Monday, 1 June 2015

TGT Debate - Should Moffat Go?

Welcome to the first TGT Debate, where each week we will be arguing for and against some of the hot topics that are plaguing fandom. This week we're looking at one of the most talked about opinions in the online Whoniverse at the moment, whether showrunner Steven Moffat should hand over the reigns to somebody else. Moffat took over the role of Executive Producer and Lead Writer from Russell T. Davies in 2010. During his time, he introduced two new Doctors, changed the Master's gender and rewrote the outcome of the Time War, but has he outstayed his welcome? Let's find out.

"Moffat Should Go!" argues Louis

It’s undoubtedly true that Moffat has done a lot for the show. He’s delivered a handful of the show’s best ever episodes, has overseen two great and extremely different Doctors, and made a few bold changes to the DNA of the show that have genuinely shaken up the traditional formula.

I enjoyed Russell T Davies’ era of the show – I have no real preference for it over Moffat’s era, and there were certainly several hiccups, but Davies wisely managed to step down before he ran out of ideas. Instead of staying in the showrunner spot for years upon years, his writing slowly stagnating and fandom turning against him (as is pretty much inevitable for any writer after several years on the same show), Davies exited the show on something of a creative high. Your mileage may vary on the quality of his final story, The End of Time (I wasn’t much of a fan), but RTD’s final series, Series 4, was one of the strongest and most critically acclaimed runs of the show to date, and remains a favourite among quite a few fans. Therefore, by leaving on a high, Davies has a fairly strong reputation among fans today – his legacy wasn’t tarnished and torn apart by outstaying his welcome.

We now know that Steven Moffat will be staying on until Series 10 at least – by the time that series, the sixth with Moffat as showrunner, hits screens, Moffat will have been showrunner for almost seven years. So, here’s the question – will Moffat have run out of ideas by that point? I personally really enjoyed Series 8, but Moffat’s storytelling patterns and favourite tropes are becoming increasingly clear as they’re recycled – both Listen and Last Christmas, otherwise strong episodes, featured variations on Moffat’s trademark monsters based off basic, primal human phobias (though he at least managed to subvert his own tropes in Listen with the reveal that the monster was possibly not real), and the new, female incarnation of the Master took on quite a few character traits that we’ve seen before in other female characters created by Moffat. Meanwhile, there’s the perennial problem with bringing people after they’re dead  – Osgood is the latest character to return after death – which is perhaps undercutting the tragedy and drama of the deaths themselves, and overcoming the slight benefits of being able to bring fan favourites back. Moffat’s episodes may continue to entertain, but there’s a certain amount of ideas recycling going on – and as his time as showrunner continues, and more ideas are used up, it’s likely that this will get more and more obvious, raising the possibility of creative stagnation by the time Moffat leaves.

There are also more people than ever who could replace him. The obvious candidate for his successor is Mark Gatiss, but there’s quite a few others who could easily take on the job. Toby Whithouse, for example, has ample show-running experience from the terrific Being Human, and has written more than enough episodes to be familiar with the way Doctor Who is written – he’s been there almost since the show came back, so Whithouse is a natural candidate for Moffat’s successor. Peter Harness, who wrote Kill the Moon and two upcoming episodes of Series 9, has show-running experience with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – while Kill the Moon was pretty controversial, it’s undoubtedly true that Harness would bring a fresh and different approach as show-runner. Likewise, Jamie Mathieson, writer of fan favourites Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline, has not only displayed a great understanding of the way Doctor Who works, but possesses an old-school writing style that could bring an intriguingly retro approach (plus, his episodes were great). The list goes on – there’s quite a few strong writers with showrunning experience who could easily replace Moffat, so it’s not a question of there not being enough candidates.

As for the statement that Moffat should see out Clara and the Gallifrey plot - I can't imagine Clara has much time left on the show, and it's quite possible that her departure has already been planned for the Series 9 finale or this year's Christmas Special, both of which will of course be written by Moffat. We know for sure that he's staying on until Series 10, whether viewers like it or not, and Clara will certainly be gone by then, allowing both a satisfying departure for Clara written by Moffat and a new showrunner. Of course Moffat has ideas about Gallifrey, but there's no reason why he can't simply tell them to his successor, who can then convey Moffat's ideas with his/her own, new writing style - not only allowing Moffat to finish the story he started, but ensuring that the story will be executed in unexpected and original style by a new writer. That is, if Moffat doesn't wrap up the Gallifrey plot by the end of Series 10 anyway.

In conclusion, I believe that it’s inevitable that Moffat will run out of ideas, and end up merely recycling the same ideas over and over. His vision and take on the show is perhaps beginning to show some signs of age – so I think that it would be wise to bring in a new showrunner with a fresh and exciting vision before Moffat undoes all of the good work of the past five years.

"Moffat Should Stay!" argues Ben

Moffat is getting a lot of criticism lately, with a lot of people suggesting he should leave. But let us, just for a brief moment, think about some of the things Moffat has done for the show during his time as show runner.

The most successful thing he has done is, obviously, introducing two new Doctors (we’ll get to the War Doctor later). In my opinion, they have been two of the best Doctors. Matt Smith certainly was adored during his time as the Doctor, as much as David Tennant or Tom Baker were. Peter Capaldi has proved to be a perfect choice of casting and is shaping up to be another fan favourite.

He rewrote the outcome of the time war. Yes, this is making a few years worth of ‘the last of the Time Lords’ references obsolete, but do you know what… I never liked the idea of the Time War. In the pre-2005 series, the Time Lords were a great addition. They weren’t there in every episode, but every now and then the Doctor could go back home or the Time Lords would set him challenges. It was nice to see the Doctor in his home environment and seeing the Time Lords reminded us that the Doctor was part of this powerful race, not just a man flying around space. So in Day of the Doctor when Gallifrey was saved, I was overjoyed. I would have liked to have seen more happen with Gallifrey by now, but Moffat has stated that he feels guilty about changing the Time War, so he’s understandably nervous to get it right.

Another revolutionary Moffat moment was changing the Master’s gender. Yes, we already knew Time Lords could change gender, but it was Moffat who took the plunge and remodelled this much loved character. To have such a revolutionary change 5 years into his tenure, I hardly think he's running out of ideas Louis.

The character of Missy was received with mixed reactions, naturally, but it’s opened up a whole world of possibilities now that we know this sort of thing can be done. He even introduced a new former Doctor - in the form of John Hurt's War Doctor - and gave the Doctor a new regeneration cycle, keeping our faithful Doctor alive for a good few years at least. Moffat has revelled in the idea of brining dead characters back to life. Although it has lessened the fear of death in the show, it has also meant that some of our favourite characters - like Osgood - can come back if we wish hard enough. Although this experimenting has not always received 100% positive reviews - I’m thinking the colourful Daleks - the ideas have revolutionised the show and got fandom talking like never before.

So, why should Moffat stay? Because he has so much more to give. We’ve barely scraped the surface of the ‘finding Gallifrey’ plot and Capaldi has only had one series to develop the character. We need Moffat to stay to finish off what he’s started. When Clara does leave, it needs to be a proper, heartfelt goodbye written by the same person who invented the character, who knows her and understands her. Moffat must have ideas for the ‘finding Gallifrey’ plot, so we need to see these come to fruition. If Moffat does go and somebody else comes in, the style of the show will change. Capaldi’s Doctor will be affected and it could leave us with two different Doctors played by the same man. We need Moffat to stay.

So, you've heard our thoughts - now, it's your turn to share your opinions. You can vote in the poll below on whether Moffat should go - and we'll reveal the results next Monday, where we'll also be debating a new topic with two new writers! In addition, you can leave your own, more detailed thoughts on the topic below.