Seven Shitty Moffatisms Destroying Doctor Who – Part III
Moffat’s Shitty Passive Narrative Voice: Show… DON’T TELL
Extremites, I just finished Stephen King’s memoir On Writing. It’s not a memoir in the traditional sense. It is a guide book on writing, peppered with anecdotes from the author’s life. One of the major themes that King stresses in his book is the difference between passive and active writing. He says that is the writer’s job to show rather than tell.
Darling Whovian, dearest of fans, If you’ve watched the last few years of Doctor Who it is clear clear where I am going with this. From The Eleventh Hour to the most recent Christmas special, Moffat has told us about events rather than show us. He begins most episodes with a voice over. More often than not it’s spiced with the fairy tale cliche: “Once Upon A Time.”
In the Christmas episode much of the action was accompanied by a pompous voiceover telling us about a ‘great man.’ However, this ‘great man’ if judged by actions alone is not so great. In Moffat’s tenure, the Doctor has become a warrior who has no compunction about fighting pointless battles. He also has no problem with genocide. Sure, he says he does, but this is not shown in his actions.
The narrator —whether Amy, Clara, some other flavour of the moment female — tells us that he is a good man so … I guess, we have to believe it.
I had a commenter, on the last part of the these posts, that accused me of being literalist. They said that my outcry for a little pathos and motivation was in error because these things are self evident to the plot. They hit on my point.
The motives in Moffat’s Who are often self evident, but not because we are shown them through an unfolding situation. They are evident because someone told us they are. A character shares this in voiceover.
The most common form of exposition in Whodom is the “companion ‘why’ device.”
I wrote an article about Superhero genre in which I examined what makes a good sidekick vs. a bad one. The sidekick’s role is to ask the protagonist why she/he does something so that she/he might explain him or herself. Look at the Tales of Sherlock Holmes —this is an important comparison because Moffat is updating this story as well— without Watson asking why Sherlock does something we would never have a clue as to what is going on. This questioning has the added benefit of making the exposition active. It creates a dialogue.
Apply this style of exposition to a Doctor Who exchange:
A Timelord is flying through space.
Companion asks: “where are we going?”
Doctor says “…. I don’t know… Barcelona.”
TARDIS lands on rock planet without oxygen.
Someone made a mistake.
This is mistake that would not have been made clear without that question. The companion acts as a window into the inaccessible world of the Doctor and as added benefit takes away the need for endless explanation.
Now, the recent Christmas episode:
Most of the time the Companion ,being Clara, is not in knowledge of what is going on. She’s not even present to ask questions. Information is shared through voiceover, taking away any chance of suspense, tension or comedy. It just becomes one long medieval tapestry, which while beautifully knit, is a two dimensional account of events.
Whovian, I can hear you now saying, “ I see your problem with this, and many of us have complained about the ineptitude and nothingness of Clara, but would it matter if Clara was there to ask the question, anyway? Remember, the Doctor lies.”
Darling Whovian, this is the worst thing about the Moffatocracy. Moffat writes ‘safeties’ to cover for his bad writing.
We have all seen or heard that banal piece of reductivism that Steve has been peddling. Since when does the Doctor lie, Steve?
Since Steve started writing him.
Rather than deal with the fact that Moffat hasn’t created a decent companion he explains it away by claiming that the Doctor is a liar.
Conclusion: Why ask a character who is untrustworthy, anything?
Looking through the many episodes of Doctor’s past, there’s never been an example of an outright lie. He holds things back, and at times is frustrated that he must explain himself — Colin Baker’s Doctor was a big culprit of this — but he’s often only been too happy to explain his genius.The lie explanation is because Moffat needs to come up with a fast excuse for why he cannot write compelling dialogue for the life of him. Or to hide the fact that if he let his female characters speak beyond a hackneyed quip, we’d see that he cannot fathom a woman’s thought beyond her tits.
I call bullshit on you, Moffat.
The greatest example of passive narrative in Moffat’s tenure is his use of prophecy.
Prophecy has been a big part of the most recent seasons. I don’t have a great hate for it as a mechanism. Prophecy is great, when all the pieces come together and you are left with a mind blowing realization —the “Oh Shit! moment” I have talked about before — it is the best. The failing of prophecy, however, is that the prophesied event may not live up to the hype. This problem is fixed by writing in twists and turns—maybe even double bluffs— to take the audience on a journey.
Not to pit Davies up against Moffat again, because I don’t want this series to become a ‘Davies is better than Moffat’ love fest — Davies had his issues too — but lets compare the “he will knock four times” prophecy that set up the culmination of Tennant’s Doctor with Moffat’s “Silence will fall.” We hear the aforementioned prophecy once an episode, through the specials, until The End of Time where we see the Master bang four times on a refuse bin.
“Damn, the Master is gonna get him,” I thought.
… TillI I realized that Rassilon has been sending out a four tap signal.
“Rassilon, is gonna get him? What a twist!”
After watching the Master defeat Rassilon I then thought “what is going on here…”
Wilfred knocks four times on a pain of glass. The prophecy comes together.
Cue: ‘OH SHIT’ MOMENT.
Now to “the Silence will fall.”
This appears early in the Matt Smith period and, upon first hearing, it is intriguing. As the series progresses, however, and we encounter the actual Silence, the prophecy is now painfully obvious: this race will fall. It’s exposition that is repeated over and over again to make it sound like a prophecy when it’s just an observation.
In the most recent Christmas special, when the Silence does fall, it’s a passing mention and not worth all the hype.
Moffat’s writing is both on the nose and unimaginative. He dresses it up with snazzy tropes and loads of style, but it is as simple and unimportant as an after-school special.
Moffat hits us over the head with his supposed writing brilliance:
Moffat says, “See the Silence fell… and I foreshadowed it episodes ago! Look at what an astoundingly cool and brilliant writer I am.”
Davies on his prophecy: “Fooled you didn’t I… wasn’t that fun to watch.”
Yes, Russell, it was.
Steve, stop telling us everything and let us experience it.
It is no fun being a passive watcher. We yearn to get involved.
Stop spoon feeding and have some respect for your audience.
This way you won’t blow your wad episodes before the actual event. Somehow you manage to understand this on Sherlock, (even though it is a backward and misogynistic nightmare of a show.)
Until next time, Extremites, and Mr. Moffat, I remain: Julian Munds.
Posted on April 2, 2014, in Doctor Who and tagged Christmas, Christmas by medium, Clara, Companion, Doctor, DoctorWho, Eleventh Hour, Master, Matt Smith, Moffat, Rassilon, Steven Moffat. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.