Doctor Who, Steven Moffat and “Season One” Questions

In the most-recent post on LOST, I brought up the idea of arc-storytelling and “season one” questions.

“In pondering this first season of LOST, I have come to the conclusion that any show that deals with arc-based storytelling succeeds or fails based primarily on one qualification.  Any questions raised in the first season MUST be answered by the end of the series.  Therefore, any show that deliberately raises multiple questions and messes with the heads of the audience with cliffhangers and outrageous revelations must answer in a satisfying way the mysteries that drew people to the show.”

I looked at how this rule was addressed, most-likely unconsciously, in Babylon 5, The X-Files and Battlestar Galactica.

After the series six premiere, Trevor Gensch from The Doctor Who Podcast made the statement that Steven Moffat is supposed to be writing Doctor Who, not LOST.  Indeed, this most-recent series has seen deliberately obscure and occasionally misleading questions.  The Silence turned out to be a play on words, being an actual race rather than the result of an event.  Steven Moffat is a careful plotter and has been with Doctor Who since the show returned, so in a way it is difficult to evaluate his “first season” questions.  Here is what I propose: Steven Moffat’s “first season” starts with Silence in The Library/Forest of the Dead, then continues with series five.  Thus, the questions become Who is River Song, what is The Silence, what caused The Cracks, and finally, why did The TARDIS explode.  We have been given partial answers to some of these questions.  We now know that River Song is Amy and Rory’s daughter, but we don’t know any significance apart from this.  Who is the “good man” she killed and is this the bad day she has coming?  What is the exact nature of her relationship with The Doctor?  Likewise, we now know that The Silence is an alien race, but we don’t know why they were on Earth and why they were manipulating humanity.  The cracks in the universe were caused by The TARDIS exploding, but we don’t know why The TARDIS exploded to begin with.  Thus, we are getting partial answers, and these lead to more questions.  At this point, it is hard to tell if Steven Moffat is slowly giving us pieces so the answers will make sense or if he is being deliberately obscure.  So, a question to any Doctor Who fans who are still reading . . . what do you think are the “season one” questions for the Moffat era?

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4 thoughts on “Doctor Who, Steven Moffat and “Season One” Questions

  1. I loved Lost when it first came on. That doesn’t mean I grew to hate Lost, but the ending wasn’t what I’d expect in a mainstream show. But the point is, I loved Lost because there was always something you were trying to figure out. Even when some of the questions were answered, there was always something else to figure out, or the one answer, just asked a few more questions.

    In Doctor Who, I have loved the feeling of having a mystery to solve. I really enjoyed all the speculations of who River Song might be. There were many crazy thoughts and suggestions, I know I had one of them.

    But Doctor Who isn’t Lost, and though I love having something to try and figure out, I don’t think Doctor Who should be structured like Lost, where every answer asks two more. I would rather enjoy if Doctor Who had a story arc for each series. Questions asked, questions answered. Maybe leaving a dangler for the following season. River Song being introduced was a dangler. She wasn’t a major plot point, but something thrown at us for later. Same thing about Jenny. Is Jenny a dangler for a future arc, or just a throw away character? Sometimes things need to be resolved quickly.

    1. I came to LOST in a way similar to you. I loved discussing the show with my wife and seeing how new pieces fit together. I don’t regret following the show and I think there were some amazing episodes along the way, but the ending didn’t resolve as many mysteries as I wanted, and some of the foundational questions (such as the reason why The Island was so mysterious) were never addressed in a concrete way. I came away from LOST with more theories than I had answers. This was a disappointment.

      I agree that I don’t want Doctor Who to fall into this trap. While I don’t think it hurts to have a period of the show go in this direction, I prefer DW to engage in straightforward storytelling, providing answers as we go but not stretching things out too long. With regard to arcs, I would prefer Doctor Who to have more in common with Babylon 5 than with LOST.

  2. I have to admit I already stopped watching Dr Who because of this – Moffat really ruined the spirit of the show by imposing this LOST-like structure… For me, it ruined the show completely. 😦
    Hopefully they’ll change the showrunner again in a year or two…

    1. As far as I know, Moffat is staying on at least through the 50th anniversary (2013). I go back and forth on his era. In general, I’m just hoping that in the end it will all hold together and that whoever follows him does something completely different. The show will need to move in a different direction after Moffat.

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