Saying Goodbye to a Very Special Era of Doctor Who
With the end of Doctor Who’s 2017 Christmas Special comes the end of an era and the start of a brand new one. That’s always been the case when a Doctor leaves the show, but this time it goes further.
While Chris Chibnall is no stranger to Doctor Who, a sense of continuity that existed since the 2005 revival kind of ends with this episode. It’s not just the Doctor and Bill, but also many of the crew and writers that are saying goodbye.
Sure, there may be returning directors and writers in the future, and in a way there will always be a sense of continuity as the torch keeps passing.
But there are two people who have been with the show since Series 1 in 2005 and are worth celebrating, because their exits truly marks the end of an era.
In my opinion, there’s no episode of Steven Moffat’s that’s downright terrible. There are messy ones and cheesy ones, and sometimes even boring ones. But none of them are really fully terrible, there’s always some piece of entertainment value in them.
This comes from Moffat’s biggest asset: his humor. His episodes always contain at least one good gag, physical or verbal. If you’ve seen any of his interviews, you know he’s incredibly quick and witty. Peter Capaldi once said he could’ve had another successful life as a stand up comedian.
His Doctor Who comic relief short in 2003 contains the blueprints of what his version of the show would become.
This quick wit doesn’t just come in the form of well-placed punchlines, but also moments of incredible insight into the human condition.
His episodes usually contain at least one brilliantly poetic line of substance. More often than not, they sound like something he nicked off of Shakespeare.
In a way, it feels like Moffat is leaving right as he mastered doing Doctor Who. Which is exactly the right time to leave, as that’s when you lose the necessary risk. Because more than anyone else, he’s experimented with the show and expanded the limits of what it can do.
His creative decisions have been bold and brilliant and risky. Just like RTD had done when he brought back the show, Moffat has played with the mythology, expanded what a companion can be, and subverted our expectations for characters and stories, constantly substituting them with something better or at least, more ambitious.
The amount of Doctors he’s written for itself speaks to his influence on the show (One, Eight, War, Nine, Ten, Eleven and Twelve).
His approach to the show can be summed up concisely by what he once told director Rachel Talalay: “the logic is flexible, the poetry is immutable.”
The poetic truth in his Doctor Who is more important than the plot mechanics and narrative facts itself. For all his inspired approach to the narrative structure, the heart of his stories contain some bit of profound emotional insight. It’s sincere and cheesy, but it feels honest. In his Doctor Who, The Doctor may be an idiot and not completely competent for his intellect, but what makes him superior is that he is kinder than everyone else.
The truth is, there’s every chance Chris Chibnall will be better. Perhaps his story arcs might be tighter and there may be less plot holes to complain about. As RTD and Steven Moffat did, he too may bring an incredibly fresh perspective to the show.
But the specific poetry of Moffat’s Who can never be replicated and will never be seen again. It has been a part of the show since it came back in 2005, and it is a monumental loss to the show going forward.
An equally gigantic loss to Doctor Who is that of Murray Gold. While Steven Moffat has only really taken over the show since Series 5, Murray Gold has been doing all the music since the first Series.
What’s incredible is that the quality of his output has been great throughout the 10 Series.
He’s been able to craft three different themes across the four New Who Doctors, reflecting their different personalities perfectly, while retaining a consistency in the nature of the themes so that it still sounds like Doctor Who.
Coincidentally, his best work often came when paired with a magical Steven Moffat episode. The track, The Greatest Story Never Told from Series 4’s Forest of the Dead may be one of the best musical pieces in the show’s history.
His voice is part of the DNA of the show at this point, and more than anyone else, it’s his exit that marks the end of an era.
His departure takes away the last bit of familiarity that I always found comfort in amidst the previous changes and transitions that we had to go through. His music was like a guiding hand to hold as we walked into a world of new Doctors and companions and worlds and stories.
But sadly, all things must regenerate and it’s time for a new voice.
That said, Murray Gold’s work can never be appreciated enough for the way it provided depth to every emotional beat in the show, often being the critical factor that brought out the tears in all of us.
However, as long as the TARDIS is blue and makes that terrible wheezing, groaning sound, it will always be Doctor Who, and there will always be tears.
And where there’s tears, there’s hope.