Sunday, 10 July 2016

Doctor Who: 10 Greatest Steven Moffat Episodes

Now that Doctor Who is getting a new showrunner in the near future, it's time to look at the best work of the previous incumbents of the job. Last month, it was Russell T Davies' turn. Today, it's the man who has overseen more Doctors than anybody- Steven Moffat...

10. The Night of the Doctor

Moffat is the king of mini-episodes, having written a great many of them over the past decade. The best of these can only be 'The Night of the Doctor', the most surprising and satisfying seven minutes of Doctor Who you've ever seen. Finally giving the underrated Eighth Doctor the swansong he deserved, it's a terrific example of economic storytelling - with all the dramatic weight of a proper regeneration episode in a fraction of the time. And, of course, it also sets up 'The Day of the Doctor' in giving us a glimpse of the War Doctor - as well as the first appearance of Ohila, the mother superior of the Sisterhood of Karn.

9. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead

Moffat's episodes in the RTD era were arguably the most anticipated of each run, so his Series Four two-parter had a lot riding on it. Thankfully, it was the writer's most ambitious and emotional story yet. At the time, it was a spooky tale with a technological, metaphysical edge and a great monster. In retrospect, it becomes even better as it foreshadows Moffat's own era by introducing the Doctor's future wife, River Song. Like the best two-parters, it is really two distinct episodes - both equally enjoyable for different reasons. For different reasons. For different reasons. Oops, sorry, my date ghost is running out.

8. Heaven Sent

A great deal of the success of this episode, the most recent on this list, rests on the shoulders of Peter Capaldi - it takes a very talented actor to carry 45 minutes of TV on your own. Nevertheless, 'Heaven Sent' would fall apart if it was not for Moffat's puzzlebox script, which slowly reveals the answers as it builds up to a powerful climax - and then ends on a whopping great cliffhanger. A case could be made for this as a two-parter with the series finale 'Hell Bent', but for its utter uniqueness, I'm counting it as a solo episode here.

7. The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang

Doctor Who finales are a tricky business - how can you believably raise the stakes in a show where the planet is under threat every episode? Well, destroying the TARDIS, decimating the universe and wiping the Doctor from the face of existence is a pretty surefire way of doing it. As well as scale, this two-parter is packed full of emotion (the speech at little Amy's bedside) and humour (the hopping about in time). Most of all both episodes are brimming with ideas, which possibly makes it the most overall enjoyable Who finale ever.

6. A Christmas Carol

Something Moffat brought back from the classic series in his era was the 'pastiche' episode, where there would be a Doctor Who take on a well-known tale or genre. 'A Christmas Carol' is the absolute best of these, as it brings out the inherent sci-fi in Dickens' original tale with one of Moffat's best timey-wimey scripts. It's also a personal choice for the definitive Who Christmas special, as it delivers just the right amount of yuletide schmaltz. Doctor Who, Dickens and all ends in a carol. It's like Christmas defined.

5. The Girl in the Fireplace

Everyone talks about the Doctor and Rose as Who's greatest couple, but Moffat's writing is fundamentally more romantic than Davies'. This can be seen in 'The Girl of The Fireplace' which is surely the first, and still one of the most touching, of the romances in the show. Sure it doesn't quite gel in the scope of Series Two (isn't the Doctor meant to only have eyes for Rose at this point?), but on its own it is a beautiful tale of two people separated by time. Plus, evil clockwork robots - which should be a mandatory feature of all love stories, really. They would certainly liven up the average romcom.

4. The Eleventh Hour

Much is made of the tough job RTD had in bringing the show back in 2005. While that is true, it was surely equally as tough for Moffat to completely reinvent the show after the phenomenally popular Tennant era. He managed to do so with aplomb, however, in 'The Eleventh Hour.' As well as being a delightful adventure in its own right, it acts as a mission statement for the rest of Smith's tenure. Out goes the domesticity and darkness of the previous year, in comes lots of jokes, whizz-bang pacing and a more fantastical, fairy tale slant. One of the strongest era openers ever.

3. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances

While the rest of Series One ensured that the show was breaking new ground in terms of character dynamics and emotion, Moffat's debut work on the show ensured that the show was still doing something it had always done: scare the pants of its viewers. A brilliantly unique tale of a creepy gasmask-wearing boy haunting the streets of Blitz-torn London, 'The Empty Child' is a very well-plotted mystery that also introduces Moffat's signature quick-fire, sitcom-like dialogue, too. The mummy of all spooky Who episodes.

2. Blink

As the previous year's 'Love & Monsters' proved, crafting an episode without the Doctor is no easy task. Ingeniously, Moffat turned this weakness into a strength, making 'Blink' a mini-horror movie that just happens to be set in the Whoniverse. Apart from limited time with the Time Lord, 'Blink' delivers on everything a Who episode promises - sparkling dialogue, big sci-fi concepts and a monster that will send children and parents alike behind the sofa. Read my extended thoughts on 'Blink' here.

1. The Day of the Doctor

I can't imagine the amount of pressure Moffat must have been under to make this very special episode as brilliant as he could, but thankfully he managed it. Featuring all the callbacks and fan-pleasing moments you would expect, it is also perhaps the first multi-Doctor story to be a proper great piece of drama. It's not necessarily my absolute favourite, but for somehow matching up to everything us fans hoped the 50th anniversary would be, 'The Day of the Doctor' has to be crowned Moffat's greatest Who episode.

Honourable Mentions: 'Time Crash', 'A Good Man Goes To War', 'The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone', 'The Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar' and 'Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death.'

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...