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Creator / Steven Moffat

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"There's something really cool about scaring children. Traumatize a generation, that's what it's all about."
Steven Moffat

Steven William Moffat, OBE, (born 18 November 1961) is a Scottish award-winning writer and executive producer known for his work on Press Gang, Coupling, Jekyll, Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Dracula.

Initially becoming involved with Doctor Who writing the 1996 Doctor Who Expanded Universe short story "Continuity Errors" and later the 1999 parody episode Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, he has gone on to be one of the most critically hailed writers involved in the franchise. In 1999, he was one of the writers asked to contribute for Big Finish Doctor Who, but dropped out because he was only interested in writing for Eighth Doctor Paul McGann— who, at that point, hadn't signed for Big Finish yet. Moffat has since written a short story for one of Big Finish's Bernice Summerfield anthologies as well as a BBC-produced short episode in 2013, "The Night of the Doctor", which starred McGann as the Eighth Doctor.

His credits for the TV series proper include the Hugo Award-winning episodes "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances", "The Girl in the Fireplace", "Blink" (also won a BAFTA) and "The Pandorica Opens"/"The Big Bang". His two-parter "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" was nominated as well, only to lose out to Joss Whedon's surprise hit Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

In 2010, he eventually replaced Russell T. Davies as the head writer and executive producer of Doctor Who, starting with Matt Smith's first scene at the end of the 2009/2010 story "The End of Time" and ending with the final Peter Capaldi story, 2017's "Twice Upon a Time", which the next head writer Chris Chibnall wrote the first scene for Capaldi's successor Jodie Whittaker. Interestingly, Moffat ended up being the first straight creative director for the series since producer Graham Williams stepped down in 1980, thirty years prior; Williams' successor John Nathan-Turner (who produced the show during the final decade of the classic series) and Moffat's predecessor Davies (who was the head writer during the first five years of the revival series) were both openly gay.

Moffat is unabashedly One of Us and loves shipping. Upon becoming executive producer of Doctor Who, he mentioned that he'd applied for the job once before, but "The BBC already had someone else in mind...also, I was seven at the time". As such, he is fonder than even his predecessor of Continuity Nods to the classic series, sometimes reaching the level of Continuity Porn. Chibnall, by comparison, would dial much of this back once he took over Moffat's position, with his tenure being something of a combination of the newcomer-friendliness of Davies' tenure and the socially conscious themes of the classic series's final two seasons.

Frequently throws out red herrings to the spoiler-loving press, calling it "by far the best way of communicating". He also unabashedly and gleefully lies, teases, and generally drives the fanbases of his shows insane. For instance, he kept the fact that his massively-popular show Sherlock was already commissioned for a third series a year earlier until after the final episode of series 2 aired with a shocking ending, even for those familiar with Holmes lore.

He's known to prefer Timey-Wimey explanations to Techno Babble, gleefully uses Stable Time Loop and Temporal Paradox plots, and plays the Long Game when it comes to dramatic tension: he intentionally planted seeds in Doctor Who back in 2006 that didn't begin to get resolved until the 2013 series finale.note  He's also fond of esoteric plotting and going beyond the traditional boundaries of the franchise and television as a whole.

In fact, he has written more TV Doctor Who than any other writer, including the late Robert Holmes; like Holmes, many of Moffat's stories were responsible for introducing significant and sometimes controversial character and lore elements to the show that would have a major impact on its direction in the years ahead, for better or for worse.

Born in 1961 in Paisley, Scotland (hometown of Doctor Who star David Tennant) and a former teacher.

In 2015, he was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to drama just like Russell T. Davies before him.

He may be an Evil Overlord. We're not sure and, for his part, he's stayed numb on the matter. We do know he has an evil lair in a volcano, at least.

Selected filmography:

Trope Namer for:

His writing provides examples of:

  • Author Appeal: There's a lot of Scottish floating around Who since he took over. Between the Scottish Amy Pond, the Scottish-sounding Twelfth Doctor, and subtle references about Scotland in various forms (Strax's favourite hobby is regular bar fights in Glasgow, Amy chalking up her temper in "Asylum of the Daleks" to being Scottish) he seemed to do to Scotland what Russell T Davies did to Wales during his tenure.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: In his run, this often applies to the Doctors (which is par for the course at this point in the show) and the monsters (which is much less so.) Eleven is almost always wearing high-class, old-fashioned clothing, and Twelve frequently does as well (particularly early on in his era), in contrast to the more down-to-earth clothing of their two predecessors. His villains and monsters, such as the Clockwork Droids, the Silence, Walter Simeon and the Whisper Men, and Missy, also wear ornate clothing.
  • Better by a Different Name: Chalk was blatantly just Fawlty Towers set in a comprehensive school like the one Moffat taught at, with David Bamber as an incompetent, insufferable, officious headmaster trying to keep the school running smoothly while the universe screws him over at every turn. In an interview, Moffat elaborated on its less than stellar reception compared to the original: "The best joke in Chalk isn't actually in Chalk. It was an absolutely withering, destructive, soul-clenchingly bad review - even among the reviews of Chalk this was bad. It did the great kindness of comparing my work to John Cleese's, actually beat for beat why I was so terrible, which was awful. But it had the best headline ever for a bad review - Chalk and Cleese. That's superb, funnier than anything I wrote in Chalk."note 
  • The Blank: Monsters that are missing all, or at least most, facial features keep cropping up in his episodes and during his showrunner years. The Silents have only eyes (until they go into "attack mode" and open their hidden mouths). The Whisper Men only have mouths. Underneath their masks the Clockwork Droids have human-shaped heads but only gears and mechanical parts, no faces, and the Handbots have simple white, featureless heads, and use their hands to sense (Amy even draws a face onto one!)
  • Canon Welding: Moffat was a big part of the push to erase the imaginary line between the new series and the old one. According to producers at Big Finish, Steven was in charge of the push to bring revival-era monsters and characters to the main BF series. Up until 2015, Big Finish were not allowed to use characters from the 2005 revival series, but thanks to Moffat (and Russell T. Davies) Big Finish can now have modern monsters meet early Doctors, and the New Series novel line can use classic supporting and spin-off characters, so the Eighth Doctor can meet the Weeping Angels and the Twelfth team up with Benny Summerfield.
  • Crack Fic: He likes to indulge in really silly stories in the Doctor Who Magazine Q&A section. Highlights include a comedy bit about the Silence, an encounter between Amy and the Twelfth Doctor ("You've managed to lose that accent") and a very out-there Delgado Master/Gomez Master ship-ficlet. None of which are meant to be taken as Word of God, of course.
  • Creator Backlash:
    • He regards "The Beast Below" as his least favourite episode he wrote, calling it a bit of a mess. A lot of the fandom agree with him, this episode being widely considered the worst of Series 5.
    • He doesn't have high thoughts on Series 7.
    "I didn't enjoy my third year as much. It was a bit miserable... The workload was just insane. I wasn't coping as well. No-one else’s fault, all mine. The 50th was looming, and I didn’t know if we could make it work. It was a tough, tough time. My darkest hour on Who was that."
    • He also feels the opening episode to Series 9 wasn't original enough.
    • He also had regrets over not being able to properly revise Series 10's "The Pyramid at the End of the World", which was criticized for its plot and extremely contrived Cliffhanger. (It also led into the least-popular episode of the season, "The Lie of the Land", a Toby Whithouse script.) He was preoccupied with getting "Extremis" in shooting shape and, sadly, the terminal illness of his mother, so he couldn't revise "Pyramid" with co-writer Peter Harness (who was initially Misblamed for its failings).
  • Creator Breakdown: Both Press Gang and Joking Apart contain some incredibly bitter dark comedy regarding his attempt to deal with his divorce.
  • Creator Couple: His wife, Sue Vertue, has co-produced several of his shows, including Coupling and Sherlock.
  • Creator Thumbprint:
    • Only "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances", and "The Beast Below" don't involve the Timey-Wimey Ball in some way, and of those, only "The Beast Below" doesn't have time travel integral to the plot (as opposed to just landing the TARDIS there).
    • He seems to like using Clarke's Third Law as a plot device: apparently supernatural and bizarre (and terrifying) events are eventually explained as the result of malfunctioning advanced technology in a more primitive setting. This is used in "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances", "The Girl in the Fireplace", "Day of the Moon", and "Deep Breath".
    • Themes of love and hope are a cornerstone of Moffat's stories, especially with his finales. Bonus points if this involves the Doctor and his companion. Phones seem to be one of his things. They tend to be featured prominently and as integral plot devices.
    • Both Sherlock's "A Study In Pink" and Doctor Who's "The Eleventh Hour" feature mobile smart phones as plot devices.
    • "The Impossible Astronaut" also has phones as plot devices, both mobile and land-line.
    • The Empty Child from the episode of the same name is fond of placing unearthly calls, even to the TARDIS's fake phone.
    • "The Beast Below"'s cliffhanger involves a phone call, and "The Pandorica Opens" is kicked into gear by a phone call as well.
    • "The Day of the Doctor" has the Doctor answer the fake phone, followed by a nice aerial trip over London outside the TARDIS.
    • "The Time of the Doctor": "Urgent: action required. You must patch the telephone device back through the console unit."
    • The titular "Bells of St. John" is the phone on the TARDIS.
    • Jekyll uses the protagonist's mobile phone as a clever communicator "device" between two sides of the character's personality.
    • Coupling has several episodes based around misunderstandings with phones.
    • Likewise with Press Gang.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: This was hinted at with The Curse of Fatal Death. Both Matt Smith's Doctor Who and Sherlock are defiantly "anti-myth", as it were. Sherlock is a self-aggrandizing genius who gets a taste of his own medicine in "The Reichenbach Fall", when every character he has insulted throughout the series conspire to ruin his reputation and drive him to apparent suicide. The Doctor is a bit friendlier, but makes no bones about being a "mass-murdering psychopath" who often dooms people by offering them an escape from real life. The overall message seems to be that there are no clean "heroes" and that myths are dangerous, though Moffat concedes the childlike wonderment of myths.
  • Dem Bones: Skeletons and skulls show up in a few many stories by him. The Vashta Nerada strip their victims to the bone and then walk their skeletons around in their spacesuits. A couple different stories by him have revealed Cybermen to have human skeletons underneath their metallic casing. When the Doctor goes to visit the preserved head of Dorium Maldavar, the Seventh Transept is full of vicious, biting skulls. And in the web short The Last Day, the Time Lord POV character has a brief vision of himself as nothing but a skull in his helmet (possibly a reference to the Vashta Nerada).
  • Disowned Adaptation: He didn't care for the American remake of Coupling, blaming it on NBC's interference.
  • Eagle Land: Harsh flavour in Jekyll and Sherlock; mixed flavour in Doctor Who.
  • Everybody Lives: The Ninth Doctor might have coined the phrase but Moffat practically shouts this at the end of every episode. Unlike Davies who is very keen on death, he can't bear to lose even a single character. He even brought back Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) and the fake Osgood.
  • Fan Community Nicknames: His fans have taken to calling themselves "Moffat Masochists" with good reason.
  • Free-Love Future: Installed in "The Empty Child" and confirmed at every opportunity. Moffat's vision of the future is one in which everyone is free to love/screw whom they like, regardless of gender.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Any male character (except the Doctor and Sherlock) will become near-comatose at even the mention of lesbianism. Oddly enough, this includes his version of John Watson, whose sister is a lesbian.
  • Line to God: Long before social media really took off, he had an account on Outpost Gallifrey, which is the source of his epilogue to Coupling which can be seen on that work's Trivia tab. He continued to use it whilst working as a freelance writer for Doctor Who (amongst other things, confirming the "windows are the wrong size" line in "Blink" was a deliberate in-joke) but stopped using it the moment he was announced as the new showrunner.
  • Lying Creator:
    • Rule Zero: Moffat Lies (after the well-known "Rule One: The Doctor lies"). Self-admitted; in an interview on about the fiftieth anniversary special, he said, "Normally I am responsible for the disinformation and the rubbish rumours—I usually put them out myself, but I haven't needed to for this one." (And he was lying about this too; he was personally responsible for some of the misinformation about the fiftieth).
    • It happened again with "The Abominable Bride". He'd flat-out stated it was a Victorian "alternate universe" setting that had nothing to do with the main series' continuity. The Victorian part turned out to be accurate, but the Mind Screwy ending showed either that the entire Victorian storyline was a drug-induced hallucination of modern-day Sherlock's, or that the entire modern-day series is a drug-induced hallucination of Victorian Sherlock's. Intriguingly, the episode could support either interpretation. In any case, the episode is a direct sequel to the series 3 finale, "His Last Vow", and the end of that episode becomes a plot point for the special.
  • Mythology Gag: Clara, played by Jenna Coleman and the first new companion to appear after Elisabeth Sladen's 2011 death, may have been named after Elisabeth Clara Heath Sladen. Considering he named the next character and her almost-girlfriend Bill and Heather it starts to look a lot less like coincidence.
  • Noodle Incident: Episodes often begin with these and casual lines are often tossed in. These are often used for humour and to effect a zanier mood.
  • Official Fan-Submitted Content: Aside from the typical contests from the likes of Blue Peter that surround Doctor Who, there has been some unofficial fan content. Fans will occasionally ask him a question at a convention or on Twitter, and he'll express some genuine interest in trying to put the answer into the show. He's said he tried to work in an explanation to a question about Weeping Angels and mirrors, but it was cut (although "The Time of The Doctor" does have a brief reference to the idea that the concept works). Similarly, a fan asked if a pregnant Time Lady's unborn baby would regenerate if she has to regenerate, and it really seemed to pique his interest. He's also taken the opportunity to canonize some of his own personal fan theories, like the idea that the word "doctor" came to mean "healer" in the English language because of the Doctor's interventions throughout Earth's history.
  • Old Shame:
    • He's quite embarrassed by his sitcom Chalk. In one interview, he refused to even name it for fear of getting attacked in the street.
    • He really regrets some infamous comments made about classic Doctor Who in 1995 during a roundtable discussion with Paul Cornell and others.
    I'm vile. Full of myself. Pompous, and dismissing all the writers of the old show as lazy hacks. Dear God, I blush, I cringe, I creep. I walked out of the interview high on my own genius, and wrote Chalk, one of the most loathed and derided sitcoms in the history of the form. The thing about life is, you can always rely on it to administer a good slap when required.
  • Promoted Fanboy: There's a reason he's quote at the top of that particular page. In fact, he appeared on TV once to discuss the show's failings at the time from a fanboy perspective. He later wrote short stories for the officially licensed Doctor Who Virgin Books line, and in 1999 wrote the Comic Relief spoof Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death.
    "My entire career has been a secret plan to get this job. I applied before but I got knocked back because the BBC wanted someone else. Also, I was seven."
  • Screw Yourself: A bit of a running gag in Doctor Who, combined with time travel. It's used sparingly, but pops up in "Space"/"Time" and some other stories. The Screw Yourself trope is, of course, not used explicitly, since Doctor Who is a family show, but he did once write a Master-on-Master Crack Fic as a joke—in which the Delgado and Gomez incarnations ended up bangin'.
  • Self-Adaptation;
    • He wrote the Doctor Who episode, Blink based on his short story, 'What I Did on My Summer Holidays' by Sally Sparrow.
    • His only book is the novelization to the Doctor Who episode The Day Of The Doctor that he wrote.
  • Signature Style:
    • Most of his episodes are more psychologically scary, leaving you cowering behind the couch despite a body count of zero. He tends to invoke the Uncanny Valley quite often. His monsters involve masks (Clockwork Men, Empty Child) and statues/mannequins (Weeping Angels, Smilers).
    • Also has a tendency to make the most innocuous things absolutely terrifying, like the voice of a child asking for his mother, clock ticks, statues, shadows, birdsong, mirrors, a crack in the wall...and now, after making almost everything else scary, he makes silence itself terrifying. He wants to leave his audience with no place to hide.
    • He's also mentioned Florida several times in a really short time frame. In "The Big Bang", the Doctor and Amy visit "Space Florida". "The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon" are partially set in and around Cape Kennedy.
    • Scary spacesuits have also shown up in at least two different stories.
    • And lots of Buffy Speak. Lots.
    • Moffat's stories tend to be about time travel in some way rather than just using time travel as a plot device.
    • As mentioned above, he doesn't like Technobabble, and tends to try and subvert it when possible.
      • In "A Christmas Carol" when the Doctor's trying to explain why the flying fish like Abigail's singing, he begins to talk about stimulating ice crystals, during which a fish bites him. ("Look, the fish like singing, now shut up!")
      • In "The Doctor's Wife" (written by Neil Gaiman but with finishing touches by Moffat), when the Doctor tries to explain why he can't put the TARDIS matrix in another human body, the TARDIS itself begins to spark almost spitefully (Rory's fault, but it was timed way too well), so the Doctor gives up and says "All right, yes, it's spacey-wacey."
    • Since his current job involves Time Travel, and all the confusion that naturally occurs, he's developed a tendency to have characters change their names, often giving them a "Young Name" and an "Old Name". This happened with Amelia Pond/Amy Pond, and with Melody Pond/Mels/River Song, and again with Rupert/Danny Pink. In fact, it goes back to "The Girl in the Fireplace", with Reinette/Madame du Pompadour.
    • While a lot of these aren't specifically written by Moffat, as producer he's had some say in them (approval, etc.) That being said, there have been a lot of Amy Pond doubles floating around. Let's count: Time-Shifted Amy/Amelia ("The Big Bang"), Time-Slipped Amy ('Space', 'Time', "The Girl Who Waited"), Teselecta Amy ("Let's Kill Hitler"), and, of course, Flesh Ganger Amy ("The Almost People"). Let's hope Karen Gillan gets time and a half for all the Acting for Two she did.
    • Furthermore, this tendency also shows in his decision to turn the fifty-year-long question of the Doctor's real name into a major plot point in Series 6, that there's a Dark Secret behind why the Doctor purposely conceals his true identity, and that he chose to adopt the name "The Doctor" because he considers it to be a promise.
    • Most things he's written will have a "Jeff" and/or a "Sally" appear at some point.
    • Author Avatars of Moffat appear throughout his works. Joking Apart was based on Moffat's early life as Anti-Sherlock, a sort of fratboy Machiavelli whose schemes never quite take off; Coupling was a rather merciless depiction of his own marriage (with his wife's consent, of course). The Doctor and Sherlock channel his voice quite often, as well.
    • Continuing the "Florida" theme, in the Sherlock episode "A Study in Pink", Mrs. Hudson's husband was arrested in Florida.
    • He seems to really love the Butt-Monkey and The Chew Toy, and always makes sure one character has almost everything seemingly possible go wrong in their lives. Jeff Murdock, Rory Williams, Molly Hooper...he seems to always like having one character to use as a punching bag.
    • Has a fondness for not-so-subtle Audience Surrogates and metatexual references to the popularity of Doctor Who and Sherlock. Also enjoys lampshading the fact that his superheroes are going to win, no matter what; thus, the story becomes more about the journey than the destination.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: In a few interviews, he has said that he considers Sherlock to be this to his tenure on Doctor Who, with his take on Sherlock Holmes essentially a dark Foil of the Doctor. Doctor Who is about an long-lived alien time traveller's relationships with his beloved mostly-human friends who keep him "down to Earth", whereas Sherlock is about a human detective who shuns emotions and friendly relationships. Where the Doctor is an alien being who's afraid of losing touch with his "human" side, Sherlock Holmes is an ordinary human who wants to prove to the world that he's something better than human, or, as Steven himself put it, "The Doctor is an angel who wants to be human; Sherlock is a human who wants to be a god."

    Tonally, they're also complete inversions of one another: Doctor Who is a whimsical, light-hearted science-fiction series that's known for its dark undertones, and Sherlock is a gritty crime saga that's known for its whimsical undertones.
  • Teasing Creator: He routinely and openly admits to lying about his shows, encourages preview guests to give out fake spoilers, and is generally good at gleefully trolling the fandoms. He also encourages fans to speculate on their own because if they have a good idea it makes his job much easier.
  • Trolling Creator:
    • He seems to enjoy inflicting the Comedic Sociopathy version of this on his characters and his fans. In fact, in Twitter posts he even admitted he took sadistic pleasure in making Rory The Chew Toy. And then there's the massive Ship Tease Red Herring in series 6, involving the Doctor, Amy, Rory, River, the TARDIS, a baby, and one hell of a Timey-Wimey Ball.
    • Realizing that River Song is a polarizing to some fans, he and Neil Gaiman gleefully announced an episode titled "The Doctor's Wife". The section of the fandom that didn't like River went berserk... and River did not appear in the episode. And then he married them at the end of the series.
    • He also loves to straight-up lie about his plans for the show. Reached epic heights with the 50th anniversary, which he claimed would feature no classic Doctors, did not involve Tom Baker in any way, wouldn't provide any peeks at Peter Capaldi's upcoming incarnation of the Doctor, and wouldn't really involve much if any of the show's canon from before 2005. The climax of the episode was a scene of every single Doctor, even Capaldi, working together to save the Time Lords and Gallifrey, thereby restoring one of the biggest parts of Classic Who's canon that the new series changed, followed by a heartwarming cameo by Tom Baker. Well played.
    • He's also fandom-savvy enough (he's been at it long enough, after all) to know exactly the right things to say and do to whip his detractors up into a lather, which he does with some regularity. Predicting what he'll be bashed for this week makes for an entertaining spectator sport.