I miss Steven Moffat.
Now that I have your attention, I’ll explain what my issue is with this season: It’s basically been one story in Mad Lib form, repeated all season so far. (spoiler warning)
The Doctor and Billy come across a situation where people are mysteriously disappearing/dying. The Doctor goes to investigate. Not much more progress is made for the next 10-15 minutes, just primarily suspense-building. Then, someone introduced earlier in the episode is taken, and The Doctor goes into “aw hell no!” mode…only to find out that the antagonist isn’t malicious. The Doctor explains what the situation is, brokers some variant of a peaceful coexistence, and he leaves.
I’m fully aware that the preceding paragraph could readily describe a nontrivial number of prior episodes, even a number of ones written by Moffat. However, this season feels like it’s the British, live-action Scooby Doo. I’m pretty sure that, if I were so inclined, I could fit most of these seasons’ episodes into a half-hour format and lose very little in terms of plot. To be fair, this is well-blazed trail, and I will give Mike Bartlett credit in that he isn’t leaning on the
magic wand Sonic Screwdriver to get out of every jam, which is greatly appreciated as it really did become a magic wand for a little while there.
Moffat got plenty of heat for the plot holes in the larger arcs, as well as overusing the Weeping Angels, two points which I can’t completely disagree with. However, I still remember the amazing a-HA! moment at the end of “The Wedding of River Song” that gave incredible context the season opener, or the scene at the beginning of “Asylum of the Daleks” when The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are in a room of hundreds of Daleks, assuming it’s the end for them, and one dalek says “save…us”. Admittedly just as much a testament to Karen Gillan’s skill as an actress, I’ll never forget Amy’s memorable, “Raggedy Man, I remember you, and you are LATE TO MY WEDDING!“. There are those who are not a fan of the controversial episode “Blink”, but I submit that a single episode being sufficiently iconic to invoke a debate, without being a part of a greater arc or extended holiday episode, is a position held by maybe two or three others. Finally, was there ever an episode with Vastra, Jenny, and Strax that wasn’t amusing? No. No, there was not.
Maybe Mike just needs to find his stride, and to be fair, I am comparing Moffat’s greatest hits here -it takes skill to take an episode with the name and premise of “Let’s Kill Hitler” and make it so thoroughly forgettable. Bartlett has a small body of work thus far and has a lot of land mines to avoid, which he’s doing pretty well so far. Perhaps Mike is front-loading the lesser episodes because the back half of the season is going to be the best one ever. Either way, I’ll still watch the current season, though my research for this blog post reminded me that I need to go back and watch season 6 again.