Dear Steven Moffat: Before the Flood

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Dear Steven,

For years now I’ve berated you for lazily reusing the device of the ontological or “bootstrap” paradox that the Doctor drew our attention to in the odd, fourth wall breaking cold opener to “Before the Flood”. ‘Google it,’ said Capaldi, invoking my other bête noir, the Doctor’s use of modern idioms. But I didn’t need to google it, Steven. I’ve been watching it for four fucking years. I’ve sat gawping, as the nation scratched its balls, wondering why you couldn’t just work an independent event into your time travel stories so they’d make a lick of non-linear sense, instead opting for this odious cheat that requires a lot less forethought and strips all the dramatic weight and consequence from cause and effect.

Clearly you’re sensitive to this criticism, so it’s my guess you instructed Toby Whithouse to take a hit for the team and make a philosophical quandary out of it. Now you can say that a) you’re not the only one and b) wasn’t it a fascinating philosophical puzzle when Toby used it? NOW do I see why it’s your device of choice? Well, no I don’t. The Doctor’s Beethoven story was indeed interesting, though I never want to see him address us directly again – this isn’t House of Cards, but presenting it as an aside – a mystery with no story implications, is one thing. Making it the engine of yet another episode is something else.

How the hell are we supposed to invest in the Doctor’s choices and revel in his genius, if his way out of impossible situations is an impenetrable loop fuelled by knowledge that comes from nowhere? What will it take for you and Toby and all the people you’ve brainwashed to embrace this idea, to realise adopting that structure is just as stupid as any other bit of deus ex machina, like the Doctor discovering a box in the middle of his enemy’s lair containing a piece of paper that tells him how to escape? If you or any of your scribes used the explanation box, viewers would say you’d given up, but you expect us to think we’ve had our brain tickled when you wheel out the self-defeating circular plot. Steven, we’re not stupid, even if we continue to watch the show.

Isn’t it time you were honest and just admitted that no one on Doctor Who has the slightest idea how to write themselves out of corners? If you opened up perhaps we could help. Maybe we could set up workshops and talk through story ideas until someone came up with a series of plausible endings. Then, armed with the knowledge of what we wanted to do, we’d go back through the script and seed the resolution is a series of scenes that weren’t dependent on our pre-determined ending to work.

Can you see how that would be so much more satisfying to watch? Joe and Jacinda Public could put down the brick they keep by the sofa for throwing at the television, just in case, and say ‘that was great. The Doctor was able to take advantage of the thing that resulted from Clara’s decision to do that thing which in turn came from the soul searching conversation she had with thingy. Man, I really feel like I’ve been on a journey with these characters and I can see how the force of their decisions impacted on one another to produce a satisfying and surprising conclusion. I’m glad it wasn’t all pre-determined and reliant on information imported from nowhere to work.’

So “Before the Flood” taught us that time travel, when used this way, is the enemy of great drama. Not that the non-time traveling components made a great deal of sense. I confess that consumed by irritation at Clara and the Doctor Facetiming one another and talk of Wi-Fi, more imports from the present day that will instantly date this story, I lost the thread of just what the Fisher King (Robin Williams looking a little rough since his untimely death last year) wanted. There was talk of conquest, which I suppose ended when he drowned, which left the question of the ghosts and how exactly they were formed and so on. Yes, I know it was something to do with the script etched into the wall of the Space Hearst and Electromagnetism, but I’ll be honest Steven, I switched off. The Doctor’s death was a technological cheat, as was his ability to defeat the Fisher King and win the day. In other words, we were presented with two great reasons why Toby Whithouse shouldn’t take over from you when you retire. He’s picked up all your bad habits.

Yours in time and cyberspace,

Ed

P.S: “If you love me in any way…” Clara, don’t you think you’re getting a little presumptuous?

P.P.S: Deaf Vision was interesting. Have any deaf people ever reported seeing sound represented by lines that form the outline of objects in their mind’s eye?

P.P.P.S: The episode’s big tick was attention to detail in one seemingly trivial moment. The Doctor’s hair, in his emergency hologram, was shorter, indicating he’d recorded it some time ago. Congrats to whoever insisted on that. I wish they were script editor.

The Old Man and the C: 

The Clara Oswald Show:

Smith – The Dark Suit Jacket Years: 

Smith in his Pomp:

Deep Time:

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