16 July, 2010

By request

So here's the thing.

I first became familiar with the work of Steven Moffat late one night back in 2004. It would have been about 11:30pm; I was flipping through the channels during an ad break to see what else was on, and stopped on some British comedy programme. Less than a minute after I paused there, I found myself watching a beautiful blonde woman walk up to the counter of a science-fiction memorabilia store, smile at the guy behind it, and observed "isn't it exciting that they've found episode 2 of The Daleks' Master Plan?" (Ten seconds later, the guy behind the counter woke up from his dream.) But that scene made me take notice of the show. At the time the discovery of the previously-missing episode was still recent news, it had only taken place a couple of months earlier (we still hadn't actually seen it, since it wasn't released on DVD until the end of the year), so it was a surprise to me to see it referenced so soon. Whoever wrote this is clearly a Doctor Who fan.

So I stayed watching the show, which was called Coupling. It was certainly funny, and later in the week when I noticed a rerun of an older episode on UKTV, I turned it on. And it was that episode that turned me into a fan of the show. Literally half the episode revolved around a single scene where two characters try to have a conversation even though they speak different languages. The show presents the scene twice, once from each character's point of view. It was so perfectly written, the intricacies of the communication break-down and misunderstandings so carefully worked out, that I was genuinely impressed. As I watched the rest of the show's run, I discovered that it regularly broke free of the basic sitcom formats. Entire episodes were presented in split-screen, or chronologically took place before the previous episode, or contrasted drunken flashbacks against the reality, or replayed the same short period of time telling the stories of different characters in the bar. It's not so much that these are especially original ideas, but they're certainly not commonplace in the typical sitcom. Steven Moffat was clearly a talented writer who wasn't just content to write jokes, but was instead testing the boundaries of the sitcom format, trying to find something new to do with the form. And I liked that. It also helped that Moffat is a very very funny writer.

Meanwhile the revival of Doctor Who, under the control of lead writer Russell T Davies, was in production, and Moffat was announced as one of the show's writers.

Much spoiler-filled discussion of the last 5 1/2 years of Doctor Who (including detailed comments on the finale to the most recent series - Matt Smith's first) follows after the jump.