As the premiere of the new season of Doctor Who gets closer, my Twitter feed tends to have an exponential growth of Who related tweets. Many of which are sarcastic musings of the show, which then upset a die hard Whovian and an argument begins, which inevitably ends up as gibberish since you can’t effectively debate or argue in 140 characters. I pointed this out recently and said I would write a blog post explaining why defenders of the Moffat Era Who are supporting a losing argument. This is that post. I have spent days going over everything I could find of other people’s thoughts, re-watching the episodes that I don’t already have memorized, and I came to the conclusion that I either go super detailed–and this becomes multiple posts over the week which will just depress me–or I just state a simple truth: Steven Moffat is a bad writer.
The claims of sexism and female character tropes by Moffat are not unfounded. I, by no means, am an expert on such things, but if you want to find those who are, just google “doctor who sexism” and you’ll find them. Or you can use this list provided by Doctor Who Rants. I’ll also direct you to Anita Sarkeesian‘s Tropes vs. Women in Video Games videos. Though they are about video games, these tropes permeate all art and entertainment, especially television.
As a writer, I could take the time and show in various ways that the plot of the Moffat Era Doctor Who has the structural integrity of a rusted out Studebaker dropped into a vat of sulfuric acid. I could tally all the times Moffat promises resolution, both in the story itself and outside to the press, and it never happens. Through simple logic I could prove how his very own creations (Timey-Wimey, Weeping Angels, River Song) collapse in on themselves the more he uses them. I could even show side by side the times he either writes, or allows as showrunner, scripts that are near copies of each other throughout the last 3 seasons.
I could do all these things, but there is a reason why I won’t. It’s out there already. A Google search of this stuff isn’t that taxing and you will find everything I would say already. And this is one of the problems with this argument, and many arguments like it. We have somehow determined in our collective unconscious that to criticize something is to dislike it. And it should be the other way around. If you love something, you deserve the best possible outcome for that commitment, and you only get that being an active participant. As the audience, our power in the development in entertainment is criticism. Without it, creators will assume their bad practices are what you want and will continue to do so.
Not only that, but Moffat misuses inference so much, that reason supporters defend so hard is that see what he is trying to infer and find that as the only thing that matters, even when contextual evidence makes those inferences at best puzzling and at worst impossible. And that causes both sides to be right at some point in the argument. And Unlike a debate team topic, like “Is humanity inherently good or evil?,” each side of this argument have core ideas that are unbeatable. Critics have proof that things we are supposed to believe in the story don’t work. Supporters have the affirmation of Moffat that they are right, despite what critics say.
I believe that the love of Moffat is really misdirected love for the actors of the show. They get handed these scripts and need to do the best they can with them. And they do a pretty superb job considered what they are handed and how they are directed. And if you really look at the debate of Moffat shows, there is something important realize: criticism is always directed at things actors can’t change through the art of acting, and the things that are praised are most likely things that are highly influenced by an actor’s performance. Which is why I think, while Peter Capaldi will be a great Doctor because he is a great actor, there will be no change in quality of the show overall.
And before I stop, I want to explain why past Doctor Who runs, and even his Sherlock stuff, isn’t as criticized. Per past Who, there are plenty of the same arguments that made. Any critic of Moffat that disagrees is just as bad as the supporters, because the same standards have to be applied, otherwise they are meaningless. The problem is that over the course of 50 years of Doctor Who, Moffat’s reign is still the most egregious on these problems, especially considering when the episodes were made. There is no reason, in 2014, that nearly every woman in a position of power tends to have been a sexual conquest of The Doctor and wanting more of him is a defining character trait when we first meet them. As for Sherlock, Moffat has Mark Gatiss to work with in both writing and showrunning. I wouldn’t be surprised that Gatiss does a lot to keep a lot of Moffat’s bad habits out of that show. But even if we look at the previous season of Sherlock, a lot of those problems are leaking in more and more.
So this is what I urge:
- Critics keep criticizing, but when you do, don’t be agitative. You are no better than the agitative supporter. And as you criticize, look at it from the view of the supporter and try to understand why they love, even if you don’t. A good critic acknowledges the good and the bad.
- Supporters shouldn’t take criticism as attacks. While there may be some poor soul that means it to be, more often than not it is a statement of observations, hopefully with contextual evidence to back it up. And just because you see something or something is pointed out that shows a flaw in a work of art, it does not preclude you from still enjoying and loving it. The only thing it does it help you become more knowledgeable and perceptive of not only art, but the world around you.