Dear Steven Moffat: Smile

Dear Steven,

You’d like me to smile, would you? Well, fuck you. Why don’t you tell your writers to focus on great storytelling rather than the uncanny appropriation of everyday things the youth recognise? The bastard youth – who ruin everything by convincing the people who make television that futureproofing their work, ensuring it will still be enjoyed decades hence, isn’t worth the effort. I mean, an emoji episode, Steven? Were you demob happy when you waved that one through? Is there an emoticon for desolation?

You see in TV, momentum matters; the converse of Labour politics. If a series starts strong, it can afford a few duff mid-run fillers because the audience have been captivated early and are now in the habit of tuning in. This run of Who opened weakly with “The Pilot” – a light introduction for Bill. I’d have preferred Bill to have earned her TARDIS wings as a character in a larger, more complicated story – an opening three-parter perhaps, but you can just about get away with froth under the guise of getting to know the newbie. What you can’t do is follow that up with another passive, inconsequential instalment.

Surely the opportunity here, was to devise a second episode that would add depth to Bill’s character and cake on a bit of intrigue regarding the Vault? Instead, we got a show that, the new companion’s stupid questions aside, could have dropped anytime during the series; a cookie cutter story, taken from the episode 2 chapter of Russell T. Davis’s browning series bible, where the Doctor takes his new pal to an alien setting in the future, and low and behold there’s some kind of hidden threat to the human population (see, “The End of the World”, “New Earth”). Episode 3 of the same bible says you follow that up with an episode set in Victorian times, so it was good to see something like that promised next week.

When Bill was asked whether she’d prefer to travel to the past or future, what we knew of her already suggested she’d choose the past, as she’d surely immediately seize on the opportunity to meet the dead mother whose absence she’s felt her whole life. A character-based story could have been built around that meeting, perhaps the gap between expectation and reality the B-Story to a meaty A-Story for the Doctor, but Bill’s a prisoner of a tired formula, so instead had to opt for the future and the thin gruel that is killer emoji robots.

I wouldn’t have lasted long on that colony, Steven, as I experienced my own grief tsunami, watching Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s tale go through its predictable paces. A nice set and sense of scale couldn’t compensate for the shoulder shrugging concept, sigh inducing barely human supporting characters, or indeed, the short-sightedness of developing an antagonist based on a contemporary fad. What else have you got lined up for us, Steven? A cat video planet? Whatsapp world? An antagonist who corrupts Snap Chat as a form of mind control? Is the turgid nature of these ideas and fleeting recognition from excitable kids, really worth the time and expense these episodes take to produce, or would it better just to hire some real writers?

My God, this is what it’s going to be like every week under Chris Chibnall, isn’t it?

Yours in time and cyberspace,


P.S: Might it be a measure of how thin the script was for this story that our understanding of the situation was entirely contingent on the Doctor’s intuition and analytical mind? Yes, I know that’s how every episode works, but usually we’re fed a few clues, or some straw man or other says something that lodges in the Doctor’s mind, so solves the puzzle. In “Smile”, our hero just walked around and put it all together through observation alone. Fine, but there was nothing for the viewer to do but sit back and let him get on with it. Did we even need to be there?

P.P.S: The TARDIS has broadband does it? If we’re demystifying the thing completely, why don’t we say there’s a branch of Costa in there too? You see, it’s easy to type this shit but it does damage.

P.P.P.S: On which note, “don’t look at my browser history”? So, for the sake of a cheap gag, the Doctor surfs porn now? Are your team actively trying to shed viewers, Steven?

P.P.P.P.S: Let’s hear more about the Doctor’s oath and the Vault soon, for God’s sake, because it’s the only thing of interest happening in the series thus far.

P.P.P.P.P.S: “All traps are beautiful.” Tell that to someone who’s looking at the bloody teeth of a bear trap and what used to be their leg.

The Old Man’s Last Stand

Christmas 2016:

Christmas 2015:

The Old Man and the C: 

The Clara Oswald Show:

Smith – The Dark Suit Jacket Years: 

Smith in his Pomp:

Deep Time:

Published in: on April 23, 2017 at 09:47  Comments Off on Dear Steven Moffat: Smile  
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