THE BLOG

Note for Steven Moffat on How to Improve 'Doctor Who'

20/11/2014 18:11 GMT | Updated 20/01/2015 10:59 GMT

To Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat,

As arrogant as it might be for me (who's never created anything as amazing as the work you've done with Doctor Who) to say, most fans I've talked to have agreed wholeheartedly that although Peter Capaldi has been brilliant as the Doctor since his debut in series eight, the episodes this series have been terribly uneven. No single episode stands out as particularly awful, but only a few stand out as particularly great. 'Into the Dalek', 'Time Heist', 'Mummy on the Orient Express', and 'Dark Water/Death in Heaven' were particularly good, yet for most of this latest series, I was bored, and I know I'm not alone.

The acting and directing have been excellent, the writing so far as dialogue and pacing has also been quite good, but the show has felt like it's becoming a bit old hat.

So if it's not the writers, the actors, or the directors, what is it? I think it's the writing. Not the writers, the writing itself.

Now let me be clear: I don't believe what I'm about to say to be true. I'm quite certain all the writers are deeply dedicated and working like crazy; as a writer myself, I have nothing but respect for how hard you and the other writers work. I couldn't do it.

But it's been feeling as if in most episodes we're just treading water. The story arc with Missy was awesome (and by the way, I've been predicting on my podcast, Tales from the Infrared, from the beginning of this latest series that Missy was the Master - take that, my fellow nerds!), but I and others have spent much of this series bored by the writing.

And if I may be so bold, I think I know why:

Since Russell Davies brought Doctor Who back, with people like you and Mark Gatiss helping make it so spectacular, the show has consisted of almost entirely self-contained episodes. Like making a feature movie every week. Yes, there've been some overall story arcs that have been fantastic - I personally most loved the story of 'The Girl Who Waited'. But for the most part, the challenge of Doctor Who as a writer must certainly be that you have to come up with an entire unique story every week and then do it every week.

And you must know that this is part of what eventually killed the original series: finding a new story to tell that wasn't a rehash of something done before was near impossible. The show started to lose its sense of focus and direction, even its sense of identity.

As you know, it's very hard to craft a story that's never been done before. So here's my suggestion:

Retool the show format again. For eight years you guys have been trying to make every episode mostly self-contained. I'm suggesting you break that mold and try something audacious: return the series to something like its original serial format, with each episode being part of a single storyline that runs multiple episodes. Or even an entire series where you're primarily telling one single overarching story, with each episode being a subplot of that one big story.

For an example of what I mean, I'd point to the Torchwood: Children of Earth series. Not that you retell that particular story, but employ the way it took a full five episodes to tell one big story.

Doing something like this would not only shake up the writing and production staff to "think different" but would also in many ways give the writers, and actors, and yes the fans, some breathing room. A single complex plot with a few subplots running three, four, five episodes, even the whole series, would I think be fun for everyone and be a refreshing change of pace.

I'm a Doctor Who fan for life, Mr. Moffat, and have been one for about as long as you have. So as one fan to another, I suggest it's time for yet another reboot: stop trying to make every single episode totally unique, and start telling longer, more drawn-out stories. I think you, the fans, and the writers will enjoy that.

By the way, Nick Frost as Father Christmas? Bloody brilliant! I can't wait to see it!