You ever had a friend since grade school or high school who now, years later, you have nothing in common with? There is no discernible reason not to continue your friendship — there’s been no backstabbing, no hurt feelings, no falling out. You probably even still like each others’ company well enough. You’re each just in different places in life than you were years or decades ago, and your friendship is little more than a continued shared commonality of a time and place long gone. Coming to this realization and accepting it can be sad and, from there, you have a few options. You can cut the friend out entirely, you can maintain the thinnest of connection through Facebook likes and the occasional text, or you can continue to actively socialize with the new understanding that this is more of a passive relationship of comfort and nostalgia rather than an active friendship.
As you may have gathered, this past weekend I came to a realization that I think I’ve been struggling with now for some time — “Doctor Who” has become one of those friends, and that it’s Steven Moffat’s fault breaks my heart. Putting aside the current wonderful things he’s doing with “Sherlock,” Moffat’s also responsible for three very funny seasons of “Coupling” (there was no fourth season, I keep telling myself, there was no fourth season…), and the surprisingly almost-brilliant “Jekyll.” And of course, before he took over as showrunner, he was behind some of the best “Who” episodes of Russell Davies’ lordship. So I’ll always have love for Moffat, just as I’ll always have love for “Doctor Who” dating back to a childhood watching Four (Tom Baker) grin his way through mischief and mayhem.
But it started to settle in while watching last week’s “Hide” that I don’t have the current love for this show that I wish I did. Like a jumbled up time loop, Moffat seems stuck on repeat. Was it a clever take on ghosts, that the ghost is just someone experiencing time at a remarkably different scale than us? Sure. But this is a well Moffat has dipped his bucket in too many times of late, and none of those times have been as good as the first (“The Girl in the Fireplace”).
But if that were the only problem with the show, I’d probably be fine, because it’s easy to brush repetitive tropes aside by performances from the likes of Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman. But this past weekend’s “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS” landed on a much bigger problem, a problem that Moffat has suffered from for some time now, a problem which is getting worse. io9’s Charlie Jane Anders has a long spoilery-discussion of the episode and hits the nail on the head:
When the current run of Doctor Who stories treats time as this magical force — with nonsensical rules that are made up on the fly — it’s not even good fantasy writing, because proper fantasy stories respect magic and treat it as something consistent that never gives you an easy “out.” This sort of story degrades the integrity of the Doctor as a hero, and of the universe he lives in.