Category Archives: Doctor Who
Extremites, I begin this article with an apology. It’s been a while since I’ve updated Seven Shitty Moffatisms and, like George RR Martin, I’ve been over taken. Blame writer’s block.
Mr. Moffat, I’m back.
It has been a while, sir.
I’ve heard that you and Pete, the former president of the Scottish Doctor Who fan club turned actual Doctor, have had some clashes. Apparently, he thinks some of your ideas are off the mark.
Of course, darling Moffat, this is all unsubstantiated but I chose to believe it’s true because it aligns with my world view. You are no stranger to narrow world views are you, Steve?
I guess that is why we are here today isn’t it; because your misguided world view is decimating our beloved Doctor Who. Read the rest of this entry
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.
(Part II) Moffat’s Shitty Epic Pretension: Narrative Experimentation Gone Awry.
Extremites, it happened again.
My Mac conked out and this time it was a fresh hard drive that failed. So Part II of Shitty Moffatisms has been delayed for more than a week.
All this extra time has had its bright side. It has given me a really long time to wrestle with the first Moffatism and how Doctor Who has changed for the worse under the Moffatocracy.
What I have come upon is a Moffatism that, I think, is an extraordinarily important misread, on the part of Steve, on how to create a powerful Who episode. Indeed, how to create a powerful drama. I am referring to Moffat’s incessant use of ‘Epic Structure.’
When I say ‘use,’ what I really mean is ‘attempt to use.’ Steven Moffat wrongfully applies a legendarily tough narrative structure to a show that is already a complex premise.
Doctor Who relies upon the clarity of simplicity to really succeed.
Let me ask you a question, darling Whovian: after you first watched any Moffat helmed episode did you truly understand what was going on?
I have never understood a Moffat helmed episode without further researching and reviewing what I saw. My first thought, half way through most of his episodes, is usually something along the lines of: “did I miss something?” I often feel like the show’s action begins after important motivations that are never established. Upon further viewings, I discovered that this ‘confusion’ is the result of one of the favourite Moffatite aspects of the show.
After speaking to many of you Moffatites, I have discovered that one of your favourite virtues of the Moffat tenure episodes is the way that they ‘hit the ground running,’ so to speak. They begin at a place of heightened conflict therefore creating a dramatic tension that thrusts its way to the conclusion.
Though I understand where your admiration comes from; who doesn’t love action, action without causation is mindless.
I’ll backtrack for a moment and explain what I mean by Epic Structure.
Let me take you back to English class and remind you of writers like Homer and Virgil.
You know, those guys who wrote the massive stories that seemed to go on forever?
Well, my dear Whovian, these works, The Illiad or The Odyssey in Homer’s case and The Aeneid in Virgil’s case, are called Epic Poems. The word ‘epic’ is not just an adjective describing the shear length of the poems, it is also a description of how the poem operates and, furthermore, the form the story telling takes.
Uniformly defined, an Epic Poem is a work that describes the acts of a hero in a heightened form. ‘Epic’ comes from the Greek ‘epos,’ which means ‘a series of events that are worthy of a long form narrative.’ By that definition, most over arching plot lines focused on one character (Harry Potter, Star Trek, The Hobbit) could be called an epic. Epic Form, or structure, however, is a more succinct description of how a story is put together.
Most modern dramatic works rely on Three Act Form. The Three Act Form has dominated story structure for the last 200 or so years.
You know it well… it can be reduced to:
- The Setup: a period of exposition, usually Act I or the first 16 – 18 minutes of a film.
- The Confrontation or the Rising-Action: when the protagonist attempts to resolve a problem incited by the first turning point and learn new skills to defeat the antagonist: the meat of the story sandwich. It usually encompasses Act II. Ending in the lowest point for the hero at a period of great strife.
- The Resolution: which ties up and finishes all plots and sub-plots.
Epic Structure, unlike Three-Act, departs from a more straight forward narrative and begins the action somewhere in the middle, (usually at a moment of great despair or peril); in Three Act Form this would be the end of Act II. Most of the narrative is spent on recounting how a protagonist got to this moment of despair. For instance, in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, the seminal English language Epic, the story begins with Satan falling to the lake of fire after being cast out of Heaven. It then moves backward to find out how he got there; moving toward to this bleak moment on the lake, then proceeding past it to the climax. Most epic poems operate this way or at least the ones that draw heavily on Greco inspiration.
Enough of the scholastic diatribe… Doctor Who!
Let’s apply this structure to one of Moffat’s most popular episodes: A Good Man Goes To War.
This is, I think, one of the worst episodes in Moffat’s tenure. The reason for this is you need to have prior understanding of the last episode, and about four others, to have an idea what is going on. As a singular episode it is convoluted and just plain confusing. A large reason for this is its structure.
Good Man… begins “hitting the ground running,” to use a favourite cliche of the Moff himself, with Rory, in an unknown part of the galaxy fighting Cybermen, and the Doctor running around like a tweed clad headless chicken doing …uh… something on a ship that looks like the set from Star Wars. What ever it is he’s doing, it appears we are mid battle. But how did we get there?
The preceding episode — this was a two part arc, or at least meant to be — suggested no battle and ended with the characters in entirely different locales and situations. The beginning is jarring and when the Doctor finally cuts the needless unexplained action with a confusing vaguely expository speech directed at the ‘Eye-Patch Lady;’ (her actual credited name, though we’d later know her as Madame Kovarian) I was still as confused as I was in the opening moments.
This confusion results from Moffat’s attempted use of Epic Structure. He tries to begin in the midst of the action but forgets a crucial part of the shape: the retroactive look. It is never explained how they got to this point in the action. The story just moves forward, meaning the watcher has no understanding of the ‘stakes of the situation.’ It’s obvious characters are doing things — things that are very important — but no body can understand why this is by the information given.
You can find this problem in most of the Moffat helmed episodes of the Matt Smith era.
Why is any of it important? Well, because we are told it is. Take a look at the cold open: (Forgive the fan titles)
On the other hand, one of the major tropes of the ‘two-parter’ episode in the Davies days, and indeed older Doctor Whos, was ‘the cliffhanger.’ What made these cliffhangers better was the way the following episode would begin immediately from the preceding ending point and continue on. The connection of the supposed two part arc, that A Good Man… is intended to be, is never demonstrated. Essentially the Davies period two parters were long three acts. The first episode was Act I and II, cliffhanger at the moment of strife, and the following episode was Act III.
Perhaps, I may be giving Moffat too much credit.
Maybe, he isn’t trying to utilize Epic Structure in his episode creation at all. If that is true, then it just means that Steven Moffat has no understanding of television writing.
However I would never claim that because it would be wrong of a blogging bitch, such as myself, to conclude something without personal experience. I have never written an episode of Doctor Who. You may not have known this, but it is true.
I chalk this failure of narrative clarity to an overindulgence of experimentation for the sake of … well… experimentation.
Nor is it really correct of me to say that Epic Structure cannot be used in the creation of a television episode. Vince Gilligan, the astounding head writer of AMC’s Breaking Bad, famously uses it to create his episodes. The all important pilot of that show was structured like this: beginning with an action packed Winnebago’s jaunt down a dusty road and then retroactively showing how Walter White got to that race and where he’ll go from there. The reason why it works for Gilligan and not Moff is due to its simplicity. Though heavy action takes place in the opening of the BB pilot, it is not complicated action.
A Winnebago is flying down the road… why?… because it is running from sirens… why?… obviously because of something illegal. Easy, peasey, Japanesey.
Gilligan: B+A +C = Coherent Through Line.
Moffat Who: B+Nothing+C = An Unexplained Series of Events.
Keep it simple, stupid.
Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds
As always, this is part of a conversation about Doctor Who. For Sherlock criticism: go here.
I know, I know. You were expecting a Shitty Moffatism today.
Well… Writer’s block happened. I wanted to make the article as best I could so sadly, I must admit that, it will be a couple days late.
In the mean time, check out this buzzfeed! It asks the timely question, and perhaps stupid question, What If Doctor Who Was An American Creation? It then imagines what the show may have been like by expostulating fairly accurate american approximations of the iconic actors who played the role.
Read it and hopefully this will keep you warm while I finish the next article.
Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds
It was a week ago today that Phillip Seymour Hoffman tragically died. I’d like to lend my voice to the cacophony who will miss him.
Anyway, sadness aside, I want to keep all you fine Extremites abreast of what will be on the docket for this week’s posts. I will tell you for what we lack in new posts this week we will make up in quality.
This week, on Thursday, we have Part II of our hotly followed and uber popular series The Seven Shitty Moffatisms Destroying Doctor Who. Look out for that.
Next Sunday, Ben will be back with his sardonic and hilarious thoughts on the state of Modern Comics in a new article part of Ben’s Grim Corner.
When it comes to TV, all my favourite episodic shows like the CW‘s Arrow and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are sadly off the air because of that blasted closed minded exercise in ‘Bread and Circuses’ that is the Sochi Olympics. Who knows what will keep me interested for the next few days.
Anyway, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.
(PART I) Introduction to the Moffatocracy
Extremites, I apologize for my lackadaisical posts of recent. Whereas Ben’s posts have taken on a life of their own, and begun to flood the many annals of Image Comics’ social elites, my three series have not figured as heavily on the main walls of the Review. There’s a very good excuse for this, if you care to know, which hopefully you do: my computer, my dear portal to the world, suddenly stopped functioning and after a couple hundred dollars, which is a limb’s worth of cash to an out of work actor and writer like myself, is finally operating at maximum efficiency.
During my forced time off from fan punditry I experienced a shower epiphany, where all great ideas are coined, that Extremis needs another series.
You probably know, having followed many of my posts, that I have an affection for Doctor Who. I know that some of you also share in this affection, judging by the overwhelming feedback to any article that even briefly alludes to Who. Thus, thinking in my shower, I decided to open up a Doctor Who section for this site. To start the Doctor Who section off on a testy point, I thought I’d begin the series with a comprehensive examination of the current state of the show, which I have concluded, is misguided beyond belief.
The reason for this comes directly from the ineptitude of the head writer: Mr. Steven “I-am-God’s-gift- to-Doctor-Who-and-television-as-a-whole” Moffat.
Following the ilk of some my colleagues, who have been going after his distortion of Doyle in Sherlock, which is a topic I do not profess to be an expert at, I thought I’d focus my sardonic eye on his tenure at Who.
Trust me, he is doing a number on it.
This new series of articles will come out in parts.
First, a preamble to the series. What is behind my motives for this sudden veer into Doctor Who.
This past Christmas I was settling into my comfortable recliner, in front of a large HD oriented television, with baited breath for what I surely thought was going to be an important moment in Whodom. Every time a version of the Doctor regenerates it is a moment of great fanfare and one that surely will ricochet culturally for some time. However, after watching Matt Smith jolt into Peter Capaldi, in an episode that not even the most avid Fanboy or Fangirl could say was good, I walked away from the show annoyed and angry.
The Christmas special was more destructive to the most enduring UK institution since, I don’t know, Anglicanism met Oliver Cromwell. (History hyperbole. Look it up!)
The episode was so terribly written and frustrating that I started to accumulate, just in this one episode alone, exactly what it is about Moffat’s style that seems to fail the show.
I have arrived at seven problems, which I call Moffatisms, that are eating away at the integrity of the show, and in the Christmas episode all of which are present. I’ll be sharing them with you in instalments as part of this long serialized one sided discussion named “The Seven Shitty Moffatisms Destroying Doctor Who.”
For those of you out there annoyed or offended by the use of the word “shitty” I say to you: “go back to drinking your tea with cozies and worrying about the price of stamps.”
This narrative voice will not be for you. Steven Moffat has made me so mad that I have to swear for the first time in my short tenure as a fan pundit. I am that frustrated.
These Seven Moffatisms may also apply to Sherlock and his other work, i.e. his adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but in the course of this series I will only mention those shows in passing — for other, more intelligent, people can better make the argument for the errors in those adaptations. Follow this link for one.
I mentioned Fangirls and Fanboys earlier. Let me speak directly to them. People with lives beyond their Fandoms skip until you see bolded words.
All right, now that we are alone Whovians, let’s talk turkey.
Part of my job as a well rounded Fan Pundit is to hover around the forums and boards where you delightful people share your opinions and anecdotes about Doctor Who. I have seen an alarming trend. There is an extraordinary amount of Moffat love out there.
How is this?
Seriously, Whovians, what show are you watching?
It is not the same one I have sat through.
I see a show that is convoluted, rife with mysogyny, and most egregiously, one that is boring.
However, on these fan walls, many of you seem to think Moffat is the best thing to happen to Doctor Who since CGI. How can I be so off base?
I have concluded I am not. Your blind ‘fanning’ is the reason for the lack of quality in the show. As long as Steven gives you folks sentimental characters, and soppy moments, your lust is satiated. And Moffat knows this. That is why the sentimentality of the show has gone through the roof to the point where it has begun to govern every frame and alienate serious television views.
These articles are primarily for you. They will show you why many are so critical of your beloved “Doctor Who feels.” And, furthermore, why these ‘feels’ come from a place of placation.
I do not write this series to degrade you as fans, fans are great, I write it to explain why a certain group of Whovians think Moffat is a plague.
ALL RIGHT, HERE BE THE BOLDED WORDS.
Thank you for giving me that moment with the fans. It was kind of you.
The final thing you should know about this project is: this is not a Moffat hate manifesto. I will not aimlessly be saying things like ‘I hate Steven Moffat’ or ‘Moffat is a jerk.’ These are empty, inflammatory statements that leave us nowhere. I do not write this series of articles to espouse a personal feeling about Moffat’s tenure but to digest his ‘art’ and its worthiness. I thank you in the comments to remain respectful.
Surely, Steve has done some great things for the show. Somehow as show runner he was able to secure a larger budget. This has helped the show, astoundingly, in production values. Many, in the past, had difficulty rectifying the juvenile British Publicly funded lens of the Davies period. Moffat has fixed this. He has also expanded the market to make the show truly international by securing agreements with movie theatres and multinational cable channels. And yes, he did coin many of these projects as reported by the BBC themselves. This has included viewers who had to wait weeks to see episodes, or some cases, till DVD releases. Steve’s efforts have made Doctor Who a good and valuable business investment and he has further expanded the power of the BBC, which consistently both tests and, in turn, creates very good television. However, a good business man, and Doctor Who enthusiast, does not a good writer make.
And so, with that concession, I end my article here.
Join me, next with Shitty Moffatism Number 1.
Until next time Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.
So this is what Peter Capaldi and Doctor Who decided the new Doctor will look like. It’s all right and further shows Peter’s fandom as it has major influence from J. Pertwee’s incarnation. But the act that he reminds me of a cliche magician worries me a ton. This was announced via twitter.
I just checked this out on Popwrapped.com
I am interested by the idea of this. But I do wonder if it isn’t just a little bit of a publicity gimmick. I mean what can be garnered from a crossover with the real actor? I do not think these Pirandelloesque story lines are very good reads. I for one am glad that the contract is up. – My Best, Julian
- IDW Previews Final Doctor Who Issue: The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who (popwrapped.wordpress.com)
- Final IDW Release Previewed (doctorwhoarchive.com)
- Doctor Who: IDW previews final issue from Paul Cornell, Jimmy Broxton (digitalspy.co.uk)
Good! So we all can now see them. TIVO!
Today, a new trailer was released for the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special. I haven’t looked yet because I want the show to be spoiler free. In the past, I have been iffy about the X-Mas episodes.
While I believe the Christmas Carol episode may have been Matt Smith‘s best episode and definitely the finest thing to come out during the tenure of Steven Moffat, most of the episodes have been forgettable. Let us hope this will not happen again this year.
- Christmas Special Title and Image Revealed For Doctor Who (musingsofamildmanneredman.com)
- Doctor Who Christmas Special 2013: New The Time of the Doctor pictures released (walesonline.co.uk)
- Answers on Regeneration: Steven Moffat Drops A Bomb About the Doctor Who Christmas Special (tor.com)
- Matt’s Not Done Yet: Doctor Who’s Christmas Special Is Coming (geeksugar.com)