Moffat Toffees ("spoilers")

This has been simmering for a while, but I've really got a bone to pick with Steven Moffat. This started with what went atrociously wrong with the last series of Dr Who, but extends into similar things that have crept into Sherlock. The two series are so similar I regularly call them the wrong way round, and finished a series in the last year with the main character faking their death to their companions.

I jumped onto the Dr Who revival only when Moffat took over with Matt Smith as The Doctor. I hadn't taken to Tennent or the other one, but something about this incarnation got me going, and despite its hit-and-missity, I really enjoy it. Mostly the concurrent plot line with River Song and her tragi-romantic relationship with The Doctor. However, the last series really disappointed with the revelations, and I'd have let this slide if Moffat and his team weren't making the same mistakes with Sherlock.

Series 6 of The Who promised so much and fell so flat. It had a great set-up, that The Doctor is seen being killed by someone in a space suit who just walked out of a lake: the eponymous 'impossible astronaut'. Over the first couple of episodes we establish that the occupant of the space suit is a little girl timelord - what could be more exciting? Rubbish episodes (like the stupid piratey one, the not-scary-at-all-for-the-most-part child's bedroom one, and the didn't-need-to-be-a-double flesh one) aside, the mid-season-should-have-been-a-double-episode cliffhanger - River is Amy's daughter, bred and conditioned to kill The Doctor, meaning that he *is* the one she is in prison for killing, but is now lost in time - was tremendous. And it was very nearly ruined by the follow-up Let's Kill Hitler, which commited the unbelivable crime of 'making up a new character who everyone is supposed to have known for years but never mentioned'. This was shamefully done, on a par with Curb your Enthusiasm, except that that is a lean, episodic sitcom, and this is a drama with every opportunity to put some mention of the character Mel in at some previous point. They had a series and a half to introduce some reference to her, but her appearance was a total shock. Also, naming her Melody is a causal paradox and The Who is supposed to avoid those.

So Mel, still reeling from her childhood brainwashing, kisses the dr with a deadly poison. She is identied as is killer by a third party. Then she dies and regenerates as River Song.

The reason that i'm going over all this garbage in so much detail is because, at the end, it doesn't add up. She's already tried to kill him. Then she over-rides her programming and saves him by using up all her regenerations (with absolutely no foreshadowing that this was possible). Then, later in her life, she gets kidnapped by the whoever and put inside a space suit again, against her will, and apparently the space suit is in control? So she's not even particpating in the killing of The Doctor? Which renders her whole part in it pointless.

This isn't the way it was meant to be. We've already seen the little girl (who we now know is River) in the spacesuit. We know that River kills the doctor. What needed to happen was that it would be the young River Song who killed him, who then went on to meet him and grow to love him, knowing all along that one day (in her past) she will kill him. What a fantastic tragedy it would be, only possible in a time-travelling sci-fi.

And then there's the fact that leading up to the season finale, we had two perfect get out clauses built for the doctor: The flesh and the perfect impersonating robot. Both of these things fill the same function in the plot, a thing that can look like anyone. Why would Moffat need a choice of body doubles? It's the most superfluous mcguffin in existence; and it's made even worse by the fact that he's probably plaid the same trick again in Sherlock since, for all intents and purposes, Watson saw Holmes throw himself off a roof and got a good look at his bloody body on the floor? It's going to be a body double, again, isn't it? And again, we've got a superfuidity of options because a) we know that Holmes can make convincing corpse dopplegangers, Since he got one supposed to be Adler past Mycroft in 'scandle' and b) we know that Moriarty had a sherlock mask or something because the girl screamed when she saw him. Same escapement, same problem of not knowing which mcguffin was used.

Without going into theories of how Shelock avoided his death, I wanted to talk broaderer about the similar failings in the two shows. And succsesses; They're both superbly acted and engaging. But Sherlock can be a complete ramble. Take the Irene Adler episode; There wasn't even a crime that had been comitted, just some photos with no ransom note. Adler had no apparent agenda, motives, or demands. This might make for a gripping character study in literature, but at 9 o'clock on bbc 1 on a sunday night, I want a body, dammit, I want an apparently unsolvable mystery, and at most I want a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. Anything else is just noise. There were times in 'Scandle', when I wasn't even sure who was meant to be in the room. And even with all that, it was a great watch.

The same with The Who; it's become too much revelation and not enough story. Too many plots are constructed entirely out of ideas and feel paper-thin. I like philosophy, I like allegorical sci-fi, but sometimes The Who strays *too far* into timey-wimey hand-wavey stuff, to the point of their being no actual action or anything happening, just a monster made of tears that only exists in their minds or something. The main problem here was put to me (and the world) on twitter by Rob Florence, along the lines of: 'my daughter doesn't get Dr Who anymore, it's over for us.' He also said "When you can barely explain the story of Doctor Who to your daughter, it's time to find something else until it straightens out." but I'm sure that wasn't the original quote.

Convoluted is the word. It feels in Dr WHO that they're sometimes building episode plot lines around revelation and nothing else. In the golden age of the X Files, I remember episodes that seemed completely stand-alone until the last ten minutes when you spotted someone or somehow it related back to another episode and you went 'ah!' In sherlock, with shorter serieses, it's a different but related problem; playing mind games with the Ultimate Villian seem to take up about a third of the series.

I just want my prime-time family friendly dramas to be... I don't know. what am i trying to say again?

Oh yeah and moffat also has wierd views on women. But that's another story.

1 comment:

laurence said...

i can't believe no one commented on this (just finished watching sherlock, btw)