The backlash against Moffat is hotting up and threatening to turn into all-out fanwar with abuse being hurled on both sides. It reminds me very much of the beginning of Series 3, where you couldn’t say a word against Martha without being accused of being a racist romantic who couldn’t deal with the loss of Rose, and vice versa. Neither side was blameless. In such situations, ’twas ever thus.
I have my issues with Moffat I had issues with RTD, though on balance I preferred his take on most things. What I think this all exposes is that if there is a problem with DW these days, it’s systemic. Being showrunner is an almost impossible task. Add in commitment to another TV series and the workload multiplies further – quality is bound to suffer. With SM it’s Sherlock, wirth RTD it was other Who shows.
And when you are under pressure, in my experience at least, the first thing that goes is your ability to do your best writing. Writing takes peace, space, time and lack of urgent interruptions. If you’re a professional you’ll deal with such things and still make your deadlines, but the quality will suffer. I do think there are signs of that manifesting themselves in DW now – repetition and ideas that would work better if they’d been set up with more care and attention to detail. The bottom line is that the show has to make money and get audience share, or it’ll be cancelled. In the end, that’s got to be a bigger priority than pleasing diehard fans who examine every tiny detail. I think we sometimes forget that an awful lot of people will lose their jobs if Moffat drops the ball on that one.
In the end, you do what can’t wait and you skimp and rush what can. That applies equally to both showrunners. Also, you lose perspective. Therein lies the problem, IMHO. It really would work better if the showrunner did exactly that – ran the show rather than writing it. That’s hard to accept because both RTD and SM are extremely good writers. But any writer can use the feedback of working with a team who critique his/her work, and tone down the more unfortunate obsessions that writers are prone to. People who can point out how a certain line or character is going to come over in an important overseas market, or whether anyone will have a clue what is going on if you persist in your oh-so-convoluted series arc.
I know collaborative writing tends to be the way that shows are make in the US, which doesn’t necessarily rule out the role of auteur (after all, they have people like Joss Whedon). It won’t happen but I’d love to see someone give it a try on DW. It seems to me that the show is really suffering from being dominated by a single person’s vision. When that person was RTD it was easy to blame it all on him, but now we are seeing that it’s a more systemic problem.
Also, I think the question of narrative arcs has to be resolved. It’s reached the point where the tension between standalone stories and ongoing ones is making it very difficult to keep characterisation consistent, particularly where the Doctor is concerned. If, for example, we see him being a douche, possibly under the influence of an alien mind-transplant or scrambled timelines, it’s difficult to forget about that and accept him as Mr Nice Guy the following week. You’re always having to hold back some of your emotional investment in case later plot developments show it to be misplaced. Back in the day, there were serials within series. You could allow stories longer than 45 minutes to breathe, and still draw a line under them as separate narratives when they were resolved. The fact that the finales steadily got longer under RTD’s tenure and that the three-part finale became an unacknowledged trend in 2007, 2008 and 2009, shows that this continues to be an issue. It might be time to take another look at format as well as content.
It’s interesting that Christopher Eccleston’s refusal to have anything to do with a 50th Anniversary special has been reported in several quarters lately. Far be it from me to predict anything, but it does occur to me that, since 10.2 is safely tucked away in Pete’s World, you could get around that problem by resetting all the way back to Eight. And, as we all know, in this crazy show, anything is possible.