moffat, just when I thought I couldn't think any less of your writing, I'm sunk anew by how you just blithely disregard character continuity.
So, long post summed up? Steven Moffat is not my favorite writer, far from it.
It is not because I was/am a die-hard, love them and squish them forever, Doctor/Rose shipper and he spits and shits all over their beautiful love story. It is not because I think he's a sexist pig (or at least writes like one; he may be quite lovely in person) -- although, he is/does. It is not because when looked at closely, his plots (supposedly so tight and together) don't hold up. Nor is it because he uses gotchas and cheap ploys to get a rise out of the audience for a first-time viewing that no longer exists in any subsequent viewing and thus shows said gotchas and cheap ploys for exactly what they are.
Although, admittedly, I do think that all of the above are quite fair reasons for finding Moffat's writing less than desirable. However for me, those would make me think less (admittedly much less) of him as a writer, but would not cause me to utterly despise his work. No, I despise Steven Moffat as a writer because he shows an absolutely appalling lack of respect for every single person involved in creating the new Who. And I say this because every single person involved in creating the new Who -- at least publicly -- other than Moffat has written, scored, produced and acted out this beautiful, epic love story between the Doctor and Rose Tyler.
Steven Moffat completely and utterly disregarded the canon of said relationship in all episodes surrounding his. That shows a shallow, petulant quality in how he approaches his work that he could so easily dismiss the hard work of all of the writers, directors, actors, etc. around him who have been carefully building up said relationship. If he were a disrespectful ass who deliberately went against the wishes of the executive producer of the show he was working on knowing that because of his awards he could do so without impunity, but still managed to create brilliant television that honored the arc and emotional continuity of said program, I wouldn't be his biggest fan, but I wouldn't be on the anti-Moffat train either. And I would willingly concede his brilliance as a writer. (And even despising his writing as I do, I still will concede that he CAN write -- just not with any depth, or by honoring the continuity of the characters and arcs as written by previous writers.)
Moffat is a selfish, disrespectful writer, and he does NOT offer brilliant television beyond an initial viewing. Once one rewatches any of his offerings -- even without an eye towards the arc and emotional continuity -- things fall apart in the area of the plot, the general characterization, the gotchas and cheap ploys are revealed as such. And once one adds in the consistent characterization, well, what you're left with is a mess. But that first viewing without being well-versed in the character and arc-continuity? It is golden, thus his awards. But looking deeper, taking into account the program as a whole, as opposed to each episode a separate entity, the gold turns to dust. In other words, he is the Emperor with no clothes.
And I believe it is quite possible that the BBC will learn within the next few years that Steven Moffat is, indeed, wearing not a stitch.
ETA: shinyopal's massive, and I do mean, massive! post is up. Check it out here.