Doctor Who News Steven Moffat, writer of Doctor Who and Sherlock

Published on August 15th, 2012 | by Christian Cawley

Moffat Defends “Complex” Doctor Who Plots

Steven Moffat has launched a staunch defence of his “complex” Doctor Who plots, noting that his approach to plotting the series should be “celebrated and not criticized”.

Steven Moffat, writer of Doctor Who and SherlockSpeaking on Richard Bacon’s BBC Radio 5 Live show this morning (catch the highlights here), The Grand Moff revealed that he had received “no actual feedback” from BBC audience researchers highlighting issues following plots.

“It’s demanding television, but isn’t that something to celebrate? We are doing the opposite of dumbing down. Shouldn’t that be celebrated and not criticized?”

We at the K would say that on the whole, Steven Moffat is absolutely right. Plot complexities – as long as they are properly explained – shouldn’t cause anyone much of a problem. If they do, they’re watching the wrong show. However, there are instances in Doctor Who over the years in which editing and dialogue have clashed, resulting in odd things happening. This *might* result in some confusion (for instance, pirates going missing…).

Moffat was also asked if the BBC considered Doctor Who a children’s show or adult drama. With a suitably diplomatic-yet-frank answer, he replied:

“Everyone by the end of the opening music is a kid! It is watched by more adults than kids, but there is something at its heart, which belongs to children. All the best stuff is children’s. You look at a risotto on a menu and you see the children’s menu and there’s sausage and chips. All the good stuff belongs to children.”

Personally, I’d rather have the risotto. Still, I’m sure he knows what he means…


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About the Author


A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

8 Responses to Moffat Defends “Complex” Doctor Who Plots

  1. avatar Rick says:

    The Moff has always referred to the Doctor as “the smartest guy in the room” and it can sometimes be more of a challenge to write for him. True but what I don’t think he realizes is….. usually, *he’s* the most “clever” guy in just about any room he enters. Especially when in a room with us Who fans. He’s very very clever and intelligent and his mind runs at some fantastic speeds. He brings a lot of that to his stories. They can be fast and clever and sometimes complicated.

    I think maybe he just has a lot going on. Series 7 had its ups and downs like any other season but maybe the problem it had that other seasons didn’t was that it was a bit exhausting. Two mini seasons with extra cliffhangers, the most elaborate and repetitive seasonal “theme” ever and then trying to jam all things from all times into the season finale was all just, well, a bit exhausting. I needed a break from DW after all that and a mere adequate Christmas special didn’t help.

    Another factor is pacing. There are times where it feels as if the Moff is really trying to fit an extra half an episode into an existing one. Doctor’s wife should have been a two parter and the Flesh two parter might have benefited from being a one parter. Not sure. I could go on and on but when all’s said and done, I’m looking forward to the new series.

    • @Rick:

      I had the exact same reaction as you to the last series… the stakes were raised just a bit too high this time. It wore me out by the last episode, which was followed by a rather “meh” Christmas special… It’s only within the last month or so that I’ve started to be excited about the next series as a result, which is unusual for easily-entertained me.

  2. avatar daniel says:

    I think we may find we are in the middle of 3 or 4story arcs

    The River Song one

    The Amy / Crack in the wall one

    Why does Rory keep dying?

    Who is the Doctor..whats his name etc?

    Because of that its like a tangle of wires. Hopefully all will become clear.

  3. avatar Suaznne says:

    I don’t really mind the complex story, it keeps me on my toes, and nicely hides the fact that the Doctor seems to have lost some brain cells. He’s not as erudite as he used to be. But, I don’t know, I would guess they are trying to appeal to a younger audience; I just hope they realize it’s at the expense of there older and more loyal fans. That said, I still watch, and am excited for the next series, it’s a matter of hope and trust in the caretakers of a beloved show.

  4. avatar Esterath says:

    The stories aren’t complex. I’m 12 and I understand! It’s just stupid parents complaining.

  5. avatar Francis cave says:

    There is “complex” then there is “confusing”. From the feedback I got from friends and work colleagues, the latter who dont know I am a fan, series six was more of the latter than the former which I tend to agree with. Still the moff has said that this series will be less arc based than the last two so I am cautiously optimistic….

  6. avatar stlshawn says:

    I agree with the arcs being confusing. I like a show that can be dropped in at any time and someone can enjoy the ride. Doctor Who is supposed to be “smart”, “Complex”, and even a bit of a challenge at times. It’s this that keeps it from being eye candy or typical TV fluff.

  7. avatar TonyS says:

    I’m all in favour of intelligent writing. I have no problem with complex storylines- providimg they are there to tell the story rather than just to show how clever the writers are. We already know that! Just once or twice recently I have felt that the cleverness was getting in the way of the sotries. But please please please do not dumb down the writing. It doesn’t need it.

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