Moffat's Doctor Who finally shines

Katherine Jenkins, Matt Smith and Michael Gambon star in BBC One's Doctor Who. Photo: BBC

After presiding over the easily worst run of the revived Doctor Who earlier this year, Steven Moffat managed to serve up one of the show’s best ever Christmas specials.

The emotional heart and wit which Russell T. Davies made a central part of the Doctor Who mix, and which which Moffat and fellow Executive Producers Piers Wenger and Beth Willis managed to rip out for their debut run, has thankfully been restored.

Back too was the sense of magic which also disappeared somewhere between last year’s David Tennant finale and the start of the fifth series.

Matt Smith, the single best thing to come from Maffat’s tenure, was as superb as always and by now every single one of those who decried his casting must surely realise how wrong they were.

Michael Gambon’s take on Scrooge was a delight (side note: the casting of an actor of Gambon’s stature is absolute proof of how good Smith is. As BBC One’s Robin Hood proved, shows with poor lead actors can’t afford to cast top talent in guest roles) and Katherine Jenkins managed to be even more exciting casting than Kylie several Christmases ago.

The downside of such great guest stars is that companions Karen Gillan (Amy) and Arthur Darvill (Rory) seemed disappointingly under-used.

Over on BBC Three Doctor Who Confidential seemed a lot less hubristic than during the last series.

Listening to a new production team brag (inaccurately as it turned out) about how their run was going to be bigger and better than the award winning, BAFTA lauded series overseen by their predecessors was always a little unpleasant. Mercifully such nonsense was absent for the Christmas episode.

So a successful return for the show and finally some sense that the new production team really are capable of delivering the goods.

Here’s looking forward to series 6.

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Comments

  1. ann says

    I wasn’t series 5’s biggest fan, in fact for me it was the weakest, but it was still, statistically speaking as popular with the majority of the audience and with the critics as the show under RTD’s watch. One I don’t feel that they were as such “bragging”, because “its going to be even bigger” is something even RTD said every year, none of them hardley going to say “its not going to be as good as last year”, but two it indeed was bigger than ever. Look at the ratings last night for the Christmas Specail, it got around the same as End of Time, without half ogf the promotion. That says it all, and I’m sure the AI will speak even louder. Lets just hope that the show carries on appealing to a large audiemce, becuase the longer it stays, the more chancers we have as individuals to come across stories that we love.

  2. Cybex `Al says

    Totally disagree with both of you. Given some of the worst excesses of the series occurred during the RTD reign I can’t see how it is possible for anyone to say that series 5, the best in its’ 5 year run, was bad. This season was transitionary. Leaving behind the over-seasoned rubbish that featured in most of the stories. Yeah, there were classic episodes, but there was far too much rubbish as well in the first 4 years. Season 5 brought the spirit of old Who back in way that has been exciting and fun and bodes well for the future.

  3. Terry says

    I have to say that the Return of Dr. Who started out great but when David T was the Dr. it was way over the top… Were finally getting back to the Real Dr. Who… real stories less special effects. The Christmas special has to be the best Christmas special so far and I cannot wait for series 6. Matt Smith dose not have to act to be the Dr. he is the Dr!

  4. Renideo says

    I’m sorry, but how did series 5 remove from the emotional heart and wit, as you put it? I mean, not to sell the rest of the series short (and it had its misses, as well as hits) but did you see the finale? The final ten minutes or so of the Big Bang had more heart *and* wit than every finale RTD ever did.

  5. Ann says

    I’m not sure why you are disagreeing with me Cybex `Al? I said that for me it was the weakest, but yet I pointed out quite clearly that it was popular with the majority. Surely it should be possible for you to understand that people can have different views? I didn’t like many of the stories of series 5, I didn’t feel like it was any more like old Who than the last five years were, considering that Classic Who eras are not the same as each other (the whole point of Who is that it is constantly changing) anyway. After all when in Classic Who have we had companions throwing themselves at the Doctor, or had bombs diffusing themsleves because they are thinking about their lovers? There isn’t a huge difference between what has gone on in RTD era and Moff era so far, just superficail changes, like the setting, and people. I just happen to enjoy less stories than in the previous era. Matt and Karen, Arthur and Alex were the best things about each story though.

  6. Gen says

    Heh. I guess it’s why everyone has different opinions. I preferred Series 5 far, far more than anything under RTD.

  7. Michael says

    As an American my opinion may not matter much. Neverthess, I don’t understand the hostility of the RTD era.
    It was RTD who successfully rebooted the show and brought in a muchbroader audience; otherwise we’d be posting comments on BBC’s 2005 failed attempt at reviving the show. Matt Smith is a competent actor, but to me gives off the air of a schoolboy who’s sitting in a headmaster’s chair and pretending to be the headmaster.
    Eccleston and Tennant made me feel i was watching a recreation of actual events. I bought the DVDs.
    I am on no hurry to buy season 5 (though i did like the first and final episodes). Season 5 should be renamed “Dr Who’s Assistants.” Even Gambon or Jacobi would be more convincing doctors.

  8. Kathryn says

    I was relieved to finally sit down and be pulled in for a full episode of Eleven’s Doctor Who this Christmas. Series 5 was so incredibly disappointing, start to finish, that I haven’t been interested in rewatching a single episode of Moffat’s era, and that saddened me – I was truly looking forward to his take on Doctor Who. I’ve already watched the Christmas episode twice. Hopefully this bodes well for Series Six. Still, I miss Ten terribly – especially when he was paired with Donna.

  9. Tom says

    Series 5 was the most glorious, innovative, intellectual and magical series of Who ever made. After every Moffat episode I broke down into a pool of despair, realising I would never write anything as good as that. Ever. That’s only ever happened with Chekhov and Nabokov before. This episode of Who can be counted among the best in the show’s history, but I’ve no idea where this review is going in berating it’s best series.

  10. CJ says

    I’m glad you enjoyed the Christmas special but you are woefully incorrect about series 5 being the worst revived series. Perhaps it is not the best, but it is certainly better than some of Russell T Davies’ serials. By season 4, RTD focused more on spectacle and large scale pandemonium whereas Moffat is clearly a superior storyteller who has proved time and time again that small, simple ideas can be more terrifying than anything I personally favour Series 5 over any of the rest with the possible exception of series 2 (entirely for the Tennant/Piper chemistry)

  11. stacanova says

    Series 5 IS the best Doctor Who series so far!
    You can have a different opinion, but you’ll be wrong.

    Moffat’s Doctor Who has “characters” in every episode, not just one dimensional aliens.
    Moffat’s Doctor says more clever things in one episode than in all of the RTD penned episodes put together.
    Moffat’s Doctor actually saves the day in the season finale, unlike RTD’s (seriously, think about that).

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate everything about the RTD years, but it seemed he would start out with a good idea and throw the rest together in like 5 minutes (ie. can someone explain how people thinking about the Doctor turns him back from a house elf from Harry Potter into the Doctor and gives him the power of flight or how you can put bad wolf in every episode you make and have it really mean nothing and not change the story in any way? How many times can the Earth be invaded before it becomes old hat and destroys suspension of disbelief)

    When it comes to writing, RTD is like George Lucas, he doesn’t really care what the characters do or what the story says as long as it stays out of the way of the CGI.

    Moffat’s writing is more like Tarantino’s, the more you think about the plot and the way the story lays out, the better it gets. He also writes character’s you care about and just love to listen to that don’t need a huge budget of CGI to be enjoyed!

  12. whokiller says

    The author of this brilliant piece is so right about Season 5, it was mostly terrible and very cheap looking but the Christmas special 2010 was great. Season 5 was very disappointing.