Steven Moffat has been Doctor Who’s showrunner for the past 7 years and will be departing after Season 10. Many Whovians aren’t huge fans of his run, but his Doctor Who was lovable for a time.
Having been one of the many, many infamous fans who joined the Doctor Who bandwagon in 2010 right when the show became an international phenomenon, Moffat was my Who introduction. And despite my issues with Moffat, which range from plot holes and paradoxes to more IRL issues, such as my thoughts on his inability to write women — something I won’t get into here — he has been responsible for 7 years worth of the Who mythos. Who could have predicted Clara and Ashildr (Maisie Williams) running away together in their own TARDIS back when the 11th Doctor was eating fish fingers and custard at the kitchen table? Certainly not I.
Moffat has made Doctor Who infinitely more complicated and much, much darker than I could have ever anticipated. He was responsible for bringing the youngest actor to play the Doctor in the character’s history (Matt Smith) into the fold, and for hiring the oldest Doctor since the show’s resurgence (Peter Capaldi). Moffat redefined — for better or worse — what it means to be a companion, introduced some kick-ass lines, and was responsible for the show’s 50th anniversary episode.
Here’s why, in my mind, Steven Moffat will always remain unforgettable for his time on Doctor Who.
Paradoxes Upon Paradoxes
As if running Doctor Who weren’t intimidating enough, Moffat had to deal with writing and managing the show’s 50th-anniversary episode, which brought together five decades’ worth of history and put the 10th and 11th Doctors on an adventure together. The episode created a whole new swath of Who legend and a ton of loopholes to complain about. And if there’s anything that defines Moffat’s run in Who fandom, it’s people complaining about plot holes and paradoxes.
The time paradox has been the showrunner’s specialty throughout his time with Doctor Who, and his departure will surely lead to fewer of them in the future. The oft-controversial use of mind-boggling paradoxes resulted in many fans accusing Moffat of using them as a crutch of sorts. From “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang” to “The Angels Take Manhattan,” and even “Before the Flood,” these paradoxes sometimes resulted in the most entertaining and heartbreaking episodes. A show about time travel will never be simple, but it might be a little more simple after Moffat leaves.
To this day, there are very few moments in television that have given me such chills as the 11th Doctor’s speech in “The Pandorica Opens.” The two-part finale of Moffat’s first official season as showrunner, “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang,” is a triumph. Come at me. As the universe comes crashing down on one spot, determined to take the Pandorica, the legacy of the Doctor screams right back at it. In that moment, Moffat utilized Smith’s seemingly innate ability to jump from one extreme to the next in severe, convincing succession, showcasing the show’s distinctly powerful history while putting a smile on every viewer’s face.
The 11th Doctor’s speeches in “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Rings of Akhaten,” Clara’s speech about fear in “Listen,” and the 12th Doctor’s defining moment as “the man who stops the monsters” in “Flatline” all define Moffat’s time as Doctor Who’s showrunner. In the end, Moffat had one hell of a tact for inspiring wholly defining monologues that stumped bad guys and incited cheers from fans young and old.
Defining a New Kind of Companion
Rose, Martha, Donna, and every one-off companion for the 9th and 10th Doctors were normal people who managed to do extraordinary things under extraordinary circumstances. That was why the Doctor kept them around: They reminded him of the beauty of humanity and kept him grounded. Then Moffat came along as showrunner and changed everything Who fans knew about companions. Suddenly, companions were companions because they were already extraordinary. And Moffat created two of the most contentious companions in Who history. Whether or not you like them, you have to admit they were epic.
Think on it: Amy Pond fascinated the 11th Doctor right off the bat. “Box falls out of the sky, man falls out of box, man eats fish custard!” the 11th Doctor says to a young Amy as he sits across from her at her kitchen table. “And look at you, just sitting there.” Amy had “a hell of a scary crack” in her wall that prompted the Doctor to pay attention to her. Amy was brave and fantastic and not like other girls. She was a mystery the Doctor wanted to solve.
Then there’s Clara Oswald. Clara — literally termed “the Impossible Girl” — was first introduced as a young woman who’d been turned into a Dalek. From the very beginning, she popped up throughout the Doctor’s life in more and more inexplicable ways. She escaped death when the Doctor cheated with the help of the Time Lords and now has her own TARDIS.
So, no matter your thoughts on this habit of creating fantastical companions, at least Moffat did it in style.
Everything to Do With River Song
Moffat himself has said that he intended River Song to be his legacy. He originally created River for Season 4’s “Forest of the Dead,” back when he was a mere writer rather than a showrunner. Instead of being a one-off character, River (played by Alex Kingston) became not only a multi-arc character but the daughter of Amy Pond and Rory Williams.
River’s character introduced the idea that humans could regenerate after being conceived in a TARDIS (another convenient plot without explanation). She spanned three iterations of the Doctor, exuding class and intelligence along the way. Just as Moffat intended, she is very much his legacy.