As I mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2 of this little series, recently Steven Moffat equaled and then surpassed his predecessor, Russell T. Davies, in terms of how many full length episodes of Doctor Who he had produced. As of Under the Lake, both men were in charge of exactly 60 episodes (full length ones, not counting minisodes, or charity specials, or special bonus scene scenes on the DVD’s, or whatever).
I decided to evaluate which one had done the better job, by comparing their work, episode by episode (Davies’ first episode vs. Moffat’s first episode, and so on). I admit I have a bit of a bias toward Moffat as a writer, but I’m trying to be as fair as I can in these evaluations. Also, I admit that some episodes I have not seen for a long time.
For the casual viewer who doesn’t have time to be aware of things like who is producing Doctor Who, Davies was in charge of the episodes during the Christopher Eccleston / David Tennant years, and Moffat has been in charge of the episodes from the Matt Smith / Peter Capaldi eras.
When I last left off this little endeavor, the score was close, with Moffat at 18 preferred episodes, and Davies at 12.
31. Gridlock vs. A Town Called Mercy
Another tough one. Gridlock’s biggest weakness is just that it’s silly. Russell T. Davies always seemed to create embarrassing futures, where humanity appeared to be as silly and absurd and loud and gaudy and unpleasant as one could imagine. That’s on display in Gridlock as much as it anywhere. A Town Called Mercy, on the other hand, is way more restrained and self-controlled, but ends up being a dull and boring instead. In the end, I think some of the better moments in Gridlock (such when everyone in the traffic jam have their daily moment of remembrance, or even the revelation about what happened to “upper” society) give it a win for me.
Winner: Davies (Gridlock)
32. Daleks in Manhattan vs. The Power of Three
The Power of Three, which tells the story of the “slow invasion” is a bit of an improvement over Season Seven’s previous few episodes, but still wasn’t the solid drama adventure that we’d like. However, it was far cry superior to Daleks in Manhattan, which was flat out abysmal.
Winner: Moffat (The Power of Three)
33. Evolution of the Daleks vs. The Angels Take Manhattan
Two Manhattan episodes go head to head! Evolution of the Daleks, like its predecessor, was terrible waste of airtime that succeeded against all odds at making the Daleks even more annoying than normal. The Angels Take Manhattan had the absurdity of revealing that the Statue of Liberty is a Weeping Angel (I mean, seriously, what?!), but aside from that told a creepy and touching story of Amy & Rory’s last battle alongside the Doctor, and featured a very touching farewell for the characters. “This is the story of Amelia Pond, and this is how it ends.”
Winner: Moffat (The Angels Take Manhattan)
34. The Lazarus Experiment vs. The Snowmen
The Snowmen was the best, to that point, Christmas episode that Moffat had produced, and did a great job tying the series into some of its classic roots with the Great Intelligence, while keeping the story completely updated. It also saw the return of Jenna Coleman to the series as another version of Clara, and kept us guessing as to what was going on with her. The Lazarus Experiment, on the other hand, was a forgettable piece of body horror which I mostly remember for helping to derail whatever potential Martha had as a character by solidifying the Doctor as her unrequited love.
Winner: Moffat (The Snowmen)
35. 42 vs. The Bells of St. John
I don’t remember 42 very well, but from what I recall it was an enjoyable little thriller featuring an interesting concept about a star lashing out at the crew of a space ship, told in real time. On the other hand, The Bells of St. John, in spite of a clever title, featured the return of the Great Intelligence and the introduction of Clara properly, but somehow wound up in spite of all of that being a bit thin and uninspired.
Winner: Davies (42)
36. Human Nature vs. The Rings of Akhaten
Some of these comparisons are challenging. This one is not. Human Nature, written by Paul Cornell, is the first half of one of the show’s greatest segments, and along with its conclusion features what may be David Tennant’s best performance in the whole series. The Rings of Akhaten, on the other hand, starts off well but ends up as a sentimental mess as we watch the Doctor defeat a sentient star by throwing a leaf at it.
Winner: Davies (Human Nature)
37. The Family of Blood vs. Cold War
The Family of Blood continues the greatness of its first half and presents us with one of the series’ most sympathetic and best developed guest characters in the form of Joan Redfern. Meanwhile, Cold is a bit of an improvement over the previous episode of the series and features the long-awaited return of the Ice Warriors and a guest appearance by David Warner, but is a bit tired feeling and doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.
Winner: Davies (The Family of Blood)
38. Blink vs. Hide
I kind of liked Hide and it’s sentimentally sweet love story between man and woman, as well as between monster and monster. But Blink…man, Blink. Maybe it’s lost some of its luster after having seen it and talked about it so much, but what Steven Moffat accomplished in the script of Blink is just phenomenal, and is well matched by the cast (Carey Mulligan!) and the other elements of the production.
Winner: Davies (Blink)
39. Utopia vs. Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
This is tough as I don’t remember either story all that well, but they both have left a fairly positive taste in my mouth. I liked some of the ideas in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, but I don’t think it actually won me over as much as it could have. Utopia, on the other hand, had Derek Jacobi as the Master, which was pretty amazing.
Winner: Davies (Utopia)
40. The Sound of the Drums vs. The Crimson Horror
The Crimson Horror had some good stuff in it, including Diana Rigg and her daughter. The Sound of the Drums is a bit vague in my mind but I think it contained the seeds of a pretty gripping confrontation with the Master, and in the end feels a bit of a weightier piece than its competition.
Winner: Davies (The Sound of the Drums)
41. Last of the Time Lords vs. Nightmare in Silver
Nightmare in Silver was a bit hit and miss for me, doing the Cybermen more justice than a lot of their other stories did, but overall being a bit bumpy in the storytelling. I did like the business of the Doctor facing off with his evil self, though. Last of the Time Lords, on the other hand seemed to throw away whatever good will The Sound of the Drums had earned with its CGI puppet Doctor locked in a cage for the whole story, and Martha leading the world to victory with the power of thinking good thoughts. I really disliked that story.
Winner: Moffat (Nightmare in Silver)
42. Voyage of the Damned vs. The Name of the Doctor
The Voyage of the Damned really doesn’t have a lot to recommend it, in my mind. It apes the whole disaster movie genre without really bringing anything new to the table, and features only the year’s second most interesting angel-themed villains. The high points of it were really the brief guest appearances by Geoffrey Palmer and Bernard Cribbins, as well as the novelty of featuring Kylie Minogue. The Name of the Doctor, for its part, suffers from some of the fits and starts that we’d seen the entire season, including a bit of an under-utilization of the Great Intelligence and an unsatisfying end to the River Song story (at least so far). However, it also featured that amazing business of Clara being integrated into the Doctor’s entire timeline, a brand new scene featuring the First Doctor and Susan, and an amazing twist on meaning of the story’s title. And also, it debuted John Hurt as the War Doctor, so you know, mind blown and all that.
Winner: Moffat (The Name of the Doctor)
43. Partners in Crime vs. The Day of the Doctor
The Day of the Doctor is not the best Doctor Who story ever, but it is by a long shot the show’s greatest anniversary celebration episode, and features a number of outstanding sequences and fan-pleasing moments, and effectively concluded the revival series’ most significant ongoing storyline and redirected the Doctor’s entire character toward the future. So yeah, it’s pretty darn good. Partners in Crime, by way of contrast, features squeaky cute fat monsters that pose a great danger to humans with superficial values. So yeah, it’s not going to win this little match up.
Now, to be fair to Partners in Crime, the episode also turns Donna from terrible character to a likeable one, which is no mean feet, and also features an effectively surprising appearance by Rose Tyler. But still, not enough to give it the win.
Winner: Moffat (The Day of the Doctor)
44. The Fires of Pompeii vs. The Time of the Doctor
Like many episodes from its era, I don’t have strong memories of The Fires of Pompeii, but what I recall is that ending where Donna convinces the Doctor to step outside of his box and save someone. It’s a powerful moment for Donna, which is only undermined by how overly-stylized the actual denouement turns out to be. But I really like The Time of the Doctor, even as I recognize it’s flaws. Clearly, Moffat left it a bit too late to satisfactorily explain all of the loose plot threads from Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor (or else he fully expected Smith to stick around one more year), but whatever weaknesses it has in terms of squishing in explanations are more than counterbalanced by the pathos of seeing the Doctor live out the last centuries of his life saving as many as he can in this one little town. And then the last five minutes, with Matt Smith’s farewell scene and his shockingly abrupt transformation into Peter Capaldi, are more than enough to be worth the price of admission.
Winner: Moffat (The Time of the Doctor)
45. Planet of the Ood vs. Deep Breath
I do not like the Ood. They are the Mary Sue’s of Russell T. Davies Doctor Who: the perfect noble race who sing music so beautiful it fills humans with tears and who understand the secrets of the universe like no other, but suffer under the cruel grip of others. Argh. I just don’t like them. So I’m not all that interested in their planet. I also really, actively disliked portions of Deep Breath. I thought the episode proved that the “Paternoster Gang” had well exceeded their use-by date, especially the annoying Madame Vastra and Jenny. And the ending battle is one of the worst directed / worst edited sequences I have seen in anything. But, this same episode also includes the outstanding sequences of the semi-crazed Doctor’s ramblings about his eyebrows in the alley, the gripping bit with the Doctor and Clara in the restaurant, and the beginnings of an awesome Clara confronting the half-faced man in his lair. So there are a lot of episodes Deep Breath would have lost against, but Planet of the Ood is not one of them.
Winner: Moffat (Deep Breath)
Russell T. Davies – 7
Steven Moffat – 8
And combining this with the results from last time, that gives us a running total of
Russell T. Davies – 19
Steven Moffat – 26
Moffat is looking more and more like a sure thing, which is not a big surprise knowing me, but I’m curious to see how this will all play out. I’m trying my best to not think about these comparisons before I actually write them. (Click through to have a look at the Final Part of the series).
Until next time…