Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Moffat: Genius or Madman Part 1

Hello Everyone,

(Before you read this post, please bear in mind that this is my opinion, and if you disagree, please try not to take offense. If you feel the need to comment, please bear in mind that I will not take kindly to bad language or anything worse. This post is not representative of the general public, merely me and my group of friends’ opinions.)

Famed for his re-imagining of Conan-Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, and his complicated story-lines in the British television programme Doctor Who, Steven Moffat has been cited as a genius, or a madman. But which is he?

He first came to fame as a writer with his show Press Gang, for young adults.  One paper wrote of the first episode: Press Gang has proved to be a series that can transport you back to how you felt as a teenager, sharper than the world but with as much angst as acute wit ... Never again can a show get away with talking down to children or writing sloppily for them. Press Gang: possibly the best show in the world.”

This fame continued throughout his career. He became pretty well known to the younger generation again when he started writing for the TV series Doctor Who, writing some of the creepiest episodes that the show has ever had: The Empty Child, Silence in the Library and Blink. The Empty Child, set in 1941 during the London Blitz featured a small child in a gas mask who was following the homeless children around, spreading a sort of sickness that created every person it had touched in its likeness. The child’s cry of “Are you my mummy?” still haunts children today. Silence in the Library featured the Vashta Nerada, a creature that swarmed in the dark and ate human beings by infecting their shadows. Blink introduced the Weeping Angels, a statue-like creature that couldn’t move while you were looking at it, but could move as fast as light if you so much as blinked. Every person after watching it developed an irrational fear of statues. At the start of the fifth series of Doctor Who, with the introduction of Matt Smith as the new Doctor, Moffat became head writer for Doctor Who, replacing Russell T Davies. He has written to date 26 episodes for the show, including a Comic Relief mini-episode.

Moffat has also co-written the new Sherlock Holmes BBC series Sherlock. A re-imagining of Conan-Doyle’s most famous work, this Sherlock Holmes, set in modern day London, is a rude, obnoxious, high functioning socio-path. The show is composed of 3 feature length episodes per series starring Martin Freeman as Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes. Each series has ended on a cliff hanger for the audience, resulting in internet tidal wave of theories and fan-fiction.

However, there are critics of Moffat’s writing. His plots lines have frequently become much too complicated, with not many people following exactly what has happened. As a result, it normally seems rushed, and not enough time for what happens to sink in. Moments that should be poignant and tear-jerking are just not. I am of course talking about the most recent episode of Doctor Who, where the Doctor, played by Matt Smith, regenerated into hi next incarnation, played by Peter Capaldi. For me personally, throughout his whole goodbye scene (which I have to say was played superbly by Matt Smith) the one thing that struck me was the goodbye of Amy Pond (played by Karen Gillan) where it was quite obvious that she was wearing a wig (she had previously shaved her head for a part in the movie Guardians of the Galaxy). Now, I am not saying that this scene wasn't sad, or well played, but there was not a proper build-up to it, after the whole rest of the episode, there was not enough time to comprehend what was happening.
This is not the first time that this has happened in a Doctor Who episode written by Moffat. In the episode where River Song is revealed to have killed ‘the Doctor’ (to understand the quotes around the Doctor, you will need to watch the episode) too much happened in this episode that nobody was entirely sure what was going on.

via: http://img1.ak.crunchyroll.com/i/spire3/aaf5516fbaa688172811174d9c938f731319597046_full.jpg
Another problem with this episode is that after clearing up the question of the Silence in the aforementioned episode, Moffat chose to bring them back. Now, if you are a fan of comeback villains, then Doctor Who is for you. As well as his long standing enmity with the Daleks, there are also the recurrent villains like the Cybermen, the Slitheen, fellow Time Lord the Master, and even the High Council of the Time Lords and Ladies themselves. However, there are sometimes problems with bringing back the villains. Generally, because they've been beaten by the Doctor before, there is a clear expectation that they will be beaten again, so writers have to come up with new ingenious ideas to keep them scary, and make the audience believe that they could potentially triumph. So, there is a lot of pressure on the writer. Moffat originally created the episode ‘Blink’ with the Weeping Angels (I mentioned this earlier), but when he brought them back (The Time of the Angels/Flesh and Stone), it was a well-received episode, but especially in the second episode, I felt that he failed at keeping them scary by including some rather strange scenes. However, I feel Moffat complicated things even more by bringing back the Silence. ‘The Silence will fall when the question is asked: Doctor Who?’ was the quote that followed throughout this series. I felt that this had already been dealt with thoroughly by the end of the series and did not need rehashing. This is the same with the cracks in time that were featured. This whole thing was way too complicated, and should have been confined to just one series. 

Now, there are other things that I dislike about Moffat’s writing, like his female characters and his over representation of men in Sherlock. However, this post is very long, and I don’t want it to turn into too much of a rant. Nevertheless, I would like to stress that I do not dislike everything about Moffat. These are just a couple of issue that I have with his writing.I think he did superbly with the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Episode. I really enjoy watching Doctor Who and Sherlock, and can’t wait to see what happens in the future with these shows.