Doctor Who has been somewhat of a mixed bag since the departure of Russell T. Davies in 2009, which began Steven Moffat’s tenure as show-runner. It started well enough in its first episode The Eleventh Hour, but was arguably bogged down by overly-complex stories under Matt Smith’s period at the Tardis controls, which could sometimes prove too much for casual viewers and even more experienced ‘Whovians’. This is especially apparent with several of Moffat’s series finales, most notably The Wedding of River Song, The Big Bang and Pandorica Opens. All boasted clever premises but were somewhat undone by lack of cohesion and convoluted storytelling and trying too hard to tie up loose ends. This was somewhat rectified under Peter Capaldi’s tenure as Doctor, however still apparent on occasion.
It’s not as if every episode was a mess. Moffat’s tenure has boasted some of the best standalone episodes of the modern Who era such as 2010’s Amy’s Choice, 2011’s The Doctor’s Wife, 2013’s Hide , 2014’s Listen and 2015’s Hell Bent. There were very strong episodes in every of Moffat’s series. I’d stipulate that it was only a handful of episodes that were messy in his seven years. However, these put people off giving it a second chance, especially during Peter Capaldi’s four years in the title role, with some episodes such as Kill the Moon perhaps proving too divisive. Blame is almost never attached to Capaldi, and always at Moffat’s feet, perhaps unfairly.
Blame is always at Moffat’s feet, perhaps unfairly
The one issue I had with the latter part of Moffat’s tenure was the tone the writers were aiming for – it felt in places as if they were writing for an adult show, with later airing times (is 8.30 really when Doctor Who should be on?) and an attempted darker tone. The tonal change was interesting at first but the subsequent mix of traditional doctors and the darker tone, which was reached in Series 9 and 10, was far more pleasing. The failed earlier attempts at dowering Capaldi’s doctor put off a large number of fans, as it missed some of the fun that Doctor Who should have. Meanwhile, Christopher Ecclestone’s darker Doctor which lasted one series still had a large amount of fun to be found. Fun was lacking in Series 8, especially in the latter episodes with the finale Death in Heaven being one of the bleakest Doctor Who episodes in the show’s history.
One massive plus for Moffat is how he handled the 2013 anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor, honouring the past of the story, whilst setting up how it moved forward. Additionally, his handling of some on Series 9 and 10’s antagonists such as the Zygons or Missy/the Master were masterstrokes. On the topic of the Master, allowing us to experience her as a Time Lady laid the foundations for Jodie Whittaker taking over the role of the Doctor.
low viewing figures will make a hard task for Whittaker to overcome
Capaldi’s final two series are in my opinion two of the best since Who was revived in 2005. Yet they have received low viewing figures, especially when put against the high watermark period of Ecclestone and Tennant, which will make a hard task for 13th Doctor Jodie Whittaker to overcome. However, new head writer Chris Chibnall knows how to make a hit, with all three Series of Broadchurch (which starred Whittaker) receiving strong reviews and ratings, likewise with Who spin off Torchwood. He will have a new slice of history to carve out in a show in its 55th year, with its first female Doctor and coming after eight years of Steven Moffat.
My hope is to see some new blood in the production of the show. Talk has it that Murray Gold’s time on the show may be at and end after 13 years of composing the score. Likewise the show will likely embrace new guest writers – one can hope there are some returning faces amongst these such as Neil Cross, the man behind Luther who wrote 2013’s Hide and Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Stardust), I personally would like Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Star Trek Discovery) to pen an episode and bestelling author Andy Weir (The Martian) has expressed an interest in writing for Whittaker’s Doctor.