I usually try to say something interesting about the episodes of New Doctor Who I review here. Even if I don’t like it, I try to find some reason to say *why* I don’t like it. I at least engage enough with it to try to see what it’s trying to do.

But if Steven Moffat won’t try, then why should I?

It’s a shame, because everyone else on the programme is clearly trying. Matt Smith is an astonishingly good actor. Jenna-Louise Coleman is perfectly capable of pulling the ‘quirky’ face that’s the sum total of what she’s asked to do in the story. The effects people are clearly working hard.

But Moffat? Moffat is someone who clearly *can* write. He’s not as good as his reputation suggests, mind, but he can pull together a script that makes some kind of sense. I’ve seen it.

Yet this?

They’re ‘hacking’ people and ‘uploading’ them. How? “Wi-fi”.

Words have meanings. Writers, of all people, should be aware of this. If you make something up, say “their minds are being controlled because of quartronic energy”, then OK, fine, we’ll go with that. We don’t know what quartronic energy is, so maybe it can do that.

We know what wi-fi is, though. Everyone knows it *doesn’t* do that — even if you show a shot of someone typing *really* fast.

That’s not to say that I expect Doctor Who to be technologically accurate — while I winced at the scene where the Doctor says “I’ve hacked their base operating system, but I can’t find their geographic location”, that’s because I’m someone who just spent five years working as a software engineer and now works for a firm of computer security consultants. It’s annoying that they’d get that kind of thing wrong, but no more so than, say, when Robert Holmes used to confuse the terms ‘galaxy’, ‘solar system’ and ‘universe’. I just expect that the writers at least make a tiny bit of an effort to sound plausible. “They’re uploading everyone’s mind (and also mind-controlling everyone in London, and also controlling all the power and the planes) because of wi-fi” just isn’t trying.

And this lack of trying is evident throughout the script, from Moffat’s reuse of his tired trope of having a character speaking out of a screen they’re trapped in, to the random sexist joke thrown in for no good reason at the beginning, to the fact that the villain of the story turns out to be the Great Intelligence. The Great Intelligence was a villain from two stories from the late 1960s, both of which have been wiped, so nobody under about the age of fifty has ever seen them. His modus operandi was also different in those stories (and much better — he had robot Yeti that lived in the London Underground and shot webs), and the only reason I can see for having the Great Intelligence in the story at all is to make a couple of dozen nerds say “Ah, I see what he’s done. The Great Intelligence was in The Web Of Fear, and this is a story about the World Wide Web. I am clever.”

The epitome of this comes in the scene where the Doctor suddenly reveals that his motorbike has antigravity, and drives it up the Shard (which is, for the 54,466,900 people in Britain who, like myself, don’t live in London and pay rapt attention to everything that goes on in that most omphaloskeptic of cities, a new building there and thus absolutely fascinating).

People have been referring to this sort of thing, wrongly, as a deus ex machina. I don’t think that’s quite the correct term. Rather, I think it’s sort of an inverse Chekov’s gun. Normally, if you’re an actual writer, one who’s bothered about such trifling things as coherence, if you wanted the Doctor to have an antigravity motorbike, you’d set it up in some way, perhaps by having a scene at the beginning where the Doctor is riding his antigravity motorbike.

Then, when at the end he uses an antigravity motorbike, it would seem like something that was a logical consequence of events leading up to that point, rather than, as it does, like something improvised by a six-year-old playing with action figures:

“My man says that the Doctor can’t come in and he’s bigger than the Doctor so he wins.”
“Oh yeah? Well… the Doctor’s got a flying spacebike, so he just flies up there and *he* wins!”

The worst thing about this is that there’s a scene earlier in the story where he’s talking to Clara and the dialogue goes something like:

“I fixed your quadricycle”
“All those quadricycle bits you had lying around. I put them back together.”
“We didn’t have any quadricycle bits.”
“…I invented the quadricycle!”

Well, firstly, of course, quadricycles have existed for over a hundred years (we’re back to the words meaning things thing again, aren’t we?) but secondly, replace “quadricycle” with “anti-gravity bike” in that exchange, and what happens? The joke works — possibly even better than it did. It certainly does the same job as a character exchange.

But it also then means that later when the Doctor starts riding up the Shard, instead of just being something Moffat pulled out of his arse that doesn’t make any sense, it becomes a clever call-back to something that we originally thought was just an offhand joke. The script becomes tighter, the plot becomes more coherent, and you’ve made a piece of dialogue do double-duty.

Now, I thought of that straight away. I am not a professional screenwriter. Steven Moffat has been writing TV shows for over twenty years. Had he bothered even to read over what he’d typed out without thinking, just to give it the same kind of basic checks I give one of these blog posts, before having a huge crew of technicians, directors, actors, musicians and so on work on this thing and broadcasting it to an audience of millions, he would have thought of that too.

Clearly, though, it doesn’t matter. The Hugo nominations were announced today. In the short-form dramatic category, three of the five nominations were Steven Moffat Doctor Who scripts.

Clearly this is what the people want. Clearly this is somehow considered ‘good’.

At this point, I’m only watching this programme because I’ve agreed to write these posts for Mindless Ones. I think that once this series is over, I won’t ever watch it again.

It couldn’t get any worse, could it?

Oh, wait…

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