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Steven Moffat Explains 'Doctor Who,' 'Sherlock' Plot Holes by Not Explaining Them

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | January 15, 2014 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | January 15, 2014 |

I have not seen the first couple of episodes of this season’s Sherlock yet, because I am an ethical person when it comes to television shows that my wife insists I watch with her. Still, some of the criticism that has been lobbed at showrunner Steven Moffat has been unavoidable, although I very much look forward to finding out what viewers are being critical of. I have, however, seen all of Moffat’s Doctor Who episodes and I can attest that they are occasionally (frequently) littered with plot holes.

Personally, I am willing to forgive the plot holes because, despite them, the episodes are emotionally satisfying, and I am typically the kind of person willing to allow for logical inconsistencies so long as my heart strings are being plucked, and when it comes to matters of space and time, and all that wibbly-wobblyness, I do not apply strict scrutiny to the plotlines.

That said, Moffat’s defense of the plot holes in Doctor Who and Sherlock is confounding, as he explains to BBC Radio 2.

“I think people have come to think a plot hole is something which isn’t explained on screen. A plot hole is actually something that can’t be explained.

“Sometimes you expect the audience to put two and two together for themselves. For Sherlock, and indeed Doctor Who, I’ve always made the assumption that the audience is clever.”

He’s right about his definition of plot holes, and he’s right about his audience being clever, and he assumed correctly that his audience can add two and two together to make four. Unfortunately, Moffat has a tendency to only give us two and one, and asks us to make four when the addition only brings us to three. It’s not that we’re incapable of drawing conclusions, it’s that he doesn’t give us enough information to draw those conclusions. He doesn’t lay the proper foundation, and he too often drops in deus ex machina’s to explain away inconsistencies.

Moffat cheats, and he patches over it with emotional manipulations, but those manipulations are often effective enough to excuse the cheat. He’s a great creator of characters, but when it comes to logic, he takes shortcuts. I forgive, but I understand why some do not.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.