In Defence Of Steven Moffat
Steven Moffat’s hatedom started to develop pretty much the second after The Eleventh Hour was broadcast.
Steven Moffat’s hatedom started to develop pretty much the second after The Eleventh Hour (Moffat’s first episode of Doctor Who as head writer) was broadcast. Initially it was pretty standard hate with claims like “He’s a bad writer”, “He’s running Doctor Who into the ground”, and “That whirring sound is Doctor Who’s creators turning in their graves” being commonplace. Two and half years on and the Moffat hatedom has taken a disturbingly sinister turn. There’s always been the odd outright hateful comment such as “Moffat might as well have defecated on Elisabeth Sladen’s grave” (in reference to The Impossible Astronaut being dedicated to the late Elisabeth Sladen), but in the past few weeks things have been taken up a notch with accusations of misogyny and homophobia being levelled at Moffat, and rumours of death threats being tweeted to him. While the rumours of the death threats against Moffat are so far unconfirmed, what has been confirmed is that Martin Freeman’s (John Watson in Sherlock) partner Amanda Abbington received death threats over Twitter for defending Moffat. I’ll deal with the sheer lunacy and repulsiveness of this later but, for now, let’s focus on these ridiculous accusations of misogyny and homophobia.
Since he started working on Doctor Who in 2005, Moffat has a history of writing female characters that manage to be both strong and empathetic including Nancy (The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances), Madame de Pompadour (The Girl In The Fireplace), Sally Sparrow (Blink), and of course Amy Pond and River Song. While Amy does occasionally get captured and end up as the damsel in distress, that’s part and parcel of the role of the Doctor’s companion. It even happens to the male companions like Adric. And although Rory rarely gets captured, he certainly dies a lot. Amy’s brash and headstrong but she never takes things lying down. If the Doctor says or does something she’s not happy with, she lets him know about it. And let’s not forget about River Song. If I had to sum her up in one sentence, it would be: a female, time-travelling Indiana Jones. She’s sort of like a more sexual, trigger happy version of the Doctor. She’s capable of regenerating (at least initially), piloting the Tardis, she manages to shoot a Silent without even looking at it (despite the fact that you forget them as soon as you look away from them), and even made a Dalek beg for mercy. You can criticise River for being used too much and for being too central to the plot, but one thing that’s undeniable is that she’s the strongest female character seen on Doctor Who for a quite a while. Also, there are a few occasional implications that she’s bisexual. So think on that while you accuse Moffat of misogyny and homophobia.
The episode A Good Man Goes To War is a cornucopia of evidence that Moffat is neither homophobic or misogynistic. First of all, there’s the fact that in early drafts of the script, omnisexual time traveller Captain Jack Harkness was recruited by the Doctor to help rescue Amy and her baby from the asteroid Demon’s Run. Jack was only written out after the shooting schedule for Torchwood: Miracle Day made including him impossible. A Good Man Goes To War is arguably the most significant episode of Moffat’s tenure so far. It revealed the identity of River Song (something that had been hotly debated since her introduction four years previously), was the finale of part one of Series Six, and had a huge amount of emotional gravitas to it. So given that this was arguably Moffat’s most important episode so far, if he had some kind of prejudice against gay people, why would he include an omnisexual character played by an openly gay actor?
As for the supposed misogyny: the leader of the Silence is Madame Kovarian. A woman. Not only is she given charge of the Silence at Demon’s Run, she also defeats the Doctor. Twice. With the same ruse. Having such a strong female villain is surely a sign that Moffat is no misogynist. Also, when Kovarian finally dies in The Wedding Of River Song, it’s Amy that kills her. Right after she saves Rory’s life by gunning down a multitude of Silents. If you had to sum up the pro-female side of Doctor Who in one scene, that would be it. But the biggest example of anti-misogyny in Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who is the 2011 Christmas Special The Doctor, The Widow, And the Wardrobe. Claire Skinner’s character Madge Arwell is shown to be devious, resourceful, and willing to go to any lengths to protect her children. And there’s also the fact that, in that episode, only Madge is capable of taking the collective souls of the Androzani trees into her mind and transporting them off-planet before an acid rainstorm kills them because she is not only an adult, but a woman. Despite everything the Doctor has done, a woman from the 1930s is more capable of saving a planet full of trees than he is. If that’s not pro-feminist. I don’t know what is.
Another important thing to consider is that of the four minor characters that make up the Doctor’s taskforce for his assault on Demon’s Run in A Good Man Goes To War, the only two that survive intact (Dorium counts as a survivor but still gets decapitated) are Madame Vastra and Jenny. The episode’s only characters that are both female and gay. Furthermore, Vastra pretty much takes full command of the battle in the Doctor’s absence, and is shown to have a great deal of intelligence and wisdom, reminding the Doctor of his own warning that “anger is the shortest distance to a mistake”, and being the first to realise that Amy and Rory’s daughter was conceived onboard the Tardis while it was in flight. Something that the Doctor is completely oblivious to. Although Jenny doesn’t get as much screentime as Vastra, she’s still shown to be very capable, holding her own against the Headless Monks, and is portrayed as extremely empathetic, comforting Amy after the battle ends. And as a Vastra and Jenny hat trick, they’re set to make appearances in both the 2012 Christmas Special and in the second half of Series Seven. If Moffat were homophobic, Vastra and Jenny would either have not been included, would have been killed off horribly, or been used to criticise homosexuality. His characterisation and continued use of them is ample proof that he’s not a homophobe.
Veering away from Doctor Who slightly, let’s look at Moffat’s personal and professional relationships. First of all, he’s married with children. Secondly, he frequently works closely with his wife and his mother-in-law. Although it’s not out of the question for a misogynist to be married, it’s highly doubtful that a misogynist would choose to work with his wife and mother-in-law for at least twelve years, and on one of his most high profile projects (Sherlock).
Also, let’s talk a bit about Mark Gatiss for a bit. He is openly gay and, by the end of Series Seven, he will have written twice as many episodes of Doctor Who under Steven Moffat than he did under Russell T. Davies, and has acted in three times as many episodes during the Moffat years as he did during the RTD years. Not to mention that Gatiss co-created Sherlock with Moffat and makes up a third of the writing staff. It’s also clear from interviews and behind the scenes footage that they have an incredibly close working relationship and friendship. If Moffat was a homophobe, he wouldn’t have touched Gatiss with a barge pole.
And to finish off the ‘arguments against’ portion of this piece, here’s a quote from Moffat on the supposed Russell T. Davies gay agenda: “You come across the occasional nutter who will talk about Russell’s gay agenda – I imagine he keeps it in a pink folder in a special leopardskin safe – but this is possibly the most heterosexual Doctor we’ve ever had. Clearly, Russell’s gay agenda is to turn everyone straight.” and one about the amount of gay jokes he includes “I’ve got the record for gay jokes. I’ve got the gayest joke of all time in Doctor Who – I’ve got the ‘beard’ joke about the Master. I’m worse than he is for most of that!” I rest my case.
Obviously, if you’re going to delude yourself that Moffat is misogynistic and homophobic, then the ramblings of a nineteen year old student like me probably aren’t going to change that. But even if you really do hate Moffat, then the constructive thing to do about it is to present a reasoned and well-balanced argument about why you hate him. Not threaten to kill him just because he’s written a few things that you don’t like. And it’s certainly not worth threatening to kill somebody for simply sticking up for a friend and colleague, and expressing an opinion that conflicts with yours.
Because in the end: it’s just a television programme. Its place in the grand scheme of things is almost infinitesimal. It’s undoubtedly not worth threatening to kill people over. I suppose what I’m really trying to say is: stop whining, grow up, and start acting like an intelligent and mentally stable member of the human race. I know that’s a hard thing to do for the kind of people who think that threatening to kill someone is an appropriate reaction to a bad episode of a TV programme and think that Twitter primarily exists as a death threat delivery system, but give it a go. Even deluded and hateful cretins like yourselves may find that you’re capable of it. It’s certainly not likely but it’s possible.