Monday, May 02, 2011

A Quick Word... To Steven Moffat

Dear Mr. Moffat,

Unfortunately, despite my greatest attempts at the contrary, I must admit that I am a little angry with you. One of the most exciting days of recent years for me was discovering that you were going to take over the mantle of Doctor Who. Let's face it, Russell T. Davies was the only man who could have brought back the Doctor with such flair and style, but Blink had been the greatest episode of recent history (if you can even talk about recent history in such a timey wimey show), The Empty Child and Doctor Dances not far behind, and I thought this is it. This is a new era and it's going to be remarkable.

I think though that it should have been clear that the show was not to be too good, that I should not have to spend my nights and days twisting and rolling plots and timelines inside my head in order to try and crack mysterious codes, and clues, and whispered cryptic statements. I should not have to - along with many others - suffer the almost unendurable indignity of self-imposing Twitter and Facebook boycotts because, sweetie, I had to avoid all spoilers. I should not have to dread tuning in each week because I know, soon, that when I switch off it will be months before I get to press the button that brings the world of Doctor Who to life again.

I grew up in a town whose library had a very limited video collection, which consisted mostly of old dusty tapes of Shakespeare and serialised Jane Austen specials. There was however some dark soul in the upper echelons of the library elite, who had made sure that the video section did have one shelf that defied the adaptation of the literary masters. Close to the ground, where my ten year-old hands could grab them, was a set of Doctor Who tapes as complete as you could get at the time, two rows of black VHS, cracked and dusty from overuse, but disregarding minor glitches still perfect to watch.

It was my brother who first brought home Sylvester McCoy to visit. The new ones were always the ones you went for first, it wasn't necessarily because they were better, but a child can smell the age of a video, and the new ones always seemed more exciting. I can remember the first episodes I saw - Ghost Light, and then The Greatest Show In the Galaxy. I didn't really understand what was going on a lot of the time, I was confused and scared, but the strange man in the odd clothes - the hat, the scarf, the umbrella, and question-marks on all - he was funny, and interesting, and he seemed to know more than he spoke, which is always compelling to watch. More than anything he was cool, and unthreatening, and unwavering, and even before finding out he had two hearts and a time machine I quite simply liked to hang out with him. He was like a mad old grandpa, a whirl of knowledge and experience and ideas, and an unignorable force of joy and adventure.

And then for my fourteenth birthday I got the ultimate gift. The adventure was not over, and the Doctor would be back. A merry band of social outcasts, we gathered around the TV and suddenly Doctor Who was not the past, it was not something that happened to other people, it was ours, and happening right now, and we held our breath with the rest of the world - scheming and hypothesising and hoping and watching.

It is not easy to be 21, a legal adult in every sense, and still be obsessed with Doctor Who in a way that not even the children I know understand. But I consider it a testament to the power of storytelling that on the worst days in the the worst weeks, I am still reminded that the Doctor will soon be in the house, and that more beautiful, original and captivating television is never far away.

It is one of my fondest dreams that one day, like you, like Douglas Adams and Terry Nation and Gareth Roberts, and all the great Who writers before you - I will have the chance to see my name fly across the screen in that vortex of colour, that I will hear the Doctor speak and be able to say "Those are my words… He's saying my words!" and give back to the universe of Doctor Who some small echo and memento of what it has given me. Until then however, the show remains a constant and enduring inspiration, a champion to the power of imagination, and the absolute highlight of my television viewing.

I cannot imagine a world without the Doctor, he is everything I could possibly hope to be, and the show is everything I could possibly hope to create. It keeps getting better and better, and as much as its brilliance is a curse, as much as the feeling of being gripped by its story is so overpowering, so all-encompassing that when the credits roll and you have to step back into the real world you feel like something's missing…

… don't you dare bloody stop. I'm really quite enjoying it.

Yours Sincerely,

Lyndon Riggall


  1. Another good post.

    Don't hate me too much for saying this, but I have got to be honest...Given the popularity of the Dr Who revival, I believe I must be the only person in the world currently who thinks that it is terrible.
    Categorically hideous in fact.
    There is a reason why people don't take sci-fi seriously, and it's writing and a script like Dr Who has. It's almost a caricature of every sci-fi trope rolled into melange of forgettable characters mixed with some of the worst CGI committed to screen.
    Where the old series had a certain take-itself-too-seriously charm, it did attempt to have drama and characters that were more than throw away appeals to mass popularity. Catherine Tate for instance, who also shares the honour of being perhaps the most unlikable companion the Doctor has ever had, outside of Billy piper that is. Both have a deep about as deep as the talent pool in neighbours. Which is also as deep as a puddle in the Sahara.

    It feels like Dr Who has been dumbed down, disneyified and packaged into nice little 45 minutes of neon flavour soap opera ready for consumption in a market of consumers feed upon uncritical and plastic trash TV.

    The sci-fi I remember explored themes that transcended more that the fiction it worked with, and explored social issues. Case in point: Star Trek The Original Series, episode: The Neutral Zone, a wonderful reflection of the paranoia of the Cold War and stealth aircraft reflected in the standoff between the Enterprise and Romulan Bird of Prey.

    Some would claim that it's the way TV is these days. I would disagree. One only need to take a look at the Battlestar Galactica remake in the US to see how old sci fi can be brought back to life, and still have depth, plot, tension , characters and a message that moves beyond the screen.

    So really, given all this, I must ask, given your love of the series, are we even watching the same series here? :P


  2. Stephen Moffat is a name I associate with the 'Sherlock' miniseries now... it's set in contemporary times (and the purists might disdain it on that basis alone) but seriously Lyndon. If you haven't already done so, CHECK. IT. OUT. In my humble opinion it's the best take on Sherlock Holmes that's ever been made for screen.

  3. Isn't it glorious?! Can't wait for the second season to come out. And Jekyll? Wonderful retellings, and I agree, best Sherlock Holmes!

    Steven has also written the new Tintin movie coming out later this year. Very exciting times!

    Ashlin, I appreciate your love of more pure Sci-fi, but I just have to say there is something so magical and wonderful about Doctor Who, it has episodes and moments of epic and tragic failure sometimes, but it just comes through smelling of roses to me, especially the most series.

  4. Great post! I'm a bit annoyed that we have to wait another 3 months before we can feel the rhythm of the TARDIS vibrate through our television speakers and boil the excitement juices in our cerebrum. (That was meant to sound like a Doctor-ish line . . . hmm)

    You could say that I'm a Doctor Who piranha at the moment, I've gone back and watched the Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant series right through, downloaded some of the classic series and started watching Torchwood. Agh!

    Personally the new series of Doctor Who, although it's good (Except for 'The Pandorica Opens' I think that's a pretty dodgy episode') seems a bit confined. What I mean by this is the locations aren't as big as where the last two doctors 'hung out'.

    If you watch Torchwood it feels like the older series of Doctor Who, I spose because Russell T Davies still writes the episodes, but just seeing Captain Jack fighting off aliens and talking about Martha Jones from time to time . . . it feels like a completely different show.

    The new Doctor Who seems like it's clogged up in dust, maybe if the new Doctor were to see Captain Jack, and maybe go back to Cardiff for once, the show would FEEL right.

    Anyways, carry on Pond. =)