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The Big Ol' Doctor Who Article

Doctor Who sure had one hell of a 2013. The 50th year of being on the air (minus that stint of cancellation in the 90's) was full of specials, documentaries, the much anticipated multi-Doctor episode we've all been waiting for in New Who, and the farewell to the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith. So what did I think of this explosion of sonic screwdrivers, bow ties and blue boxes?

It had its ups and downs.

The big up, for me, was the 50th anniversary episode. While by no means “perfect” (for reasons I'll get to later on), it was such an exciting episode, and such a big story that at least while watching, I can forget the problems it has. John Hurt was great as “the War Doctor” and just a Doctor in general, pulling off the age and weariness, while still having that somewhat lighthearted and ultimate goodness of the character. It was, of course, great seeing Tennant again, and having all thirteen doctors (with a very brief glimpse of Capalidi) show up to save the day in the end befitted such an anniversary.
The Doctor is getting real tired of you sh*t
But to talk about the parts of the 50th anniversary that weren't so great, I need to talk about something that's been bugging me about Doctor Who for the last few years now, and that's Steven Moffat.

Don't get me wrong, I think Moffat can be, and has been a great writer for the show in the past. His episodes during the Tennant era were some of the best and most frightening in the entire series, and I am forever grateful that, unlike with his predecessor Davis, every season isn't ending with the “oh crap, there are a ton of Daleks we didn't know about” twist (minus the Martha Jones season, of course).

That said though, if we've learned anything from the past few years, I think it's that Moffat needs someone a step higher than him to answer to. Without the mediating force that was Davis, he tends to do three things: throw in too many twists, over-explain to a frankly maddening degree, and lack any sense of pacing.

The first of those may be the most difficult to explain, after all, writing plot twists keeps stories interesting, right? Well, sure, but for a plot twist to be shocking, the plot itself needs to be established. You have to set and enforce rules before you can break them. When you start making all you established rules the basis for a plot twist (likely in that same episode), then we start expecting it. We stop thinking of any of the rules as “rules” and just start thinking of them as future plot twists. Take Moffat's deaths and inevitable resurrections. It was a surprise that Rory died...the first time. It was a shock when we were told “the Doctor will die at this inevitable date”...the first time. If Moffat says “the Doctor will die” in the Capaldi era, are literally any of us going to take it seriously? I hope not.

Second, the over-explaining. The best way to talk about this is to talking about the Weeping Angels, once the scariest monsters in Doctor Who (well, second scariest in my opinion. Vashta Narata get a raw deal). Frankly, I just don't care about them anymore. In their first appearance during a Matt Smith episode, we get a slew of new rules about their existence such as “the picture of an angel is an angel”, “they'll freeze if they THINK you can see them”, “whatever the hell that was with Amy counting down”. Moffat likes to try to scare us, and if that's the case, then it needs to be understood that fear comes, more than anything, from the unknown. The Angels being so mysterious is what made them frightening, but now that we know so much about them, it's hard to be afraid of them in that primal sense.
And lastly, we have pacing. This slaughtered the tension and story of the 2013 Christmas Special for me. Having the Doctor find the town of Christmas (ugh) and then having fast-forwards with narration was absolutely dreadful. Those questions we've been asking since the beginning of the Smith era, like how did the TARDIS explode? Given a brief, two-line explanation. Having to be naked to go to the Church, which is never brought up again and they go to the Church clothed that very episode? Given about ten minutes of screen time. The real nature of the Silence? Given one line of explanation. The Daleks taking over the Church which really didn't amount to anything since the Church lasts another few centuries anyway? Another ten minutes. 
The other two problems I have with Moffat-style episodes reared their heads as well. Once again we have a “the Doctor is definitely going to die here, no we're serious this time” moments, that I'd be shocked if three people fell for. Over-explaining? Buckets of it. The entire scene where Clara finds the kinda old Doctor halfway through the episode was just an explanation dump to make sure we're all up to speed on the situation. Too many plot twists? Again, the Daleks taking over the Church, the Silence fighting alongside the Doctor, and the pure deus ex machina that was the resolution.

It's hard to argue that Davis didn't have deus ex machina resolutions, especially considering that the resolution to his first season was literally Rose Tyler becoming a god from the machine (just replace god with “Bad Wolf” and machine with “TARDIS”), but at least for Moffat's episodes, he could be a mediating force. He could tap Moffat on the shoulder and say “listen Steve, you need to take a step back in this part and explain less here”. Frankly, I think Moffat needs it.

Having said all of that, I can't argue that Matt Smith did a fantastic job of acting in the last episode, and I'm still incredibly excited to see what Capaldi can bring to the table. Perhaps a new Doctor will bring a new companion dynamic, and maybe the plots will change for the better because of it.