Steven Moffat had a tricky job to pull off as showrunner of Doctor Who, taking it off the hands of the man who spearheaded its revival and set the hugely successful tone for the modern incarnation of the show. But whilst it may have been easy to simply sit in Davies’ shadow and simply keep the show chugging along in the same fashion, Moffat’s tenure saw bold strides towards increasingly ambitious serialisation and thrillingly bombastic storylines. Whilst Davies tended to work on a ‘monster of the week’ basis with only a weak narrative throughline leading up to the series finale, Moffat has given us year-long mysteries and far more intricate storytelling, even having the creative audacity to turn much of the new series’ continuity on its head in the 50th anniversary special with the introduction of John Hurt’s ‘War Doctor’. I’ve heard some criticise the increased continuity of Moffat’s show as overcomplicated, but I’d argue it’s allowed for greater emotional investment and storytelling potential.
Speaking of actors, Moffat’s also been hugely successful in his casting as well, with Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi both being wonderful yet totally different Doctors, and Karen Gillian, Arthur Darvill and Jenna Coleman all shining in supporting roles as well. In bringing Alex Kingston’s River Song back in an expanded role, Moffat managed to coax out both the fun and the tragic pathos of her relationship with the Doctor, as demonstrated so well in this year’s christmas special.
Perhaps the best example of the strength of Moffat’s run came with the penultimate episode of the last series, Heaven Sent, perhaps the best episode of Doctor Who thus far. In it we got powerfully dark writing from Moffat, a powerhouse performance from Capaldi and a genuinely clever and emotionally affecting setup that managed to tie into the larger continuity of the series effortlessly and allowing past and future events to gain greater significance. Moffat has succeeded in running a show that manages to be ludicrous, joyful, scary, clever, touching and totally unpredictable, and Chris Chibnall has some big shoes to fill.