Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Why Moffat is so much better on Sherlock than on Dr. Who

Steven Moffat wrote some of the best episodes of the modern Dr. Who.  He is responsible for "Blink" and "Silence in the Library," as well as many other great hours of sci-fi storytelling.  After a while, however, Moffat's narrative games began to seem strained.  It is clear that Moffat does not care about many of the Who characters qua characters.  Amy Pond started as a neat character, but she ended up a narrative double-back.  The same can be said for River Song (and Rory).  And the contemporary companion is not even a character; she is a riddle.  I almost always hate narrative as a puzzle.  (Before people start complaining: I never viewed Lost as a puzzle.  And that is probably partly why I had no issue with the end of Lost, even if I thought the quality overall dropped in the last two seasons of the show.)  Dr. Who always has "puzzle" elements, but it is always solved by timey-wimey stuff.  It never matters if someone dies or is hurt, because it was all solvable via, well, time-magic. This works fine for me if there are character stakes. (Hell, I do love Whedon and Abrams.)   But I need to care about the characters. When I stop caring, I stop, well, caring.  This is where I am with Moffat's Dr. Who.  I don't care.

Now, Sherlock is another story. A "puzzle" is kind of built into the nature of Sherlock's adventures.  This might be why Moffat's work on Sherlock is more compelling than his work on Dr. Who.  Holmes and Watson still have good chemistry, and the puzzle actually reveals a lot about Holmes' character.  I am excited that good old Benedict is back, even though he and Freeman are legitimate movie-stars now. Whereas I dread the return of Dr. Who, I look forward to Sherlock.  Let's see what Moffat and company can do.

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