If you’ve never watched Doctor Who before, this Easter is the time to start. And not because of the event of a new actor playing the Doctor, but for the return of Steven Moffat – my favourite TV writer of 21 years – to our screens.
I myself only started watching Doctor Who for one reason, and that was Moffat (he wrote at least one episode a season since the show was revived in 2005).
It all started with Press Gang in 1989. Press Gang was Moffat‘s first ever writing job. The producer thought the pilot was the best ever first script she had ever read. It was a teen drama/comedy about a bunch of high-schoolers who ran a student newspaper. It also had the neat trick that the Office repeated years later that had a great love story boiling away in the background.
I could go on and on about Press Gang, and the slew of awards it won. But there was one really important point about Press Gang that informs all of Moffat‘s work ever since – it was SMART. Playing around with flashbacks, red herrings and plot twists, it confounded my expectations and got my 9 year old mind whirling – and it’s never stopped.
I bought the DVDs for Press Gang in my twenties, the only kids show I’ve ever bought on DVD. It’s amazing how much of it has stuck in my mind. Long joke pieces, amazing moments – and the characters. My boyhood crush on Lynda Day has led to a life long troubles with smart, bossy, feisty women.
At the time, I didn’t know the man behind the show was Steven Moffat. Turns out he wrote every single word of every single episode.
Moffat fell off my radar until the comedy Coupling (there were a couple of unsuccessful shows that were never shown in Australia). Relationships between men and women, sexual politics and failed encounters – expertly dissected with wit and typically mind bending plot twists (odd for a sit com yet never feels out of place).
It was my perfect show for those crazy early 20s. Again, every episode was written by Moffat. And it was around this time I made the connection between the two shows.
He’s always alluded to his love of Doctor Who and science fiction in his work, but has mainly worked in comedies and dramas set in our time, with largely ordinary people. He did write a Doctor Who sketch for Comic Relief one year, but he became the real thing when he wrote one of the most acclaimed episodes of the new series’ first year – The Empty Child. Then there’s Blink – largely regarded the single greatest episode ever – and there’s about 400 of them.
And now he’s taken over Doctor Who completely, and I’m so excited for him. It’s seeing the dreams come true for someone I’ve known for decades. And I’m so excited to see what he brings. The man never treads water. He’s always trying something new – even his failures fail on ideas, it never drifts into lazy writing.
I’ve learnt a lot from Moffat over the years. Being smart is the big one. Looking at things from every angle. And girls. So much about girls. His deep, deep obsession with sex, love and romance should readdress Russell T Davies‘s campness (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Moffat wrote other great shows (and has another one, a 21st century take on Sherlock Holmes, out this year, and the screenplay for Spielberg/Jackson’s Tintin movie). Everything is worth exploring, if you’re the TV exploring type.
If not, and you have one hour to spare, I suggest next weekend’s Doctor Who. A great writer will be let loose on prime time. With big crazy ideas for a big audience. It’s going to be something you’ll remember for at least 21 years.