Moffat is a good writer. At its best, his work teems with brilliant ideas and concepts, and Series 5 is full of these: the â€œraggedy Doctorâ€ theme, the talking dog in The Eleventh Hour, the future Britain in The Beast Below, the merger of the church and the army in Time of the Angels. His previous work on the first four series rightly stands as some of the greatest Doctor Who ever made. But whereas his poor characterisation was previously sandboxed, when blown up across a whole series it becomes quite a problem. In previous years, guest writers were unaffected by the lack of logic and pace in the episodes Davies wrote himself, yet were able to build on the firm character foundations he provided them with.
Who Are You?
This year itâ€™s the opposite problem; none of the guest writers have been able to do anything interesting with the sketchy characters Moffat has given them, yet the budget and small scale have generally prevented them from developing an interesting or distinct cast of their own.
Thereâ€™s still much to admire in Doctor Who 2010. As mentioned before, Matt Smith and the new directors have been exemplary, and some of the guest writers have offered up some terrific work; in particular, Iâ€™d welcome more from Simon Nye and Richard Curtis in the future (the latterâ€™s Vincent and the Doctor being one of the few modern historicals to really get under the skin of its subject matter rather than simply ride the â€˜history celebâ€™ route). Even Gareth Roberts, previously responsible for some fairly ho-hum fare, turned in a charming highlight in The Lodger (which notably sidelined Amy in favour of his own, more engaging creations).
But for the first time since the show returned Iâ€™ve been underwhelmed by the series as a whole. The rewriting of Amy and Roryâ€™s histories at the end of The Big Bang, plus the promise of a return to River Songâ€™s story (one of the few arc elements of series 5 that worked really well) indicates that Christmas 2010 might offer a fresh start; Iâ€™ll be watching with crossed fingers. But if this yearâ€™s stories prove anything, itâ€™s that cleverness is not enough; Doctor Who needs heart and character as well as ideas if it is to truly work to its full potential.
Matt Nida is a writer and editor at the cult movie and horror website Black Lagoon – read more of his reviews at www.blacklagoon.info