Random Thoughts on Sherlock

What follows is a rambling post about “The Final Problem” and Sherlock overall that I made on Facebook.  I don’t guarantee that it will make any sense.  It’s a bit random.

A coworker said to me this morning, “You either loved it or you hated it.”  I didn’t hate it, but I’m not a fan of psychological horror, so I couldn’t really love it.  I got what (I think) it was going for last night, but it wasn’t a journey I really wanted to go on.

The interview with Mark Gatiss in Radio Times was instructive, and it really confirmed the feeling I had coming out of “The Final Problem” — emotionally it felt like the ending of Batman Begins, and Sherlock is now out of his “Sherlock Holmes Begins” phase.  I mentioned this feeling to my coworker, to which he replied: “‘He’s not the Sherlock Holmes we want, but he’s the Sherlock Holmes we need,'” which rewrites the line from the next Batman film, but it applied here.  But it also feels like a giant retcon of the four seasons of Sherlock to suggest that he hasn’t been “himself” for six years and hundreds of cases (a few recorded, most not) and only now he’s the Sherlock Holmes he was always meant to be.

The fourth series, at least to me, seemed like Moffat and Gatiss said, “Anything you can do Elementary, we can do better.”  Elementary has a Sherlock post-rehab, and when he chased the dragon at the end of season three, we didn’t see him high, only the aftermath.  The fourth series of Sherlock has practically reveled in a Sherlock off his face, by contrast.  Elementary had Sherlock’s greatest nemesis — a woman! — defeated by love and imprisoned in an impregnable fortress, and when she escapes she’s again defeated by love.  Sherlock has Sherlock’s greatest nemesis — a woman! — imprisoned in an impregnable fortress and defeated by love.  I enjoy Elementary, and those two things — a female arch-nemesis for Sherlock and a foregrounded drug addiction — are things that I associate with Elementary, so seeing them so prominently in Sherlock these last three episodes felt a bit odd.  (The only thing that would have made them odder would have been if Eurus occupied her time in Sherrinford by painting.) I’m not sure Sherlock used these elements better than Elementary, just differently.

As absurd as Eurus’ years-in-the-making plan was, “The Lying Detective” laid the groundwork for it.  Eurus was able to predict what Sherlock and John and even Moriarty would do years in the future with absolute accuracy so it would all come to a head now, as absolutely insane as that is.  But Sherlock did the same thing with John in “The Lying Detective,” setting up a situation in which John would have to rescue him a month in the future under very exact circumstances.  The Holmes siblings clearly would put the Second Foundation to shame to be that accurate.  But their powers of observation and deduction also come across as outright omniscience — Super Saiyan God Mode Sherlock or what have you.

Speaking of the Holmes siblings, I was struck by how well they map to the Wiggins siblings from Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series — Mycroft/Peter, Eurus/Valentine, Sherlock/Ender.  Two families, each of three siblings, each of them super-geniuses, each of them (in descending age) boy-girl-boy.  The oldest one is a master manipulator who goes into government, the middle one has a bond with her younger brother despite being separated by years and unable to communicate, the youngest one is gaslighted by those around him into not fully understanding the circumstances of the existence that molds him into being a driven individual with strong ethical imperatives.  “Wait,” you say, “Mycroft isn’t a sadist like Peter, and Eurus lacks the empathy that Valentine has.”  First, we don’t know that Mycroft isn’t a sadist (or wasn’t in his past), and Gatiss’ Mycroft has always struck me as something of an unpleasant, monstrous figure.  And second, Valentine was as just interested in power as Peter (she was his partner in the Demosthenes project) and her empathy was directed at her younger brother, just as Eurus’ emotional energy, stunted though it was, was directed entirely at her younger brother, Sherlock.  I freely admit I’m cherry-picking details from the Ender books and Sherlock (both in general and “The Final Problem” specifically), but the more I think about it the more I wonder if Moffat and Gatiss were influenced at all by Card’s work.  Intuitively, this all feels right to me.

I assume “The Final Problem” was the overall series finale.  If we don’t see this version of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson for five years, ten years, or even ever again, I’m fine with that.  I loved the idea of Sherlock, sometimes I even loved the execution (particularly in series 1 and 2), but it wasn’t quite the series I thought it could have been.  In some ways, I blame the format; three 90-minute episodes per series forced some creative choices that were to Sherlock‘s detriment by making every episode a movie-scale epic that served a larger metaplot.  In other ways, especially series 3, Sherlock‘s storytelling felt like it was geared toward fan service moments in search of a coherent narrative; the attitude of Moffat and Gatiss toward cliffhangers, or even following up on the implications and repercussions of events in their stories, I found frustrating and tiresome.  In short, it could have been a more focused and disciplined program.

Steven Moffat, Leaving Doctor Who in 2017

Steven Moffat is leaving Doctor Who.

A Doctor Who Christmas Special, starring Peter Capaldi, will air in December 2016, followed by Moffat’s final series as producer, also starring Capaldi, in the spring of 2017.  Then, Chris Chibnall, formerly of Law & Order UK, Torchwood, and Broadchurch, will take over for Steven Moffat for 2018.

My incoherent thoughts at the moment.

First, revealing this when they did, this stinks of a Friday news dump on the part of the BBC.  I’ve been around Washington too much, clearly, where bad news is buried on a Friday with a late afternoon dump.

Second, I’ve felt for a long time that, unless the BBC decided to go outside of their comfort zone for a Bryan Fuller or an Ira Steven Behr (both of whom, frankly, would kick serious ass as a Doctor Who creative producer), it would be Chibnall. He not only is the safest hands, he’s also the most experienced at television production of the names that fandom has usually mooted (like Gatiss or Toby Whithouse).

Second-and-a-half, I really feel that Doctor Who would benefit greatly from an American-style writer’s room, with actual staff writers and break sessions and all of that.  Which is why I think someone who’s done that, a Fuller or a Behr, would be the ideal creative producer for Doctor Who, to run the writer’s room and oversee the arcs, leaving the nitty-gritty of the production to a line producer.

Third, a single Christmas special in 2016 isn’t at all surprising.  A full series in 2016 wasn’t in the cards because it would have needed to start filming right about now.  A Christmas special and a spring run lets Moffat and his team start filming in June or July (like Series 5 did), after Sherlock finishes filming, for an April broadcast date.

Fourth, despite airing first, I suspect the Christmas special will be filmed in an autumn block. There’s no reason to film it any earlier than that.  I’d almost expect to meet the new companion in the Christmas special, then.

Fourth-and-a-half, I also wouldn’t expect us to find out who the new companion is until June.

Fifth, I’m leaning toward the assumption that Moffat and Peter Capaldi will leave at the same time, so Chibnall will start his tenure much life Moffat did, with a blank slate.

Sixth, I’m fairly certain people in BBC America are peeved right now.

Seventh, with Chibnall as the next producer, I wonder if Ben Daniels (Law & Order UK) might get a second chance at the Doctor.  He was the runner up when Capaldi was cast, Chibnall has worked with him.  It’s not impossible.

Eighth, I have no opinion about what kind of show Chibnall’s Who will be. I don’t expect it to be risky.  You don’t hire Chibnall if you want risky.  What he is is a safe, competent pair of hands.  He’s not a bad choice.  At worst, he’ll be a caretaker producer.

Ninth, I’ve been critical of Moffat in the past.  I feel that he stayed too long, that his bag of tricks wasn’t especially deep, and that he often mistook complicated storytelling for complex storytelling.  That said, he did something that a lot of people thought would be impossible — following RTD — and on his watch, Doctor Who turned into a global phenomenon.  I may not always respect his writing, but I absolutely respect his ability to be part huckster, part fan, and the efforts he made to transform Doctor Who into a global brand.

Moriarty’s Identity and the Sherlock Christmas Special

Last night, PBS’s Masterpiece Theater aired the Sherlock Christmas special, “The Abominable Bride.”

That was well-made nonsense.

sherlock-xmas2If you ever thought the biggest problem with the Canon was that it wasn’t phildickian enough, Moffat and Gatiss wanted to reassure you that, yes, Sherlock Holmes can indeed mess with your mind.

“The Abominable Bride” wasn’t what I was expecting.  I thought the episode would be like the Robert Downey, Jr. Sherlock Holmes films, albeit on a BBC budget.  What made “The Abominable Bride” different from the previous three series of the series was that this episode was set in Victorian, rather than modern times.  Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman would be wearing Victorian garb, riding in Hansom cabs, walking the cobbled streets, and all of that.

It was, instead, something else entirely.

It was, essentially, an extended dream sequence.  Following the reveal that Moriarty was back at the end of Series 3 — and after Sherlock was exiled from Britain for straight-up murdering a blackmailer by shooting him in the face — Sherlock entered his “mind palace” to solve an 1895 murder and, by doing so, solve the mystery of how Moriarty was still alive.

There.  I’ve just ruined the episode’s plot twist for you, which comes about an hour into the episode.

One remarkable thing about the episode was how much it referenced other Holmesian media.  Some shots, like Holmes and Watson in the railway carriage, were clearly derived from Sidney Paget’s artwork in the pages of The Strand.  Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell novels got a shout-out, Holmes makes a reference to The Seven Per-Cent Solution, and the climax of the episode pilfered from Young Sherlock Holmes.  I was surprised at some things that felt derived from Elementary, such as Sherlock’s drug addiction in the present day, and there was a musical motif that hinted at the Jeremy Brett theme, as well.

Enjoyable nonsense, indeed.

sherlock-xmas3

But this nonsese gave me something to think about.

I am entertaining the idea that Andrew Scott’s Moriarty isn’t (or wasn’t) a criminal mastermind.  Rather, the “Moriarty” that Sherlock has been battling across the first three series exists in his mind, a creation of his drug-induced mania and the character that Andrew Scott has played was, at worst, a minor criminal that Sherlock transmogrified far out of proportion to his actuality, and it’s Sherlock himself that’s responsible for Moriarty’s crimes.

There were two things that lead me to this theory.  The first was that reference to The Seven Per-Cent Solution (Holmes mentions “the Vienna alienist” — in other words, Sigmund Freud), in which Holmes, out of his mind on cocaine, imagines his school maths teacher is a criminal mastermind.  The second was the conversation in the Strangers Room at the Diogenes Club between Sherlock and Mr. Creosote… I mean, Mycroft… about Moriarty as “the virus in the data.”

Moriarty-as-Holmes would explain a number of problems with Andrew Scott’s Moriarty, such as his Heath Ledger Joker-like anarchy, which would be a function of Sherlock’s drug use, rather than his Canonical “Napoleon of Crime” self.  It would also explain the bizarre public suicide at the end of Series 2 — he’s a man Sherlock has hounded and harassed who has been backed into a corner and this is his only way out and his only way to destroy his tormentor.

This would also explain how Sherlock, at the end, knows what Moriarty’s next move will be. Sherlock knows, because it’s his idea, it’s something he planned.

Some might say this hypothesis — Moriarty is an out-of-his-mind Sherlock — is too Fight Club and not at all Sherlock Holmes.  But Michael Dibdin used this idea — a drug addled Holmes is Moriarty — in his novel, The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, and it’s an idea that has cropped up over the decades in the Writings about the Writings.

My one objection to this hypothesis is that it’s too neat.  Steven Moffat’s plot twists are never this well planned.

In absence of other evidence, however, this will remain my working theory — Moriarty is Sherlock Holmes.

Link Round-Up: December 29

A couple of things that caught my attention today.

There was one other thing that caught my attention, but I plan on writing about that separately.

Why the Doctor Looks Like Peter Capaldi

Two years ago, Steven Moffat cast Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor.  This wasn’t Capaldi’s first brush with the Whoniverse as an actor; he had previously played the Roman Caecilius in “The Fires of Pompeii” and British government functionary John Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth.  There was a reason, Moffat said, why the twelfth Doctor looked the way he did.

Last night, we got the explanation.

Let me be frank.  The explanation for the Doctor’s face is nonsensical.  We are supposed to believe that the Doctor chose the face of someone he met briefly two regenerations and 1,200 years previous in his life.
Seriously?  I’m calling shenanigans.

Two regenerations.  Twelve hundred years.  I’m hammering away at these numbers because they’re important.  That’s how long, give or take a decade or so, passed in the Doctor’s life between meeting Caecilius and his family in Pompeii and his new regeneration cycle on Trenzalore.

Twelve.  Hundred.  Years.

To put this in perspective for us, twelve hundred years takes us back to Charlemagne.

It would have made infinitely more sense if the Doctor subconsciously took the form of someone on Trenzalore.  After all, he’d seen everyone there, for nine hundred years, be born, grow old, and die. He lived with them daily in a way that he never lived with Clara.

Sometimes I think Moffat forgets that marooned the Doctor on Trenzalore for hundreds of years, because the twelfth Doctor never acts like it.  His relationship with Clara has never felt like it has that kind of discontinuity in it; he picks up in “Deep Breath” like the Christmas dinner with her family was a few days previous instead of, from his perspective, nine hundred years earlier.  He treats Clara like she’s his best friend, when in reality she’s an utter stranger to him.  To put nine hundred years in perspective, we’re back to the First Crusade.  That’s how long the Doctor was confined to Trenzalore.

This explanation is like the fourth wall breakage last week.  It’s something meta that makes sense in terms of television and its production.  For the audience, the Doctor meeting Caecilius was seven years and about sixty episodes ago.  The audience could have watched that episode on DVD yesterday or last week.  But, in-universe, for the Doctor living his life, it makes zero sense.  None.
Twelve hundred years, Moffat!  Twelve.  Hundred.  Years.

If Moffat doesn’t take his universe seriously, why should his viewers?

Doctor Who Conquers the Martians

On Saturday night, the eighth season of Doctor Who came to a close in “Death in Heaven.”  I’m not here to talk about that.  I’d rather discus the teaser for the forthcoming Christmas episode, with Nick Frost (probably best known to Americans for his collaborations with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright — Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End) as Santa Claus.

Now, the teaser.

Now, I should tell you that, for several years now, I’ve had a mad idea about Doctor Who, Santa Claus, and my dream Christmas special.

Doctor Who Conquers the Martians.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, a childrens’ film made in the mid-1960s.  On Mars, the children are lethargic and addicted to American television, and when Kimar, the leader of the Martians, is told by an old seer that what the children of Mars need is Christmas he embarks on a mission to Earth to kidnap Santa Claus.  But another Martian, Voldar, wants to depose Kimar and kill Santa Claus, and can Christmas triumph on the Red Planet?

This works perfectly as a Doctor Who story!

The Ice Warriors, who live on Mars, kidnap Santa Claus for similar reasons.  Now it’s up to the Doctor and two children to be menaced by a polar bear, go to Mars, rescue Santa Claus, foil a full-scale invasion of Earth by the Ice Warriors, and save Christmas.

This writes itself!

And, it could be done!  For some reason, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians isn’t copyrighted and is in the public domain.

It would be goofy and fun.  And Christmassy!  Most Doctor Who Christmas specials aren’t especially Christmassy.  They might be set at Christmas (like the RTD-era Christmas specials or, especially, “The Snowmen”) or on a winter world (like “The Time of the Doctor”) or both (like “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe”), but they lack a certain Christmasness.

Let’s be honest, here.  I’m a bit disenchanted with the whole “Doctor Who Christmas special” thing.  They’re not very special anymore, and they don’t embrace the holiday season.  So, why not pull out all the stops, play up the Christmas fun in a Doctor Who style, and then rest the concept of a “Doctor Who Christmas special” for a fair few years allowing other, equally worthy shows, to get a Christmas Day slot on BBC1.  “Go big or go home,” as they say.

As an aside, the other idea I’ve had?  The Doctor and Santa Claus team up to fight the ancient evil that is the Krampus, much like the Beast in “The Impossible Planet” or Abaddon in Torchwood.

I don’t know what we’ll get from this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special.  The teaser makes it look a bit like The Thing or Alien, albeit with Santa Claus.  Because why not.

I wonder if it will be half as fun as the Christmas special in my dreams, Doctor Who Conquers the Martians. :)

Thoughts on the Leaked Doctor Who Scripts

Yesterday, the first five scripts of the eighth season of Doctor Who leaked to the Internet.  Despite the BBC’s pleas for fans not to share them, the scripts are out there, fans are sharing them, and fans are discussing them.

People have asked me if I’ve found them.  I didn’t find them myself, but I have them.  And no, I’m not going to tell you where to find them.

I’m also not going to share plotwise what’s in them.  Of course, at this point I’ve only read about twenty five pages of “Deep Breath,” Steven Moffat’s double-length season premiere, and “Listen,” the Moffat-penned fourth episode of the season which will undoubtedly be controversial.  (The other episodes, in order around the two I’ve named, are Phil Ford’s “Into the Dalek,” Mark Gatiss’ “Robots of Sherwood,” and Steve Thompson’s “Time Heist.”)

However, I do want to share some of my reactions to what I’ve read.  I’m going to avoid spoilers as best as I can, so some of this will seem quite vague.

The big question about the eighth season, of course, is what kind of Doctor Peter Capaldi will play.  We’ve already seen him in costume, but how’s the man in action?

Based on “Listen,” on the page, Capaldi’s Doctor is an asshole.  I’m reminded of early Hartnell or Pertwee.  He’s not cuddly at all.  This is an old, cantankerous fucker who talks like Socrates, quotes (or at least closely paraphrases) Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes, and plays mind games on Clara.  He’s not a child, he’s a nasty piece of work who lacks social graces and self-awareness.  Yet, in “Deep Breath,” the season premiere, he’s somewhat warmer, though still harsh, to Clara at episode’s end.  (I read the first act, and then I jumped ahead to the final scenes.)

My immediate reaction to “Listen” was that it was “meh.”  The first twenty pages are creepy as fuck, and then suddenly it’s not.  It took some thought for me to understand why.  Once I got past the derivative nature of the script (Moffat recycles scenes from “The Eleventh Hour” and “Time/Space,” recycles lines from “A Study in Pink,” and tries to do the timey-wimey rom-com thing that Richard Curtis did in About Time), I could see why the script falls flat.  It’s only superficially a Doctor Who story.

What I mean by that is that it has some elements of a Doctor Who story — the Doctor, the companion, the Doctor’s desires to fight monsters — but the story loses a key ingredient.  The Doctor’s desire to fight a monster is only the MacGuffin for the script.  Instead, the story that plays out really revolves around Clara’s personal life and the Doctor’s motivation.  It’s like a Star Trek: Voyager or late-period Star Trek: The Next Generation script; the “boldly going” part is really just an excuse for time spent on Worf’s problem with hangnails or Janeway’s broken coffee pot.  Like in “Asylum of the Daleks” (where the Dalek plot is an excuse for Amy and Rory’s relationship problems to play out), the monster in “Listen” is an excuse for the Doctor’s and Clara’s character material.  That’s why I say that “Listen” is only superficially Doctor Who.  It has the trappings of Doctor Who, but it uses them in a way that isn’t Doctor Who.  And that, in my opinion, is a long-standing problem with the Moffat-era of Doctor Who.  I really think Moffat missed his calling as part of the Star Trek: Voyager writers room.

I have the impression that Moffat cannot deal with the implications of his past work realistically.  In what I’ve read, there’s no sense that 900 years passed for the Doctor on Trenzalore.  The Doctor behaves to Clara and the Paternoster Gang as though his last encounter with them was a month ago at most.  The Doctor spent a significant chunk of his life on Trenzalore, and it had absolutely no effect on him.  I’m reminded, frankly, of Moffat’s inability to realistically deal with the emotional fallout to Amy and Rory by the abduction of the infant River.  This is a significant happening to the characters and clearly a Big Issue, and yet, for all intents and purposes, it might not have even happened.  Trenzalore and its implications are like that.

I also get the feeling that Moffat is determined to break the playground equipment as badly as he can before he goes out the door.  Writers like to play with toys, and in “Listen” Moffat puts a very big, very shiny, and very new toy on the playground that begs to be played with, but it’s also a toy that can be very damaging to the franchise because it’s a toy that can in the wrong hands and all too easily lead to an explosion of fanwank that would be visible in the Andromeda Galaxy.  I’m also having a difficult time imagining how a post-Moffat/post-Clara Doctor Who will even function; Moffat is making his work and his newest companion the keystone to the whole of Doctor Who‘s mythology, and I don’t know how the series copes in the absence or even recovers from that.

Finally, I think that, based on what I’ve read, there’s no marked departure from what’s gone before.  If you’ve liked what Moffat has done the last two or three years, then you’ll like season eight.  If you haven’t liked what Moffat has done, then you’ll find ample ammunition for disliking his work.

Roll on August.

The AV Club Weighs In on the “Elementary vs. Sherlock” Question

The Onion‘s AV Club has posted an insightful and nuanced take on Elementary and Sherlock in comparison to each other.  Though I try not to compare the two series (because they really are different things with different aims), I find myself in agreement with a lot of it, frankly; I keep wondering how Sherlock‘s cast would fare with Elementary‘s material.  And after someone suggested it on Twitter, I’d like to see Sherlock‘s Molly move to New York to work with Elementary‘s Holmes and Watson.

There’s one thing that this article misses, however.

Elementary, because of the rigid teaser and five acts structure, more closely mimics the format of the Doyle’s original stories — short, somewhat formulaic, stories. Yes, there are the four novels, but of the four the only one that holds a candle to the short stories, in my opinion, is The Hound of the Baskervilles (which, to this day, remains my favorite novel).  Sherlock, by contrast, is a more formless beast.  Moffat was quoted once as saying that Sherlock is what Doyle would write if he were writing today, but I think Elementary can lay a serious claim to being that.

To be fair to Sherlock, the format of Elementary — to say nothing of the mass of material that a weekly television series can produce — is an advantage that the BBC series will never be able to match.  The article points out that it’s easier for Elementary to spread the character attention around because they have more space to do it.  The format Moffat and Gatiss are working limit them to some extent in what they can do with the supporting cast, story arcs, and the wider world of their franchise.

It’s an interesting analysis of the two series.  Like I said, I really do try not to compare the two series.  I’m just glad that there are two series about Sherlock Holmes on television, and hopefully both are sending new readers in search of the Canon.

And it amuses me to no end that the two Sherlocks like to watch — and enjoy — and discuss — the other’s show.

Raffles in the World of Sherlock

Sherlock co-creator Steven Moffat has said recently that Matt Smith, former Doctor Who star, could appear in Sherlock, if it were the “perfect part.”

What could that “perfect part” be?

My first thought was Stanley Hopkins, the best of the Scotland Yard inspectors and the one closest to Holmes in intellect.  What if Sherlock had to work an investigation with someone who was just as good as him, every bit as sharp as him?  It would become an “anything you can do I can do better, I can do anything better than you!” situation.  It would be gold.

Then another idea came to me — and it’s a very off-beat role.

AJ Raffles, the best thief in London.

True, Raffles does not appear in the Canon.  But Raffles was written by Doyle’s brother-in-law, so there’s a connection.  Plus, Sherlock isn’t that Canonical anyway, so I don’t see an issue with bringing in a character like Raffles from outside the Canon.  And if Sherlock needs a recurring villain, the best thief in London would be a pretty damn good choice.

The more I thought about Raffles in the world of Sherlock, though, the more I realized that that kind of character in the present day already exists — Lady Christina de Souza from Doctor Who‘s “Planet of the Dead.”  And Ryan has worked with Moffat before; she had a major role in Jekyll.

And then I got really excited.

Imagine this.  Michelle Ryan plays Raffles.  Matt Smith plays her associate, Bunny Manders.

What would be especially interesting about Smith as Bunny Manders is that Bunny is Raffles’ Watson, and Smith auditioned for Sherlock‘s Watson before being cast as the Doctor.

The episode could subtly hint that Raffles and Lady Christina are one and the same.  Perhaps Lady Christina is the alias, the cleverly constructed fiction.  This would tie the two universes together (which, to be frank, fans have been doing for a few years now), but not in an explicit way, so that no future producer feels bound by it, but fans now would squee themselves silly.

Then I could imagine Sherlock and Raffles hooking up.  Oh.  Emm.  Gee.

This could be so much fun.  Sherlock versus Raffles.  John versus Bunny.  This is such an awesome idea that I’m going to be disappointed if it never comes to be.

Oh, disappointment, my constant companion. :-/

The Uselessness of Fan Rage Over Doctor Who’s “Time of the Doctor”

A few days ago, the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who ended in “The Time of the Doctor.”

Some people loved it.  Some people hated it.  And some people responded by calling for producer Steven Moffat’s head on a pike on Traitor’s Row.

I had no expectations for it, but that’s because I ceased expecting anything from Moffat two years ago.  To me, “A Good Man Goes to War” and “Let’s Kill Hitler” showed that the man was flailing; if he didn’t know how to structure and resolve a mid-season finale, how could I trust him to structure anything longform in any way that made sense? When watched as “turn off your brain” entertainment (which is how I watched Star Trek: Voyager), it sufficed and the “whatthefuckery moments” blew right on by.

But for those who expecting Moffat to pay off everything since 2010, Christmas Day was a bitter present.  They’re upset because they wanted a different story or because they feel that all the promises Moffat has made over the years came to ashes or some other reason.  And some of those people are saying loudly on social media that they’re done with Moffat.  And some of those people are saying loudly on social media that Moffat needs to be sacked.

I don’t know what the future holds, except that it does not hold Moffat’s termination.  I’ve seen that Moffat intends to make Doctor Whoa bit raw at it and do it in a different direction” with Peter Capaldi as the next Doctor.

Personally, I hope that Capaldi, an established writer and director in his own right, forces Moffat to up his game.  Maybe he won’t say, “Really, Steven, I gave up Musketeers for this shite? I’m not doing this until you make it right.”  But certainly, the challenge for Moffat would be to not waste an in-demand actor of Capaldi’s stature on half-baked, slapdash runarounds.

Yesterday on Facebook, Lance Parkin, novelist and writer, posted some thoughts aimed at those who want Moffat’s head on a pike.  Those thoughts are worth reading; if you can’t read them, Parkin’s point is that television is a cooperative endeavor, and its success or failure has more to do with things we never see behind the scenes and in corporate boardrooms than what we see on our televisions.

Let me add a few thoughts to that.

I’ve wanted to see Moffat sacked for about two years (since series 6, which I viewed as a debacle and his “difficult second album“) because, in my view, he’s ill-suited for his current role.  He’s a good writer of Doctor Who, but not a terribly good producer — in my opinion.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have problems with Moffat as a writer.  I’ve compared Moffat to Star Trek‘s Brannon Braga, because I find a certain Braga-esque quality to his work.  His storytelling is as pretty as a soap bubble and just as substantial.  He writes shallow stories that consist of setpieces in search of a plot. His narrative logic is poor, events happen because they just do and not because of any development, and he eschews the three-act structure.  (Really, someone needs to give him Syd Fields’ books.) His character work is often poor as he doesn’t seem to able to grapple with the emotional fallout of his stories.  (“A Good Man Goes to War” and “The Day of the Doctor” both suffer from this; they pose difficult emotional questions that need resolution that never comes.) He has a limited bag of ideas, and he keeps recycling them.  Yet, when he succeeds in hitting his emotional marks, he hammers those marks effectively.  He writes emotion, not plot, and when he does emotion, honest emotion, his writing works.

As a creative producer, Moffat appears to me to be a man out of his depth.  His season and multi-season plot arcs have made his era feel smaller than it is.  The individual episodes of his era may be good, but the seasons themselves turn out to be less than the sum of their parts.  And as a production manager, his insistence on writing the keystone episodes has caused production problems when his scripts aren’t ready.  For the good of the production, a manager needs to know how to delegate, and that’s the one thing that Moffat is either unable or unwilling to do.

In the opinion of the people who matter, however, Moffat is terribly good at his job.  Fandom may not like the storytelling, the characterizations, the production delays and hiatuses, but the fen aren’t the people who matter.  It’s the people Moffat reports to at the BBC who matter.  It’s the people who sign his paycheck and allocate his budget who matter.  If the BBC didn’t like what Moffat was doing and how he was approaching his job, he would have been shown the door at some point along the way.  (Though, I suppose the existence of Sherlock may complicate that; the BBC may not want to lose that series, sporadic though it is, by alienating Moffat on Doctor Who.) It’s Moffat’s continued employment, now and into the future (apparently the next two series, from what I hear), that demonstrates that the BBC is satisfied with his output.

Fandom can whine and wail. And it has these last few days. But, in the end, that’s just a tempest in a teacup, a tempest that will have no effect at all upon the people who truly matter in this — the BBC.