|Also Known As:|
|Occupation:||Screenwriter and producer, showrunner|
|Works:||Doctor Who, Sherlock (BBC), Jekyll, Coupling|
|Official Website(s):||Steven Moffat|
|On Fanlore:||Related pages|
Steven Moffat is a Scottish television writer for Doctor Who, showrunner/executive producer for the program for Series 5-10, and co-creator with Mark Gatiss of BBC's Sherlock. His other works have included Dracula (2020), Jekyll (2007), The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Coupling and Press Gang.
He's somewhat of a controversial figure in fandom, seemingly occupying contradictory labels in different spaces. In wider fandom, he's gained a reputation, whether accurate or not, of being a misogynist creating bigoted stories and plots. Simultaneously, he's also often tauted as a feminist writer by many of his fans, using his stories to question and deconstruct many of the sexist tropes present in media. These parts of fandom don't usually tend to dismiss the sexism allegations entirely, but instead argue that the reception to Moffat has become disproportionate compared to that of other white cis straight middle-aged men with similiar issues.
Moffat & the Fans
Apparently, fans either love or despise Moffat. Some of those who adore him seem to feel he can do no wrong while those who oppose him loathe everything he touches. Other fans of his have much more nuanced views on him, and many of his fans have done extensive metas and critiques of his ideas, episodes and arcs. There are also those who seem to have a love/hate relationship with him. Moffat is responsible for some of the most popular episodes of the show, both from the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who, as well as from his own era, such as Heaven Sent, and the extremely well-received 50th Anniversary special. He is likewise accused of sexism, queerbaiting, and writing in circles for both popular shows.
In 2016, when Moffat announced leaving Doctor Who after Series 10 (which will air in 2017) and would be replaced by "Broadchurch" writer and producer Chris Chibnall, many fans rejoiced. Others were much more reflective.
Many of his fans have appreciated his willingness to change. He mentioned a development in his methods on casting in an issue of DWM, and this was responded to by fans of the show:
“We decided that the new companion was going to be nonwhite, and that was an absolute decision, because we need to do better on that. We just have to.
I don’t mean that we’ve done terribly – our guest casts are among the most diverse on television, and that’s down to Andy being brilliant – but I feel as though I could have done better overall.“
The issue of diversity, both on and off screen, continues to dog the BBC and other UK broadcasters. Fifteen years after then-Director-General Greg Dyke called the BBC “hideously white”, there is clearly still a long way to go. In 2014, in a rallying speech to BAFTA, comedian, actor, writer, and presenter Lenny Henry described the representation of black, Asian, and ethnic minorities on British TV as “appalling”. He added: “Our most talented actors are getting increasingly frustrated and having to go to America to succeed.”
“I’d been listening to what Lenny had been saying,” Steven tells me, “and I think I had this baffling idea that if we just threw open each part to everybody, it would all work out in the end. I put my faith, inexplicably, in the free market. I don’t know why I of all people would do that! It doesn’t work. You can only cast for talent – you’ve got to cast the best person, every single time – but you’ve got to gauge where you’re looking for the talent.”
Doctor Who Magzine [sic], Issue 500
This is hugely important. Like, I cannot overstate how important it is that Steven Moffat is saying this.
As he mentions, Moffat’s had a bit of an evolution on his position about how to select actors for roles. He’s been very big on saying that you must hire the most talented actor for the role when asked about a woman or a POC playing the Doctor. It’s always been a bit of a deflection, because of course you should always hire a talented actor, and no one’s suggested otherwise. But as a lot of people have said, you should also be more deliberate about casting women and POC for roles if you want to improve representation on-screen.
And he listened. And he changed his approach.
So thank you, Steven Moffat. Thank you for deciding to cast a WOC for the role of Bill. Thank you for hiring Pearl Mackie. And thank you, THANK YOU for saying that the industry needs to be deliberate about how they cast roles.
Meta & Analyses
Moffat's writing has been extensively analysed by his fans.
- Tumblr post on how Moffat approaches death in his Who stories - by haruspis (link to reblog)
Moffat's inability to write female characters is still debated extremely strongly. The term Moffat Women is sometimes used as a shorthand when describing or discussing his depiction of female characters. While he has said some questionable things about women and what women want, the relative quality of his female characters as compared to Davies' could be argued either way. Some fans see Amy Pond as a strong, decisive character while others feel she is a victim with no agency. This is probably not a debate with any resolution.
In 2014 a media study was conducted by a group of students with the intent to examine the differences between Davies' and Moffat's writing. It applied the Bechdel–Wallace test to female companions from Davies' and Moffat's eras (Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble, Amy Pond, and River Song) and compared the differences between the two. It also measured the companions' overall speaking time, the speaking time of any female characters in general, and the number of female speaking roles for either era up to that point. According to the study, Moffat's characters passed the Bechdel–Wallace test far less often, his female companions had overall less speaking time and the speaking time of any of his female characters as well as the number of female roles were significantly lower compared to Davies' era. However, despite being deemed credible enough to be quoted by the press and earning second place in Brigham Young University-Idaho's Research and Creative Works Conference, the study came under intense criticism and scrutiny by fans of Moffat's work. In response, one of the authors of the study admitted that the Bechdel–Wallace test may have its own set of flaws and limitations, but maintained that the study is still significant enough to provide a solid starting point for discussion.
Moffat had a habit of writing lesbian characters who would then interact romantically with men. Irene Adler in Sherlock was specifically made a lesbian for the adaptation only to declare her romantic interest in Holmes, and one Doctor Who story featured a pair of lesbian wives only for the Doctor to kiss one of them. This last point is often attributed largely to Moffat, despite the episode in question - The Crimson Horror - having been written by Mark Gatiss.
- 'Doctor Who' show-runner Steven Moffat leaving in 2017. Cnet.com. January 23, 2016.
- Response (May 2016) - whovianfeminism
- 10 Sexist Steven Moffat Quotes
- "Alison Bechdel Would Like You to Call It the 'Bechdel–Wallace Test,' ThankYouVeryMuch" on The Mary Sue 25 August 2015. (Accessed 30 October 2018)
- "Has Doctor Who become more sexist?" on The Guardian 30 May 2014. (Accessed 30 October 2018)
- "Rebecca Moore’s Doctor Who Study is Dishonest" on tumblr.com 3 June 2014 (Accessed 30 October 2018)
- "University Study on Sexism in BBC’S Doctor Who (Infographic)" on Wordpress 29 May 2014 (Accessed 30 October 2018)