So with new Doctor Who episodes come new (and old) criticisms about how the show isn’t what it used to be, how it’s ruined forever, how the Nth Doctor is the worst Doctor in history…and how Steven Moffat is pretty much the Antichrist who made into a pebble this once bright and shining jewel of a television show. Most of the time, I’m one to shrug and move on. Sometimes, I will admit to finding myself reading some of the more well-written criticisms and understanding where they’re coming from or even agreeing with some of the points made. But there are other times where the argument seems solely based on blaming Moffat for the way the show has gone…just because he’s Steven Moffat. Just because he’s not Russell T. Davies (whose work on the older episodes I have indeed enjoyed).
It’s here where I get confused and see a lack of value in the argument. First of all, Davies and Moffat are two very different kinds of storytellers. In my eyes, Davies focused more on characters and character relationships whereas Moffat is more about the story itself. Davies worked with the trees; Moffat works with the entire forest, occasionally hanging things on a tree here and a tree there to keep us moving through it. One of the things I’m always reminded of when I think about it is how, in an episode where Davies was showrunner, even the most minor of characters appeared to have an entire history and fleshed-out personality on their own. I know I wasn’t the only one who felt it when that lovely Tree of Cheem sacrificed herself to help Nine save everyone on board in “The End of the World.” Compare that to…mm…”The God Complex”—which had good minor characters, true, but the only one I really felt anything for was Rita. (Oh, and anger towards Gibbis. Man, that guy was a dick.)
I think what bothers me most about these arguments is when it’s about an episode Moffat neither wrote nor directed without ever taking a look at the actual writer or director. It’s almost always Moffat’s fault. But the more I thought about it, the more I found myself realizing that such a reaction is only normal. Sure, the writer’s name is under the title at the beginning of each episode and the director’s name is in the credits, but Moffat’s name is the one most publicly attached to the show. He’s the one who puts himself the most out there among the fans, and he’s the showrunner!
In my brief time as an intern at a lawyer’s office in my senior year of high school, I learned about something called the Deep Pockets theory:
The deep pockets theory relates to tort law. In tort law, employers will often be held vicariously liable for the actions of a negligent employee. This is consistent with the fundamental principle of tort law, which is to compensate victims of negligence. Since employers usually have more money to pay for negligence, they would be in a better position to pay the victims.
You see this sort of mentality in application outside of the legal system as well. When a child does something bad, who do we criticize first? The parents or the school.
When someone does something bad at their job, even if it doesn’t result in legal action, the company they work for usually gets the heat if only because the population at large falls back on the following argument: ”If the higher-ups/people in authority positions were doing their jobs correctly, then this never would’ve happened in the first place.” Even if those higher-ups had no idea what was going on in the first place!
Actually, if they didn’t know then they’re twice as damned, because that lack of awareness only adds proof to the critics that they aren’t doing their job right.
Which brings me back to Steven Moffat and the burden he bears as showrunner. His is a double-edged sword. Even if he didn’t write or direct any given episode that people have issue with, he is always going to take the most heat from critics. Someone will always find some way to hold him responsible for the show’s occasional lapses into ridiculous asshattery because of his relationship to the series.
Do I agree with all of the narrative choices he’s made in his time as showrunner? No. There are lots of things I would’ve done differently (and Amy would’ve worn a lot more pants than she has because of practical time traveling reasons), but then, I’m the type of person who believes that there would be a problem if I blindly loved every little thing my favorite people do. (Actually, the fact that we’re not going to be able to really deal with the ramifications of Amy being infertile and actually see how they deal with that bothers me A LOT because I love the Ponds and would’ve loved to see how that actually affected their marriage because I am clearly an emotional masochist…but that’s a whole other rambly post.) I do feel, though, that sometimes people immediately jump to “FUCK STEVEN MOFFAT FOR RUINING EVERYTHING” as a quick and easy form of expressing their displeasure with something, be it the show as a whole or the plot or the characterization, when I have seen and know that people CAN and DO make legit critiques and arguments about all of that and its head man. While I may disagree with them on some points, I can at least respect them for expressing their opinions in a manner that breeds discussion. And isn’t that one of the main reasons the DW fandom is awesome? Our ability to discuss and debate is beautiful and is one of my favorite things about all of the fandoms I’m in.
So take it as a note for future reference. “FUCK STEVEN MOFFAT FOR RUINING EVERYTHING” is not, on its own, a criticism. It is not, by itself, an argument. Without any supportive evidence, the statement and the belief behind it just seem petty.
In fact, without evidence, it just makes you sound like those of us currently in emotional turmoil from some new twist thrown our way. After all, to love the Moff is also to fear and hate him for not using his powers to stop atrocities, like the senseless murder of a cute triceratops, from happening.