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Space and Time

The 2011 “Children in Need” special. Contains spoilers, so go and watch it on YouTube before reading any further.

Almost a harmless bit of fluff with some amusing lines; certainly less irritating than “Time Crash” (which involved hyper manic “skinny idiot” David Tennant being effortlessly outclassed by Peter Davison). But Stephen Moffat’s insightful comments on how women suffer from a glass ceiling amusingly and ironically inverted sub-adolescent humour was rather grating, and just a tad creepy – does he really think it’s suitable for either children or adults to have the entire situation arise because Rory is looking up Amy’s skirt? I was under the impression that they had got married recently, which in my experience obviates any compulsion the man might have felt beforehand to, ahem, “sneak a peek.” This feels uncomfortably like the writer’s prurience coming through, rather than anything else. As G.K Chesterton said, “A good story tells you the truth about its hero; a bad story tells you the truth about its author.”

This is on a par with Moffat’s rather awkward handling of the grown-up bits in various other stories, which at its worst is crossed with a mile-wide river of sentimentality; throw in some crass dialogue about “my lonely angel” and you have “The Girl in the Fireplace”…

Anyway, all the above sort of matches up with the peculiar and unlikable behaviour he foisted on Amy in the last series, such as having her throw herself at the Doctor and then, having apparently finally chosen Rory (in “Amy’s Choice”) she then tried to drag the Doctor into the bushes on her wedding day. This isn’t so much a strong female character, which I’m all for, as a person who treats her partner with complete contempt.

Anyway, moving on…

The spacey-wacey and timey-wimey stuff was OK, I suppose, but we have seen that sort of thing several times now, and it’s reached the point where a story that isn’t a ripoff of “By His Bootstraps,” “Man in His Time,” “Chronocrimes” or “Red Dwarf” would come as a refreshing change. It was amusing in The Curse of Fatal Death, clever and rather moving in Blink and at least impressive in A Christmas Carol. And, yes, it is nice that someone has noticed that Doctor Who is about time travel, and taken on board the implications, which in old-Who were only glimpsed occasionally (e.g. in “The Ark”, “The Time Meddler”, “Day of the Daleks”, etc) – and in RTD-Who just about nonexistent – but I do hope we aren’t going to spend the next few series’ stuck in the plot equivalent of a chronic hysteresis. (I realise that could be seen as ironic, but it could also be seen as a wee bit boring.)

So, I hope Moffat has a few more tricks up his sleeve; but if he hasn’t, I trust he will at least encourage other writers who do have fresh ideas. That was, after all, how the programme started, with lots of different takes on the central idea (compare, say, The Aztecs, The Daleks, The Celestial Toymaker, The War Machines and The Web Planet).

The previous showrunner apparently liked to put his oar into other people’s scripts, generally (IMHO) to their detriment. For example, Russell famously gave some writers “shopping lists” of things to include, for no obviously good reason (“New York 1930s, Pig Men, sewers, showgirls, the Empire State Building”), shoe-horned jokes into someone else’s script – and, indeed, changed the whole point of at least one story (“So, will you weep for the poor little Dalek? Russell T Davies says you will.”)

The only person whose scripts he never touched was, apparently, Stephen Moffat. I hope Moffat feels similarly towards all the other writers over whom he is supposed to exercise “creative control”.

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