This time last year, I complained that death in the world of Moffat’s Doctor Who didn’t seem to stick and that there were no consequences. So what do we get for pretty much all of Season 8? Death and consequences.
No female Doctor? Have a female Master.
Afraid that the female companion is just going to settle down with her (arguably controlling) boyfriend? Nope — he’s dead and she’s alone.
So it puts me in a tricky position, because I can’t complain that this season was “Moffat as usual.” In fact, I feel like Steven Moffat often fucks with fans by giving them what they ask for; He’s like a squat Scottish genie that way. Because the finale was a bloodbath by Moffat standards — poor asthmatic Osgood bit it early on, along with the two hapless security guards who were supposed to be watching Missy; Danny (who seemed prime for a resurrection) remains dead; as do all of the recently-deceased Cyberhive inhabitants. And even though Danny’s final curtain call came off as a cheap deus ex machina ploy, the end result is that he’s still gone for good.
So why do I still feel unsatisfied? The truth is that even with the surface “corrections,” there’s a basic problem that will likely always be true about Moffat’s writing: it never quite comes together, and it never quite makes sense.
I’ve broken up the finale’s biggest offenders below:
The Lame Twist We Didn’t Care Enough to See Coming
Missy was the woman in the shop who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number? Yeah, we probably pieced that one together by now. Just a couple of episodes earlier, Missy was pawing at a picture of Clara and calling her “hers’.” Plus, at this point, it was the only reveal that would make sense.
But because the mystery shop lady was dangled so obviously over our heads, it wasn’t like it was a massive face-melting twist. Partly because it was obviously Missy, and partly because Missy’s reasoning was delightfully stupid.
Oh, she hooked him up with Clara because she’s uptight and bossy? That’s it? Clara’s not some sleeper agent or spy. She has no greater purpose or identity. She’s just a bossy little nanny-turned-school teacher and the Master thought it would be funny if the Doctor had to deal with her?
On that point, is Clara even that much of a challenge for the Doctor? Compared to Amy, maybe. And let’s be honest, Moffat has spent pretty much all of the last 4 years pretending that Davies’ seasons never happened, so there’s no point in even trying to compare Clara to previous companions.
The Cyber Rain Made No Sense
Sorry, explain this to me again: literal brainstorms came down and turned corpses into metal Cybermen?
This is where people love to cry, “It’s a kids’ show!” Which is fine. It doesn’t have to make serious technical sense in that I don’t need to know why or how the corpses help to “fuel” the cybermen or how the cybermen function on a mechanical level. But I do think it’s a step too far to claim that magical rain gave everyone giant metal-and-wire outer casings.
Oh, and the fact that all corpses are now coming back to life because Missy has been soaring through time converting them all on her own TARDIS for… ever? Where’s that TARDIS again? How did the Doctor not notice her doing this for thousands of years?
Missy’s Plan Made No Sense
I know, I know. The Master is “crazy.” And lonely. So I sort of understand the attempt to get the Doctor back on her side. But if she really did spend what had to be thousands of years going back through time to convert all corpses into potential cybermen, surely her execution could’ve been a little better than that.
And maybe she could have spent a little time actually trying to convert the Doctor instead of just showing up at the end, yelling ta-da and handing him the figurative keys to the universe.
It’s Still Lacking a Heart
This is a harder one to “prove,” in some sense. One of the main take-aways that people seemed to get from my grief article was that I was just talking about death. I wasn’t. It’s not that I’m angry that people don’t die often enough in Moffat’s Who, but rather that everything lacks an emotional wallop.
I want to care that Danny Pink is dead, but the character was flat and empty. Vague references to his life as a soldier, and the brief scene of him as a child, weren’t quite enough to compel me to like him — especially when he turned into a bit of a control freak by demanding that Clara stop spending time with the Doctor.
They didn’t show us why Clara loved him, or why he loved her. Instead, Clara professes her love to Danny moments before he dies, because it’s just important that we know that she loves him and vice-versa in order for their scenes to work in the finale. But we still have to feel it — and I definitely didn’t feel it.
Where are Clara and Danny’s parents? Do they have siblings? Who are their friends?
These are the same issues we had with Amy and Rory: they only had friends and families when it worked for the plot but were empty vessels the rest of the time.
If you want us to care about characters, we have to know who they are.
Probably most frustrating about Moffat’s Who is that it’s like a brand-new show. Davies’ era was littered with references to the classic series and cameos from old stars. N0w and then stories and entire arcs would lead back to old plot lines.
But Moffat’s show is coldly independent from the series’ past. Sure, there are still comments made here and there about past events, or little winks, like having Clara work at the same school that Ian and Barbara taught at — but it’s nothing substantial or more important than that.
Oh, what about the Brigadier in the finale? It could be an exception to the rule, but in a sense it’s also just a larger wink. The Brigadier showed up to save his daughter (a new character, invented by Moffat) and then be killed off again. And to kill the Master, so the Doctor didn’t have to (which felt incredibly cheap).
The larger mythos or history of the show has been erased or very literally re-written by Moffat. And the only characters who seem to show back up are ones that he invented. One appearance by an old companion would have been nice by now. Not desperately important or necessary, but nice.
Instead, it feels like Moffat needs to assert that this is his show and nobody elses. As a result, it doesn’t feel like Doctor Who anymore.