It's about Doctor Who. Or more specifically, it's about the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special. And about Steven Moffat. And about those members of Doctor Who fandom (possibly a minority, but of late an extremely vocal one) who are being extremely annoying asshats (if I was a particularly sweary sort of person I might go for a more colourful description, but...)
Cards on the table time: I'm a wee bit biased. I like Steven Moffat. I've been a fan of his since Press Gang, I thought Joking Apart was possibly the second best sitcom ever (after Fawlty Towers, just to put that claim into perspective; indeed, I think the sequence of episodes from series 2 episode 2 through to series 2 episode 5 may be the finest piece of sustained comic farce on television since Fawlty Towers), his episodes of Doctor Who written under Russell T Davies' showrunnership are some of my favourites ever in the programme's history, and he's been genuinely a bit adventurous in the writers he's brought onto Doctor Who (Neil Gaiman was very much a case of "about time!", but Simon Nye and Richard Curtis were unexpected choices).
On the other hand, I'm not blind to his faults; Chalk was (IMO) an utter mess, I actually found Coupling a bit hit and miss (although the hits were absolutely wonderful), The Beast Below was one of the most boring episodes of nuWho I've sat through (to add insult to injury, broadcasting it the week after the wonderful The Eleventh Hour made it seem like a rather cruel joke), and his arc plots in Doctor Who have been rather weak, particularly in the payoff department.
There's also the matters of the split seasons and the fact (?) that the anniversary special might only be about an hour long, but I don't know if it's ever been precisely established whether those were/are his doing, or a result of BBC internal politics & budget issues.
Thing is...there seems to be an increasing amount of at best negativity, at worst outright hostility, towards Moffat over the last few weeks. Which seems to be more than a little unfair, particular as some of it seems to be directed at him because of...rumours regarding his personality and/or personal behaviour, rather than his abilities as writer/showrunner/executive producer. Whilst there may be some truth to those rumours - for example, that he's become impossible to work with, which certainly would help to explain the high number of producers/executive producers who've worked on the show under his watch - to be honest, for me, the bottom line is: is the finished programme any good? This is, obviously, a subjective thing. Personally, I can always find something to enjoy in most Doctor Who, and whilst I've not found the Moffat years of the show to be quite as good as RTD's stuff, it's been for the most part a programme I can happily sit down and watch.
One rather bizarre claim I've read recently is that Moffat has "contempt" for the viewers (and/or the fans). I doubt that this is true, although I'd also acknowledge that short of getting into his head it would be hard to know for sure. I suspect that Moffat, like RTD and, indeed, most other TV professionals, has a simple goal: to entertain people (although, as either Terrance Dicks or Barry Letts once put it, making sure we're not watching a blank screen for 25 minutes on Saturday afternoon is also important). His idea of what's entertaining may or may not be the same as yours, or mine, or various other people, although the fact that the Appreciation Index remains healthy suggests that most viewers are happy with what he's done. I definitely don't think he has contempt for the fans either, but like RTD, he appreciates that fan-pleasing gimmickry may not go down well with the wider viewing audience (of which the fanbase, though important, is a very tiny part).
Which brings me onto the main point: the 50th anniversary special. Apparently, it will be appalling a travesty, an insult to 50 years of the programme's history. Why? Because it doesn't feature the return to the programme of every single surviving actor who's ever played the Doctor.
Well, for one thing, I don't believe that a multi-Doctor reunion story is necessarily the best way to celebrate the show's history. It's a way to do it, granted, but it's been done before in 1972, in 1983, in 1993, and (by Big Finish, kind of) in 2003, not to mention 1985's The Two Doctors (which wasn't to celebrate an anniversary, but hey, Patrick Troughton!yay!). It will be done again by Big Finish this year, and one of the few things we know for certain about DW50 is that it will feature the return of David Tennant. When it works, it works. When it doesn't, it can be a bit of a mess. Leaving aside the simple fact that none of the surviving actors looks as young as they did when they were in the series (it's this inevitable thing called aging), in 1983 when The Five Doctors was made, fitting three Doctors, one recast Doctor and one Doctor represented by clips from an unused story, plus a host of returning companions, monsters, and other characters, into one 90 minute mega-episode, just about worked. Fitting eight Doctors, plus other shoutouts to the past into a (potentially) 60 minute episode is far more of a stretch. You can have all the Doctors back to do their party pieces...or you can have a dramatically satisfying story that celebrates the past and points the way for the future. I suspect that you'd be hard pressed to do both.
For another thing...all we know is that Doctors four to eight have denied involvement in DW50 (the BBC have also issued a press statement that Christopher Eccleston won't be involved; after the kerfuffle over his resignation in 2005 where they attributed words to him that he'd never spoken, I doubt they'd be so stupid as to do that again). Okay, they've denied involvement. Erm...and? About a couple of months back, Tennant said he wasn't going to be involved. And now...he isn't. Oh, hang on. Moffat lies. He's famous for it. He likes to preserve some surprises for us. I don't think that's unreasonable. I doubt, for the reasons I've already given, that we'll have substantial appearances by Tom, Peter, Colin, Sylvester and Paul. I suspect that little cameos may not be out of the question - but I wouldn't put it past Steven to ask them to say they're not in it, just so that when the special goes out in November our jaws can collectively hit the floor and we can all go "wow"!!!
But whatever happens, let's not actually have an opinion on the special until we've seen it, eh? And let's form that opinion on the basis of the its qualities as a piece of television drama, not how many leading actors from the past it manages to shoehorn into its 60 minute running time, eh?
Or is that too much like common sense?
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