Doctor Who Russel T Davies Era VS. Steven Moffat Era

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Doctor Who will be returning to our TV screens on September 19th, and I am beyond excited for it to return! I have been re-watching David Tennant episodes as well as Matt Smith episodes and I realized how different both eras of Doctor Who are, specifically the eras run by Russel T. Davies and Steven Moffat. Both eras of Doctor Who have their pros and cons and I thought I would talk about both!

*WARNING MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*

THE RUSSEL T. DAVIES ERA:

Doctor Who was revived back in March 2005 and was run by writer Russel T. Davies. Russel T. Davies remained the executive producer of Doctor Who until 2010.

Russel T. Davies wrote for two different actors, Christopher Eccleston who portrayed The Ninth Doctor and David Tennant, who portrayed The Tenth Doctor. I have divided each era into three categories: Characterization, Film Style and Visual Effects, and Plot and Story Arcs.

CHARACTERIZATION

Russel T. Davies’ era of Doctor Who was marked by the introduction of a new Doctor and the destruction of his home planet of Gallifrey. The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) is a guilt ridden character and hates himself for what he did to end The Time War, essentially committing genocide.

Russel T. Davies also gave the audience a nice perspective of what it would be like to meet a time travelling alien like The Doctor through the character of Rose Tyler (Billie Piper).

Davies’ era was also marked by the Doctor falling in love with Rose Tyler and them later becoming attached to the hip when he became The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant).

FILM STYLE AND VISUAL EFFECTS

One of the drawbacks of the Russel T. Davies era of Doctor Who was the style of filming. Davies’ style of filming makes any of the episodes between 2005-2010 look very dated. This style of filming adds to the campiness of Doctor Who.

Another drawback of the Russel T. Davies era was the choice of special effects, these also look dated when viewed now.

PLOT AND STORY ARCS

There were some bright spots during the Russel T. Davies era of Doctor Who though, for one thing Davies knew how to write great story arcs that usually had great payoffs. For example the way the mystery of Bad Wolf was handled and how it was revealed was incredible. Also the reveal of The Master in Series 3 was handled so well and I honestly did not see it coming! The prophecy that foretold The Tenth Doctor’s death was also very well done with the whole “four knocks.”

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Russel T. Davies understood the character of the Doctor, and how complex he is. He may appear sweet and fun on the outside, but underneath that he is a self-loathing and sad man who carries the guilt of destroying his home planet of Gallifrey. Also Davies understood how mysterious and legendary the Doctor is and just how amazing of a character he really is.

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THE STEVEN MOFFAT ERA:

Steven Moffat was a writer on Doctor Who during the years Russel T. Davies was executive producer of the show and has penned some of the best episodes of Doctor Who such as “Blink,” “The Girl in The Fireplace,” “Silence in The Library,” and “Forest of The Dead.”

When Russel T. Davies stepped down as executive producer of Doctor Who he made Steven Moffat his successor and in April 2010, the Fifth Series of Doctor Who run by Steven Moffat premiered, introducing a new Doctor (The Eleventh Doctor) portrayed by Matt Smith. He has written for two actors Matt Smith who portrayed The Eleventh Doctor and Peter Capaldi who is currently portraying The Twelfth Doctor. In addition Steven Moffat has written for John Hurt (who portrayed a forgotten regeneration of The Doctor in the Series 7 finale and The 50th Anniversary Special: The Day of The Doctor) and Paul McGann who portrayed The Eight Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie and also in The Big Finish audio dramas.

FILM STYLE AND VISUAL EFFECTS

Steven Moffat refreshed and renewed Doctor Who and the way he had the show filmed gave it this much more cinematic quality, almost as if you were watching a mini movie every week. Steven Moffat made it a point to improve the cinematography on the show and to improve the special effects which was clear from Matt Smith’s first season as The Doctor.

Steven Moffat also wrote one of the best introductory Doctor episodes in my opinion with “The Eleventh Hour,” which has one of the most bad-ass lines to establish the Doctor. “Hello. I’m the Doctor. Basically. Run.”

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CHARACTERIZATION

Steven Moffat introduced a very interesting Doctor (Matt Smith) who despite appearing to be young, was quite old and at times showed glimpses of his old age, his wisdom and the guilt he still carried from destroying Gallifrey.

Matt Smith really showed his amazing acting skills being able to act young, goofy, and silly one moment and then boom you could believe he was a 900 year old alien who had seen and done so much, good and bad. Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor was a very self-loathing character who used his silly, goofy and caring nature as a way to hide the pain and anguish he felt during his 1200 plus years of being alive.

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PLOT AND STORY ARCS

Steven Moffat like Russel T. Davies understands the character of the Doctor and what it is that makes The Doctor THE DOCTOR. Well basically, what it is that makes the Doctor tick. Some fans say that Moffat’s era is marked by convoluted story-lines and crazy story arcs that have no pay off. This is something I partly disagree with, yes Steven Moffat has some crazy story-lines at times, but not every season arc had zero payoff. Series 5 had a good payoff in my opinion, but it was Series 6 and 7 that suffered from too many plot-lines that were crammed into each season rather than focusing on one plot-line. Despite these lackluster seasons,  I thought Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor was written very well and had amazing character development throughout his time in the TARDIS.

His whole arc of “Silence will Fall when the question is asked. The oldest question in the universe. On the fields of Trenzalore on the fall of the Eleventh, when no creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked. A question that must never be answered, hidden in plain sight. Doctor Who? Doctor Who? Doctor Who?” was incredible in my opinion and despite The Eleventh Doctor’s slightly disappointing farewell episode, he had a very interesting story arc with a decent payoff.

Also Moffat made one of the best decisions in my opinion, which was bringing back Gallifrey in the 50th Anniversary Special “The Day of The Doctor!” The whole “No Sir, All Thirteen!” moment is one of the best scenes in all of Doctor Who, and no matter how you feel about Steven Moffat, you have to admit that was pretty genius! It was a very clever way of introducing a new Doctor without stealing the spot light from the incumbent Doctor which was Matt Smith at the time.

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Now with the new Doctor, Twelve (Peter Capaldi), Steven Moffat’s arc for him seems to center around the fact the Doctor (Capaldi) recognizes the face he chose and wants to know why he chose it. Supposedly this is going to tie into the previous characters who Capaldi has played in the Doctor Who universe, those being Caecilius in “The Fires of Pompeii” and John Frobisher in “Torchwood: Children of Earth.” I find this arc to be particularly interesting and hope the reveal is well worth the wait.

Overall I find the Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who to be more entertaining, with a better style of filming, and better special effects. The story arcs are also very intriguing and the current one concerning why the Twelfth Doctor chose his current face looks to be very promising!

What say you? Which era of Doctor Who do you prefer, Davies or Moffat? Do you agree/disagree with my points? Whatever your thoughts let me know!

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8 thoughts on “Doctor Who Russel T Davies Era VS. Steven Moffat Era

  1. I’m a fan of Russel T. Davis, even if his effects were crappier or the quality of filming was worse. I think ultimately he had a better vision of what he wanted to create. To be honest the show lost a bit of the magic for me when Moffat took over.

    You say Moffat did this great thing of bringing back Gallifrey, and I think it COULD have been good, however more than a season has gone by and he moved no where towards that plot…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand that and agree with your points. According to Peter Capaldi we are going to find out how The Twelfth Doctor showed up along with the other Doctors to help save Gallifrey! I think Moffat wanted to focus on introducing The Twelfth Doctor in Series 8, and now that’s over with we can progress the search for Gallifrey and why he chose his current face.

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  2. I once ranked all the Doctor Who seasons so far based on my individual rankings for each episode. They went: 4, 1, 5, 8, 6, 3, 7, 2. So generally Moffat’s series seem to be around the middle while Davies has two really good series and two relatively poor ones, which does indeed sum up my feelings. The Davies era produced some really fantastic episodes but the lows were pretty darn low, while Moffat largely maintains a steady middle course. If I had to choose, I would say I prefer Moffat: his style just appeals to me a bit more than Davies’s campiness.

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    • That’s exactly how I feel. People act like Russel T. Davies was perfect, but “Fear Her,” from Series 2 was one of the worst episodes of Doctor Who I have ever seen and that little girl was so annoying! Davies story arcs came together so well, especially Bad Wolf and Harold Saxon, but as you said the lows were pretty darn low.

      Steven Moffat is all about twists, especially shocking twists, but they work for the most part.

      The revelation of The Time Lords being the one asking the oldest question in the universe was a stroke of genius and made so much sense after the events of The Day of the Doctor!
      Speaking of The Day of the Doctor, most of that plot worked for me and the whole all 13 Doctors saving Gallifrey is one of the best moments in all of sci-fi in my opinion and was a very great way to tease the upcoming Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and made his Doctor something to look forward to!

      Thanks for the comment!

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