Mything the Point
What’s the difference between RTD and Moffat?
RTD, for all that he’s an atheist, has a fundamentally religious view. I mean that, while he may not have any belief in an actual god, his basic outlook on life (at least as it finds expression in his writing) is religious in tone and is informed by religious mythology. RTD can’t think about concepts like ‘the end of the world’, or ’saving the world’, or ‘regenerating’, or any of this stuff (all very much the bread and butter of pulp fantasy fiction, which is all Who is really) without connecting it, maybe subconsciously, to religious concepts and stories. (Well, he can, but for the purposes of this theory, I’m going to pretend that he can’t. So there.)
‘Bad Wolf’/’Parting of the Ways’, ‘Gridlock’, ‘Voyage of the Damned’, ‘Sound of Drums’/’Last of the Time Lords’ and the other season finales… they’re all soaked in religious language and imagery, in Christian symbolism. And the theme of fiery judgement is never far away, nor is the idea of someone sacrificing themselves to redeem the world. Isn’t ‘The Ark in Space‘ supposedly his favourite classic story? No wonder.
I might also mention the fact that his most Whoish work prior to Who (much more Whoish than either of those kids’ fantasy serials he wrote) was about the second coming of Christ. This isn’t unusual. Douglas Adams was another atheist sci-fi writer obsessed with religion. H.G. Wells, Olaf Stapleton, Arthur C. Clarke… in fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a half-decent sci-fi author who doesn’t spend a large amount of his time thinking and writing about religion in one form or another.
Moffat, on the other hand, has no such underlying religious conception. He plays with these concepts on a technical level. He’s much more interested in playing around with plot for its own sake, twisting it around like origami. But there are some problems with this.
Firstly, he doesn’t tune into the mythological/religious basis of science-fiction (which is a reiteration of mythology in the secular age of technology). Secondly, he seems to lack any real interest in evil… which is problematic because Doctor Who, like religion (and, incidentally, like Shakespeare), is absolutely obsessed with evil (and not always in a simplistic way). You might be tempted to bring up Jekyll now… but I’ll remind you that, in Moffat’s conception, even Mr Hyde turns out to be an expression of the fierceness and danger inherent in love.
Consequently, his stories tend to be about malfunctions. They’re about things going wrong, usually technology. Nanogenes, automatic repair systems on spaceships, etc… but also chronology (any supposedly linear, predictable system, really)… and, when dealing with chronology, he can use that as a way of playing around with plot for its own sake.
The problem with playing around with plot for its own sake is that you tend to tie yourself into narrative knots that are very hard to cut through while retaining dramatic values.…