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Showrunner Showdown: Moffat and Davies Discussion

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I've always felt like comparing the eras to be awkward, since season five is really more Moffat doing a Davies-era season rather than doing his own thing. Really the only episode that season that doesn't feel like it would have appeared in a Davies season if he was there for long enough was The Lodger, and it happens to be perhaps my least favourite revival episode of all.

 

Admittedly there are still episodes I like in the Moffat-style seasons (I love Cold War, and I don't hate The Rings of Akhaten nearly as much as most), but the problem is every episode feels like it was either created by someone trying to do the Annual Moffat Timey-Wimey Episode while he was off writing the major episodes or was created with about the amount of thought put into the average Big Brother challenge. Like, for all its many faults the concept of Love & Monsters is actually pretty decent, while... Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and Let's Kill Hitler, you know?

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Moffat, by a country mile. He makes Doctor Who that feels like Doctor Who, and he's had a 100% successful hit rate casting three Doctors, something no one else has done. In contrast, Davies only got his Doctors right 50% of the time, and he let the good one leave after a year.

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While I appreciate what Moffat's done, I don't find a large number of his episodes to be rewatchable, especially outside of series 5. Conversely, while I find Davies's run to generally be more rewatch-friendly, it's really hit-or-miss on the writing.

 

I think I really would have liked to see Davies writing under Moffat as show runner, or a true collaboration between the two.

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I think both Davies and Moffat have their strengths and weaknesses as writers and showrunners, both certainly have had certain tropes/excesses they've overused to varying degrees but both of them in the long run have made the show a bloody success for the 21st century and I applaud them both for that.

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I much preferred the Davies era, both his Doctors were fabulous imo. Overall I feel his stories were more family (read child) friendly in terms of a child following the story easily and usually a good romp, he didn't take himself too seriously. Sometimes I feel like Moffatt likes to change things just for the sake of it (either that or marking his territory lol), a la; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. As for 12, the jury is still out for me. 

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One problem I see in Moffat's writing is that he seems addicted to novelty, but afraid of genuine change. Take River Song. The concept of the Doctor having an out-of-order love affair with a woman who died the day they met was brilliant. But Moffat never really let the relationship develop, because that would have required a real shake-up to the DW formula of a platonic or at least unconsummated relationship between the Doctor and a contemporary human female. So, instead of doing something like making River a full-time companion, we get a muddled mess in which River becomes a convoluted back-story rather than a real person, and in the roots and depth of the Doctor's attraction to River never become clear. Their relationship is accepted as a given, but never justified: why does the Doctor love her? Why does she love him, aside from a psychologically confused obsession? Do they ever have anything resembling a real marriage, or is their marriage purely the technicality it appears to be in The Wedding of River Song? 

 

What is wrong with this is that in the long-run, the best shows aren't those that can come up with the most inventive plot twists - River is Amy and Rory's kid! Clara told the Doctor to steal the Tardis! -- but the ones that can tell the best stories about people. The reason I'm getting frustrated with DW is that even when an episode is reasonably good, I feel like it is always telling the same story: how many episodes can hammer home the theme "the Doctor needs his companions" or "The Doctor is morally ambiguous/guilt-stricken/self-loathing" before it becomes completely tiresome? RTD had plenty of faults, and I think Moffat's best scripts are superior to his. But I think RTD was better at building up character relationships in ways that allowed him to tell emotionally engaging stories that felt distinct even from ostensibly similar ones. "Dalek," "The Runaway Bride"  and Waters of Mars all involve the Doctor going too far and needing a companion to stop him, but Rose, Donna and Adelaide are sufficiently different people that it doesn't seem repetitive. I'm not sure if I can say the same about equivalent trends in Moffat's writing. 

Edited by companionenvy
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The approaches taken by the two showrunners are very different. Davies tended to use his plots to tell stories about people. Moffat tends instead to use his characters to tell stories about plots. I can find a lot of fault in the Davies era but it's my favourite of the two to re-watch because I'm a viewer who prefers stories about people hands down. Moffat is very inventive, he's good at coming up with creative story ideas, but he is absolutely lousy at following through on those ideas, so his characters jump around all over the place - the jump between the S6 finale and the anniversary special being case in point. Moffat's approach to characterisation is a lot more superficial than Davies'.  Which any of us is going to prefer is entirely subjective, depending on what we prefer to watch.

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Davies was the better overall showrunner.  His run had a more cohesive feel to it and I rewatch his episodes far more than I rewatch Moffat's (there's only a few Moffat episodes, I've rewatched at all).  Not that there are things Davies did that I didn't agree with.  I didn't like his tendency to get too maudlin and the fact that anyone who did not like the doctor was shown as stupid or evil.  Think early appearances of Mickey Smith.

 

Moffat is the Idea Guy.  He can come up with some really creative ideas, (although lately his formula is starting to show through).  The problem is the Idea Guy should not be put in charge, since then there is no one to tell him when one of his ideas doesn't work and there is no one to fit all his ideas into a whole narrative.  Moffat tends to do things simply because it's cool, like when we see all the Doctors enemies united against him in "The Pandorica Opens".  It looks really cool to see the whole Rogue's Gallery there, but it makes no sense from a narrative perspective.  The Daleks would never unite with anyone and they themselves tried to destroy the universe with a reality bomb just a season before.

 

Ultimately it does come down to personal preference, and I prefer the RTD era to Moffat and I prefer Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant to Matt Smith (too early to say with Capaldi, but I really like him so far)

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I think Moffatt's the better writer; RTD the better showrunner.

 

Moffatt has great ideas, and has written some of the best single episodes; but he can't hang it together over a season; can't follow through on his promise; overcomplicates things, gets too carried away with his own cleverness and ignores his inconsistencies.

 

I suspect that if I were to do a list of my favourites episodes of NewWho, about half would be Moffat written during RTD's era

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When watching the RTD era I used to love Moffat's episodes! I'd say how I wish he did more because they were my favourite.. I guess I got my wish and well.. I wish I hadn't.

 

 

Moffat, by a country mile. He makes Doctor Who that feels like Doctor Who, and he's had a 100% successful hit rate casting three Doctors, something no one else has done. In contrast, Davies only got his Doctors right 50% of the time, and he let the good one leave after a year.

I don't really understand what you mean here. Eccleston and Tennant were far better than Smith and I do like Capaldi but he hasn't reeled me in anywhere near as easily as the other 2. Tennant I hated at the beginning of his first episode and wasn't going to watch the show anymore and then within the last 5 mins I couldn't imagine anyone better... I still can't.

 

If my dislike of the Clara and Amy storylines (however I do like 11 and Rory) is anything to go by I'm definitely in team RTD, I just wish he'd had more time to do amazing things with Ten and River. And this is coming from someone that never particularly liked Rose.. but many of her episodes are my favourites, I struggle to think of any of my favourite episodes since Moffat has been showrunner.

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I was first exposed to “Doctor Who” in the first season of the revival: I was visiting friends in England who showed me “Rose” and “The Empty Child” in preparation for us watching “The Doctor Dances” as it aired.  I liked it enough to watch it when it came to the US, where I came to love it.

 

I wasn’t sure about the switch from Nine to Ten; I had loved Nine since the moment near the beginning of “Rose” where, after escorting Rose out of the department store, he cheerily held up the amputated arm of the living-mannequin that had been trying to kill them and intoned “Run for your life!” before closing the door.  How could this new guy compare?  Well, it took a bit longer: it was near the end of “The Christmas Invasion” where Ten popped his eyebrows during the click where he was insulting the Sycorax in Sycoractic.  Boom.  I was a convert and stayed faithful, even when I wanted to smack him upside the head (hello, “Tooth and Claw”!).

 

Eleven, however, was a disappointment.  I had gone into the season with an open mind, but when Eleven basically began by hollering “make me a sammitch!” to a female child and then when she made him food he spat it out and hollered for her to make something else without telling her what he wanted (including “You’re Scottish, aren’t you?  Fry something!” which REALLY pissed me off), I found myself disliking this guy.  And it didn’t get any better.  Amy was annoying from the beginning where she showed up in her stripper costume and tried to jump the Doctor, not to mention the second episode where she showed herself to be smarter than the Doctor, for the first time but not the last.  I mean, come on—he’s the Doctor—maybe not the wisest but always the smartest guy in the room!  When River showed up it got even worse; I never liked River at all, finding her smug and annoying from the beginning.  With the exception of Rory (who I liked but thought was badly treated) and a couple of episodes here and there (“Vincent and the Doctor”; “Amy’s Choice”), I wasn’t enjoying the show and gave up after a season and a half.

 

When Amy and Rory left, I gave the show another try; maybe it was them?  Nope, still didn’t like it; if anything Clara was worse (and I couldn’t really see much difference between her and Amy anyway). 

 

So maybe it was Matt Smith’s Doctor—nothing against Matt Smith himself, by the way; I suspect I’d have liked him in something else, but now he instantly evokes a rather nasty negative emotion in me, which made watching “The Day of the Doctor” quite difficult for me.  I was really looking forward to Twelve.  This time I only made it through three full episodes and two partial ones (changing the channel after 15 minutes or so) before giving up on the season.

 

I think it’s Moffat.  I don’t like his characters—particularly the female ones—and I just don’t care at all about what happens to them.  He really does seem more interested in making the characters serve his plots rather than the other way around. 

 

I truly hate what he’s done to the Doctor: if you write a character as an asshole, you need to occasionally let him transcend that so we can like him anyway.  But this season, I just don’t see why I should be caring about this complete git.  And the companions don’t fare much better.  At least with Nine and Ten’s companions, they showed growth and change during their time with the Doctor: Rose became the Bad Wolf because of the Doctor, Martha became much more sure of herself because of her time in the TARDIS, and you can’t tell me that poor memory-wiped Donna went right back to being the person she was before her travels.  I’m not sure Amy and Clara and River changed much, if at all; the driving force behind their seasons was not to watch them grow but for the Doctor (and us) to find out why they were so darn special to begin with.  I’d much rather watch people become special, because it’s nice to think that specialness is something that can be earned and isn’t pure predestination. 

 

Those who said that RTD was the better show-runner and Moffat the better show-writer I think have hit it right on the head.  Moffat’s episodes under RTD are some of my absolute favorites, but I cannot think of any of Moffat’s episodes as show-runner (writer or not) that I’d like to see again.

 

So I guess I’ll try again once Moffat leaves.  I do tend to watch the Christmas specials, more out of obligation than hope that things will change and I’ll find myself enjoying the show again.  Which makes me sad that the show I loved is just gone with this inferior replacement in its place.  But hopefully only for now.

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RTD over Moffat definitely.  I think Moffat does well with individual episodes but when he tries to string them together into a storyline, the result are wildly inconsistent at best.

 

There may have been 2 or 3 episodes I didn't care for during the RTD years but there were never episodes I was absolutely bored with.  I can't say the same for Moffat's run. 

 

RTD knows how to do a storyline and his character arc and, well, characterization are much better.

Edited by benteen
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I think 10, 11 and 12 have transcended their material. Nine was better matched and didn't really need to change it. I thought Eccleston worked as the template for a new Doctor Who that was a little less foppish than the originals (Doctors 6 and 7 had some real costumes) and seemed more damaged. Ten was more of a traditional Doctor and Eleven seemed kind of worn, despite his youthful appearance. It was a good performance from Matt Smith.

 

I think the show runner problem is that the show runners are too important. The original Who had a stable of writers who crafted the material and there weren't these seasonal arcs. When you have all of time and space, the show really needs to be more episodic

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I think the show runner problem is that the show runners are too important.

 

Part of the problem is that every tv show needs to be A Thing or About Something. There's not many shows that are just a show. Transitioning from Eleven to Twelve is unique even for Doctor Who because this was the last incarnation of the Doctor and he really thought that was it. Dealing with a new lease on life, so to speak, should be enough material to mine for an entire first season. I don't see why we need The Life Of Clara and another season arc. 

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I don't really understand what you mean here.

It's simple. Matt, Peter and John Hurt were all fantastic Doctor's, giving Moffat a 100% success rate in casting the Doctor. Eccles was great, but Tennant stunk, thus meaning RTD only scored a 50% success rate.

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YMMV. I personally thought Eccleston and Tennant were great Doctors.  I didn't like Matt Smith but Capaldi does shine through despite the crap he gets to work with.  As for John Hurt, of course he's a good actor and was awesome as the War Doctor, I can't help but feel that there's nothing in "Day of the Doctor" that he did that could not have been done by Christopher Eccleston or Paul McGann.

 

For some insight into Moffat, check this out:  A sort-of panel from 1995.  I know it's been 20 years, and I'm sure some of his opinions changed (I know he's supposedly retracted "If you look at other stuff from the Sixties they weren't crap - it was just Doctor Who"). But it does give some insight into Moff's thinking regarding the show.

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This will be the interview where Moffat freely admits he was pissed through the whole thing, and trying to annoy the people who would read it. Really, the only insight it gives to Moffats thinking is that he loves winding people up.

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Moffat 100% failed for me then. I stopped watching after Smith's first season and am trying to watch Capaldi's season, so far I'm not finding much to enjoy. I liked Eccleston and loved Tennant. I also agree with those that find the RTD era much easier to rewatch (and I have rewatched seasons 1-4 multiple times) while I haven't even watched most of Smith's era once. I did read about what happened nothing interested me. 

 

I think Moffat has great ideas for plots, but doesn't spend enough time on fleshing out his characters. They all seem to be summaries of a personality with no actual substance. I watch shows for the characters. Loving the characters goes along way in me accepting a terrible episode once in awhile. If I'm not attached to the characters and don't like the story then the episode is a big fail for me and makes me not want to continue watching the show. 

 

However for me Moffat and RTD were at their best when working together. RTD gave the characters life and Moffat wrote interesting stories for those characters. 

Edited by Sakura12
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Right after Saturday's "moon" episode, I watched Tennant's first episode. The Christmas one. The differences were glaring and explains why I'm hating this season so much.

10:

  • In the short time he was shown, he was quirky and funny "No, that was the Lion King"
  • He quickly assessed the situation and fixed the problem, without help from the companions. "I'm going to press the big red button!"  Showing that he is the smartest one in the room.
  • Although he was funny and made us smile, he also showed his dark side and not to mess with him "No second chances" and "Doesn't she look a bit tired?"
  • His primary concern was to save earth "It's DEFENDED!"
  • Summary: He was funny, he was lovable, he was not to be messed with, and he loved earth.

 

Rose:

  • Even though she had no idea what happened. She didn't get a phone call from 9, she didn't get any warning of the regeneration, she loved the Doctor. She was confused, she was hurt, but she took care of him.
  • She took charge of the situation when the Doctor couldn't. She didn't overshadow him. She didn't take over. She didn't make him seem dumb. She did what she needed to do when she had to, but let him take over when she could.
  • She wanted more than anything to continue to travel with him. Her biggest fear in the end was that because he'd changed he wouldn't want her with him anymore.
  • Summary: She was strong, brave, but still scared. She was confused, but still loved him. She wanted to travel with him even though she didn't know who he was.

 

The last scene is of them holding hands and looking up to the sky excited for their next adventure.

 

What a difference between then and now.

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Great summary! While I don't particularly like rose, this comparison does make me like her more :D then again, I think she was always higher than Clara in my favourite companion list. If only Clara stayed a Dalek and came on board.. How weird would that have been?

All that being said, I think Amy was similar when she met the doctor. Amelia wasn't scared of the weird man who crash landed into her garden even if most kids would have been. She brought him in and let him day strange things without being scared.

I also don't particularly like Amy either :D but she was a better companion than Clara but who knows how she would have reacted to a regeneration... Sad to say, it would probably be more like Clara because her raggedy man was gone.

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Right after Saturday's "moon" episode, I watched Tennant's first episode. The Christmas one. The differences were glaring and explains why I'm hating this season so much.

10:

  • In the short time he was shown, he was quirky and funny "No, that was the Lion King"
  • He quickly assessed the situation and fixed the problem, without help from the companions. "I'm going to press the big red button!"  Showing that he is the smartest one in the room.
  • Although he was funny and made us smile, he also showed his dark side and not to mess with him "No second chances" and "Doesn't she look a bit tired?"
  • His primary concern was to save earth "It's DEFENDED!"
  • Summary: He was funny, he was lovable, he was not to be messed with, and he loved earth.

 

Rose:

  • Even though she had no idea what happened. She didn't get a phone call from 9, she didn't get any warning of the regeneration, she loved the Doctor. She was confused, she was hurt, but she took care of him.
  • She took charge of the situation when the Doctor couldn't. She didn't overshadow him. She didn't take over. She didn't make him seem dumb. She did what she needed to do when she had to, but let him take over when she could.
  • She wanted more than anything to continue to travel with him. Her biggest fear in the end was that because he'd changed he wouldn't want her with him anymore.
  • Summary: She was strong, brave, but still scared. She was confused, but still loved him. She wanted to travel with him even though she didn't know who he was.

 

The last scene is of them holding hands and looking up to the sky excited for their next adventure.

 

What a difference between then and now.

 

I ❤ this post so much I want to marry it or like it x 1000, however, x1 will have to do! :D

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Rose and The doctor were uber close even when he was 9. She became Bad Wolf for 9. And I get why what happened with 9,10 and Rose would appeal, the dynamics of these characters are so different now.

 

While the show also is portraying them as different Parent/Daughter relationships roles depending on the episode, The doctor and this Clara have never bonded really. She's with him because she's always been with him. The Doctor sent her way and spent years away in a warzone country like planet with a Cyberman turned just Robot as his lead companion for years. He returns to Clara because She's always been there. 

 

And with Clara, Eleven was this Cute quirky man who had interest in her and treated her like something special. Her dream man. So what she has right now is her seemingly sweet dream man turned into this brash old man who isn't treating her or anyone as special. She doesn't like Twelve and misses the man she knew.

 

The Doctor probably hasn't really cared cared about an earthling since Rory/Amy/River left. He has friends he returns too but no real companion. The Doctor had finally stopped running, He allowed himself to grow up and was ready to die. Which is different form before because this was his last regeneration cycle. But he's still living. He has no care about life or death because he doesn't have people he cares about who has to worry about life and death. Yes Clara is his companion of the moment and her current life will die but she's always been there. And the doctor isn't seeing and living life through Clara's eyes or experiences. They just go on road trips together.

 

That's the situation we find ourselves right now.

Edited by tarotx
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Well, while that makes sense to a point, I don't really see it in the episodes.

 

And then why would he call her his caretaker if she is of so little importance? I'm pretty much resigned to waiting for a new showrunner.

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The problem is we're being told not shown when it comes to the companions and the Doctor's relationship. That's been one of the fundamental flaws of Moffat's tenure. Clara went from nanny to school teacher in one series. So we're to believe that she was traveling with the Doctor for years when she went to school? Is that when they became close? It never happened in any episodes I saw. Then you have the magical montage of Clara and Danny's relationship. Was that supposed to be another year? I really have no idea. This isn't anything new. In the Power of Three Amy said it had been ten years for them. That blew me away, I guess that was an easy way to explain her going from kiss o gram to acclaimed writer. Its also why the River romance was so cringe worthy, it happens off screen or crammed into one horrible episode named "Lets Kill Hitler". I think that's part of the reason why Clara is taking so much heat her relationship with Doctor doesn't feel earned. Moffat cheats in building relationships and characters. None of them feel natural or relatable.

 

Now compare that to RTD. Each episode whether it was Rose, Martha or Donna we saw the major developments in the characters and their relationship to the Doctor. I saw Rose go from simple shop girl to a dimension hopping bad ass who plays the role of the Doctor in Turn Left. I also saw the relationship and love build between them. That was why Doomsday was such a gut punch. Seeing Martha go from being in awe of traveling with the Doctor to becoming disillusioned with him and realizing the dangers it entailed. And poor Donna who goes from beat down woman to savior of the universe only to have it taken away from her. Even Mickey and Wilf had more character development than Moffat's companions.

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Horses for courses, of course.

I don't find Davies episodes rewatchable in general at all, especially when they disintegrate into over the top emotional glurge like most of his finales. (And I've not liked it when Moffat's had glurgy finales either.). It also doesn't help that for me Rose was the worst companion ever (well except maybe for Peri). I loved Tennant at first but Davies writing and arc for him had me wishing he'd be gone by the end. And don't get me started on how he ruined the Master.

Moffat definitely relies on his stock tropes too much, certainly. But on balance I'll easily take Moffat's tics over Davies's. But I will always be grateful to Davies for bringing the show back and doing some good stuff.

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Moffat by a country mile, albeit with caveats.  He's frustrating in that he's given us episodes of unutterable genius ('Blink' is simply one of the best things ever, of any kind) and huge stinking blocks of cheese (much of the last two seasons come to mind).  He really, really needs to stop with the fan-servicing.

 

I've learned to take the good where I can find it but I'm often reduced to watching particular scenes over and sorta humming the rest of the episode.  Ten handcuffed and unable to prevent River sacrificing herself, Matt with his 'Colonel Run Away' scene, 'Let someone else try first' - extraordinary gems set in a more rhinestone setting.

 

Davies never quite reached these heights for me (yes, I know, Blink and Dr. Dances were under his watch).  I am eternally grateful that he brought this all back.  I still remember watching the first episode with Eccleston, hearing the TARDIS sound again and the thrill that ran up my spine.

Edited by henripootel
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Moffatt is quite the magician, isn't he?  Even pulled a tribble* out of the hat, well, cheated Death at least.  Mort's father-in-law must be really annoyed!

 

 

*as per last "New Star Trek" movie.

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My daughter (15) and I watched the finale last night.  We were both less than thrilled.  What is funny though is that she looks at me when it's done and says:  Ok, Davies had his four seasons, Moffat has had his, now we need someone new.

 

HA!

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I found the show in August, began with "Rose" and have watched in order since then. I last watched Season 6, Episode 3. I really like Eleven, but I give Matt Smith all the credit for that. I don't care a wit about the Ponds, except perhaps, pity for Rory. The only episode of Moffat's reign that touched me was "Vincent and the Doctor." That was more about seeing the artist's reaction to the way his work is revered in the future. I got misty--something I look forward to and EXPECT when I watch Doctor Who. I tend to laugh/cry lots throughout the season. But it's happened only the one time since Moffat took over.

 

BBC America is having a marathon, and I got curious. I peeked in on Twelve. Currently I'm watching an episode called "Into the Dalek," which began with Clara meeting the Danny Pink character I've read so much about. I swear, if I were a total newbie to this show, I'd believe this was CLARA's show. Every ep I've looked at shows Twelve popping in and interrupting Clara's life.

 

Is this what the show is now? The Doctor bringing Clara coffee while she rolls her eyes and chastises him for being three weeks late? Is he now the doddering, loveable eccentric with a crusty exterior but two hearts made of gold?

 

As bored as I've become with the show, I've decided to push forward. It's hard. A show with a history this long will have ups and downs. I fully hope it will bounce back. I'm not the type to wish for a show's demise just because it no longer fits my taste. I want DW to survive and thrive and get its HEART back.

 

I didn't realize how much of my enjoyment had to do with my affection for the characters. I watched for their development more than I did for the plots that surrounded them. Heck, some of the sillier plots should be forgotten. Yet because I cared so much about Ten, Rose, Martha, Donna, Jack, Sarah Jane, Mickey, and Jackie, even the terrible stories resonated with me.

 

Moffat's Who is a different show, one I gather, many fans really love a lot.

 

I feel nothing.

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I really became a fan during the Moffat era.  I loved Blink, which was during RTD's reign, but I never warmed up to Tennant's doctor.  For me the Davies' era shows are not the most fun to rewatch.  I enjoyed Blink and have rewatched that a number of times, I liked New Earth, because I loved the body hopping villian, but that's about it. I also liked the episodes Human Nature and Family of Blood, with Martha. Also enjoyed Gridlock.

 

I never enjoyed Rose as a companion, and Donna did not interest me at all.

 

I tried rewatching the episode where Tennant took over as Doctor, and Jackie drove me nuts, the killer Christmas tree was just ridiculous, and I was cringing through most of that episode. Ugh.

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