Doctor Who: Steven Moffat's Timey-Wimiest Episodes

He's played with Who time travel more than anyone else - but which episode is his craziest?

Doctor Who Matt Smith David Tennant The Day of the Doctor
BBC Studios

From the beginning of Doctor Who's nearly 60 years of history, the program has featured time travel as a central concept, with the Doctor being presented as a mysterious wanderer in the fourth dimension, fighting monsters and seeking to help the suffering.

Many different authors have contributed to the mythology of the series, but there is one who stands head and shoulders above the rest as far as playing with the concept of time travel itself, and that is Steven Moffat. More than any of his cohorts, the former showrunner’s scripts are rife with things like temporal paradoxes, non-chronological storytelling, and stable time loops.

In one of his most celebrated efforts, Blink (2007), he penned one of the show’s most popular quotes, which establishes the basis for this storytelling trope: “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey... stuff.”

Out of this came the term “timey-wimey”, which has become a sort of shorthand for the different quirky and whimsical ways that the Doctor plays with time travel. Nearly 15 years later it's a staple part of Whovian fandom, and these are its ten greatest uses.

10. The Time Of The Doctor (2013)

Doctor Who Matt Smith David Tennant The Day of the Doctor

The Time of the Doctor had a lot of work to do. It was Matt Smith's last episode, and had to wrap up many loose ends from his era as the Doctor. This meant filling in the gaps with the Silence, and playing fast and loose with time by showing how a question posed in the present had traveled back to the distant past and impacted the Doctor's life into the far future.

But The Time of the Doctor was also a Christmas episode, and had to deliver the holiday cheer appropriate for the occasion. Again, it did this by playing with the way time factors into the story.

Specifically, the episode is set in two parallel timeframes. In one, the Doctor spends centuries saving a town called Christmas from an endless parade of attacks and threats. Simultaneously the episode shows Clara's Christmas dinner with her family. Clara goes between both sequences, which run side by side, covering the same screen time.

The episode isn't completely successful at bringing all these ideas together, but it does its best, and is a lot of fun. Along the way, it offers some inventive approaches to time travel-related storytelling--certainly a suitable way to celebrate the end of an era for the Doctor.


Ben McClure is a writer and filmmaker. Raised in the United States but living in Australia, he loves stories, gets excited about superheroes and science fiction, and is deeply interested in matters of faith.