I Read The Leaked Doctor Who Scripts: A Spoiler-Lite Look At Whether This Show Is Getting Less Sexist and Less Stupid

If you’re a Doctor Who fan (and even if you aren’t, because fucking Doctor Who fans), you might be aware that the scripts for the first five episodes of the next season (or series, if you’re English) have leaked. This is a bigger deal than it usually is, because the next season is extra highly-anticipated for being the first that will star Peter Capaldi as the new, twelfth Doctor. If you have no idea what I’m talking about by this point, this post probably isn’t for you.

Even if you do know what I’m talking about, this post might still not be for you. Because I read the leaked script of the first episode, and I’d like to talk about it quite frankly. Usually I’m a very anti-spoiler sort of person. I hate ruining surprises for myself, and I like the anticipation. So why did I break this habit and read the leaked scripts ahead of time?

Because, as of late, Doctor Who has been garbage.

I’m one of the few people who actually liked the sixth season, and I will still defend it to this day. But I quickly stopped caring during the seventh season. Quite a lot happened during the seventh season. Story-wise, the eleventh Doctor’s long-term companions Amy and Rory were written out halfway through the season, and replaced with the blander, yet identical, Clara Oswald. Behind the scenes, head writer Steven Moffat continued his power-crazy dive into utter wank. Buoyed by the success of his earlier work with Doctor Who and the smash hit Sherlock (which was also completely ruined in its most recent season), Moffat seemed to get full of himself. Plots became more and more complicated and eventually stopped even remotely making any logical sense.

Much, much worse, Doctor Who got more and more sexist and became a sad male power fantasy. Every single female character, without fail, was a spunky, sexy, snarky woman mindlessly doting over the Doctor, who developed a tendency to brood over his repressed feelings in self-imposed isolation. The types got old fast, and by the time we got to the Eleventh Doctor’s final episode, we had an episode that changed its narrative every ten minutes and stuck the Doctor on a random planet in self-imposed isolation for centuries to showcase the great, unparalleled capacity of male sadness.

It was, as I somewhat colorfully described the episode to a friend, the televisual equivalent of Steven Moffat jizzing into a cup.

While the BBC has been freaking out over the leaked scripts, begging fans not to spoil the new episodes for themselves or for other fans, I immediately sought them out to see if they would confirm my fears that the show would remain this clusterfuck of nonsensical storytelling and misogynist drivel. I mean, hey, I’d rather waste half an hour reading something shitty on the internet than watch a full hour-plus episode of it. So I read it. And now I have thoughts. And that being said…

This Post Contains Spoilers

Spoilers about this!
Spoilers about this!

I’ll do my best to keep spoilers to a minimum and only discuss matters concerning my criticisms as described above, but if you do not want to learn details about the upcoming Doctor Who episodes, do not continue reading. Because we’re going to talk about this:

I could write a whole other essay on how much I hate River Song.
I could write a whole other essay on how much I hate River Song.

And this:

If reading the episode title has already made you feel guilty/upset, you should probably not read this post.
If reading the episode title has already made you feel guilty/upset, you should probably not read this post.

Seriously, It’s Spoiler-Town After This Point

Everyone here still sure they want to do this? Sweet. Let’s go.

Is The Story So Complicated That It Stops Making Logical Sense?

So this is just based on the first episode, and it’s not like Moffat can’t still pull out a single good episode from time to time (thank god the 50th anniversary episode was watchable), but IT MADE SENSE. Let’s compare:

Plot of Eleventh Doctor’s Last Episode

  1. The Doctor is going to Clara’s for Christmas (why not)
  2. The Doctor is investigating a planet surrounded by warships
  3. The Doctor goes to a… space warrior church?
  4. The Doctor defends a town where it is Christmas every day (why not) for actual centuries
  5. This also happens because the entire Time Lord race which was placed in a pocket universe for safe keeping in a previous episode is coming back on the Christmas planet surrounded by every Doctor Who monster ever and also the space warrior church which I guess is still doing something?
  6. The Doctor accepts the stalemate and spends actual centuries defending Christmas planet
  7. Then he dies
  8. But he dies for good because he’s on his last life
  9. But then he’s not
  10. The Doctor shoots magic rays of light out of his arms to destroy the warships surrounding the planet (WHY NOT)
  11. I have no fucking clue what happened to space warrior church

Plot of Twelfth Doctor’s First Episode

  1. The Doctor and Clara return to London with a dinosaur (on accident)
  2. There is a mysterious figure going around stealing people’s body parts
  3. The Doctor and Clara investigate what’s going on and resolve the problem

Holy shit! See how easy that was? You can follow that shit, because it makes sense! There is focus and direction and it doesn’t sound like the writer never actually settled on an idea.

But How Are The Subplots?

Okay, well, they do bog it down.

Once again there is entirely too much time devoted to establishing “a darker doctor”. Like the last season. And the season before that. Is Steven Moffat just continually forgetting that every season he’s touting a new, darker side of the Doctor? Is there an admission in there somewhere that it keeps failing?

Series 7 was especially bad for this, because it didn’t properly contextualize anything that was going on, like one day the Doctor just woke up and decided, “Fuck it. I’m gonna murder some bitches.” It’s done a little better here (albeit again, like we’re supposed to think it’s new or something), mostly framed through Clara’s unfamiliarity with the new Doctor and through some genuine ambiguity in other instances.

But once again, there’s this lingering element of sad male power fantasy. The Doctor sort of just disappears for a while (because of regeneration troubles), leaving Clara (and Vastra and Jenny, there to bring up the spunky, sexy, snarky Moffat-woman count up to three) behind to… wait for a man to do things. There’s this weirdly lengthy-feeling scene where the three of them just sort of go through normal life doing nothing but wait for the Doctor to show up again. Thankfully, it’s not for centuries this time, but it’s a little annoying we have to keep going through this same song and dance.

In an interesting way, this actually feels reminiscent of the Ninth Doctor’s tenure, where the emotional center of the show was really centered in his human companion by means of playing the audience surrogate rather than, you know, witty eye candy. I have no idea if it will actually translate like that from the page to the actual episode, but it would be an improvement to see Clara make the audience feel things because of Clara, rather than because of what Clara does for the Doctor.

So Let’s Talk About Clara And Misogyny Now

It’s not really a spoiler to say that Clara is still the worst part of the show, is it? Because, I mean… Clara.

To clarify, this is not a criticism against Jenna Coleman, but against the character that Steven Moffat continues to incompetently write. Like I was worried about, an absolutely painful part of the episode (especially in the first half) is dedicated to Clara’s feelings towards the Doctor, now complicated by the fact that he’s suddenly an old man.

Clara: You said, ‘renewed.’ He doesn’t look renewed. He looks… older.
Vastra: You thought he was young?
Clara: He looked young.
Vastra: He looked like your dashing young gentleman friend. Your lover, even.
Clara: Shut up!

And it’s worse, because they’ve sort of retconned the Doctor to have been in on it.

The Doctor: I have made many mistakes, and it’s about time I did something about that. Starting right now. Clara, I am not your boyfriend.
Clara: I never thought you were.
The Doctor: I never said it was your mistake.

Hopefully this means that we’re done with this forever now, because OH MY GOD THIS IS PAINFUL

Other Various Misogyny, Because Steven Moffat

Once again, female characters cannot exist if they don’t flirt with the Doctor at least once:

The Doctor: You want to psychic link with me? The size of my brain… it would be like dropping a piano on you.
Vastra: Be gentle, then.

And remember all that controversy over the nudity jokes from Matt Smith’s final episode? Where the Doctor was “accidentally” naked in front of Clara’s family, which was just stupid, but then actually managed to get offensive with another nudity joke later when the Doctor didn’t tell Clara he was projecting her appearance into the church (long story) as nude. It was a stupid joke, certainly (Clara looked like she was wearing clothes and thought she was, when to everyone around her, she looked naked! What humorous juxtaposition!), made even worse by the non-consensual nature of it, stripping Clara of her agency.

The reason why I bring this all up again is because Steven Moffat chose a really weird thing to stick to his guns to.

Clara: What are you looking at?
Strax: Your subconscious. […] A lot of muscular young men doing sport. […] It could be sport.
Clara: Well, stop looking.
[…]
Strax: Oh, you’re going to do quite well. […] Put your clothes back on.
Clara: They are on.

I feel like I remember reading another uncomfortable nudity joke later on in the script, but I don’t feel like looking for it again.

Okay, Well, It Doesn’t Do Anything REALLY Stupid, Like, Mention Handles Or Some Shit

It does.

Are You Fucking Serious

I am.

The Doctor: (To Clara) I remember you! You’re Handles! You used to be a little… a little robot head, and now…

Sure, it’s not the worst callback. But Handles was the worst.

…Please Explain Half a Year After The Fact Why You Hated Handles So Much, Matthew

Remember that time (Waters of Mars) the Tenth Doctor said this?

GADGET: Gadget gadget.
DOCTOR: Does it have to keep saying that?
ROMAN: I think it’s funny.
DOCTOR: I hate funny robots.

And then remember that time (Day of the Doctor) the Eleventh Doctor said this?

HANDLES: Attention. Emergency. Attention.
DOCTOR: Handles, what is it? What’s wrong?
HANDLES: Urgent action required. You must patch the telephone device back through the console unit.
(Handles’ lights go out.)
DOCTOR: Come back. Handles?

I’m just saying, we went from “ugh, funny robots?” to “HANDLES WAS MUH BEST FREND. THIS IS A SCENE WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BE SAD ABOUT.”

Got That Out Of Your System?

Yes. Sorry.

…So How’s The New Doctor?

Ah! Well, that’s the real wild card in all of this, because the one thing the leaked scripts can’t tell us is the one thing we really want to know: how’s Peter Capaldi’s Doctor?

Based on the dialogue, at least, I think we’re looking at a cross between the Eleventh Doctor and the Ninth Doctor. He’s got a similar sort of scatterbrained insanity to the Eleventh (Moffat’s still writing, after all), but a weird disdain for humanity akin to the Ninth. And he was absolutely my favorite part of the script:

The Doctor: Oh, that’s Scots… I’m Scot’s… I’ve gone a bit Scottish, haven’t I?
(A fragment of a newspaper – we can see the headline: “Fourth case of spontaneous combustion.”)
[Minor Character]: What devilry is this, sir?
The Doctor: I don’t know. But I probably blame the English.

Although I took no notes on this and I’m struggling to remember what my favorite jokes were from him, but I do recall I was really enjoying the new Doctor’s lines, and it reminded me why I even liked this show at all: it’s fun.

Clara: Hang on, she called the police? We never do that, we should start.
The Doctor: (To the villain) You see? Destroy us if you will, they’re still going to close your restaurant. (A beat) That was going to sound better.

He probably won’t come entirely to life as his own Doctor (I couldn’t begin to compare 9, 10, and 11, but I’m seeing threads of them in 12) until we actually see the episode, but it does have me rather excited to see it.

Overall Impressions

Based on the script for the first episode, the new Doctor Who seems like an improvement over its most recent season. It’s still got a lot of the increasingly usual problematic Moffat bullshit, and that could just as quickly bring it back the show back down to its inane, worthless lows. I’m not even entirely optimistic this won’t happen, given how bad Moffat’s other shows (Sherlock) have gotten, and that he can turn around a good episode (“Day of the Doctor”) even amidst his worst spells of offensive, nonsensical drivel.

But reading the script, I was actually excited, and that’s more than I could say of how I’ve felt while experiencing most of the show’s most recent episodes. It’s not 100% promising, but it’s better than I was expecting.

So Wanna Talk About The Big Emotional Surprise?

Guys, this is like a super spoiler. I really wanna freak out about the ending of the first episode, but I also want you to really think about if you want to ruin this for yourselves.

Seriously, This Is On A Whole Other Level Of Spoilers After This Point

river song 10 spoilers

Okay Crazy Spoiler Times Over Here

The episode ends with a huge surprise I would never have expected coming. The Eleventh Doctor.

No, seriously.

(Clara pulls out her phone)
Clara: Hello? Hello…
(A familiar voice.)
The Eleventh Doctor: (Off Screen) … it’s me.

The previous Doctor calls the companion to assure them that the new Doctor still needs them. This has never been done before.

(Clara glances round – to see the Twelfth Doctor, leaning out of his TARDIS. The Eleventh Doctor hears the other voice.)
The Eleventh Doctor (OS): Is that the Doctor?
The Twelfth Doctor: Is that the Doctor?

You could argue that this really cheapens the transition from one to the other, if you immediately bring back what what just replaced when you’re telling the audience to get ready for change. Personally, the Eleventh Doctor’s last episode was such a mishandled, shoddy, insultingly bad farewell for Matt Smith, I love seeing the opportunity for him to get one last goodbye.

Even if it is for Clara, because, ugh, Clara.

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0 comments

  1. commomsense Reply

    What a whining over the top piece of writing;I’m only commenting so that you will use your brief time upon this planet to do something more productive;like;write your own scripts;send them in;or invent a new tv series of your own;If you hate the show so much,the answer is simple; stop watching

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    • matthewjulius Reply

      “If you don’t like it, then write your own” suggests creativity and critique share the same purpose, which they don’t. People can have feelings about things and don’t need to have any desire to make the same sorts of things themselves.

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      • 22aer22 Reply

        As much as I hate to defend my arch nemesis Matthew who has also hated things that I love, I must come to his defence as this is very very silly.

        Just as your critique of Matt’s post is perfectly valid (and I would even argue not a waste of your brief time on this planet), so is critiquing any piece of work that people put out there for public consumption. We’re not sitting here going, “Nuh uh, we don’t have to listen to you because you don’t also run a blog making fun of books.” Or “Well why don’t you do something more productive than writing a whiny comment and start a blog that tears apart each post on BBGT word by word and then we can talk.”

        Also, Matt is a huge Doctor Who fan for some reason. Just because you love a show doesn’t mean something about it can’t piss you off a lot and that you have to stop watching.

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    • Jeremy Coward Reply

      Before writing that comment, were you thinking “I don’t know what this semi-colon thing is, but I’m damned if that’s going to stop me from using it!”?

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  2. Bellomy Reply

    I don’t watch Dr. Who and I’m generally on the same page with you on books quality-wise, but I will never stop disagreeing with you about this season of Sherlock.

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  3. Bellomy Reply

    Also, seriously, Moffat wrote ONE episode this season of Sherlock. One. And it was the best one.

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    • matthewjulius Reply

      He co-wrote the last one, though. And he’s still half of the creative head. I have mixed feelings on the first episode, because it was crazy disappointing for an episode of sherlock, but a high point for the season’s giggly fanservice, which I’m not sure is a great trade off.

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    • Bellomy Reply

      Meh, “disappointing” is all relative. The only really bad “Sherlock” is “The Blind Baker”. “The Empty Hearse” had odd editing and a weak mystery but some excellent character moments, which was always going to be the focus of the episode anyway (like any scene with Sherlock and Mycroft, and the scene where Sherlock revealed himself to John).

      The final scene on the train car admittedly made me laugh so I can’t really bash it, though in retrospect it would have been nice to have a reconciliation scene without Sherlock being a dick. That being said, I think a lot of the reviews have been unfair to Sherlock. Sure, he should have said something, but at the same time the reason he didn’t was because of, you know, assassins.

      In short – I really, really enjoyed the episode and was not disappointing.

      “The Sign of Three” started off a bit slowly, though it had some really excellent humor. and the final twenty minutes were dynamite.

      “His Last Vow” was awesome, and raised the bar for the whole season.

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  4. Kevin Reply

    I don’t see the sexism, I’m afraid. I find Clara, Vastra, and Jenny to be fantastic female characters who are great role models to girls, boys, and any other sort of gender. They’re well-written, believable, admirable characters, and I am thankful that Moffat created them.

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    • matthewjulius Reply

      Those are actually the things I DO like about Vastra and Jenny. I really like the diversity they offer. As for the sexism, I’d encourage you to look into it besides what I’ve written here. It’s something a lot of people have started taking note of and has rather offended a lot of people who’ve previously loved this show.

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      • Kevin Reply

        I have looked into it. I’ve read literally every article on it. And then researched all the quotes that are used.

        They are quite literally all taken out of context.

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      • Kevin Reply

        You should look up what Rachel Talalay has said about Moffat. She’s a feminist director doing the series 8 finale.

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  5. Stephen Robinson Reply

    Regarding the section you posted when Clara is confused about The Doctor’s regeneration:
    She’s seen all his faces, so she should know that the Doctor sometimes gets older. She actually interacted with an “older” Doctor (two of them, if you include Ten).
    She spent time with “her” Doctor as an old(er) and an old man. He was young again long enough to say goodbye but his change to 12 shouldn’t come across as a complete shock. This, I think, is an example of Moffat wanting to convey something that is counter to what he actually wrote. Smith to Capaldi is a shock for *us*, the audience, but it shouldn’t be for anyone within the story who is paying attention, especially not Clara.
    If Moffat wanted to depict the shock for a companion of “her” Doctor suddenly changing from dashing, young man* to an abrasive, older man, then the emphasis needs to be on “suddenly” — basically not what we saw in TIME OF THE DOCTOR. The regeneration at the end of PARTING OF THE WAYS, for example (replacing 9/10 with 11/12).
    *Also, that storyline has been done before with the 5th Doctor to the 6th, except Peri didn’t dwell on the “loss” of her younger Doctor for long, so God help us if *Peri* is more mature and complex than Clara. Now in fairness to Clara, if she was in love with the 11th Doctor, reacting strongly to a change in his appearance and personality is not necessarily shallow. He is a completely different man with only the memories of the previous Doctor.
    **That storyline/plot development arguably failed miserably. Twelve needs to show us he’s more like 4 (weird, mercurial, hard to peg) than 6 (jackass who treats his companion like crap).
    I *like* 6 but that sort of Doctor only really works in a set-up like the first Doctor where, originally, his companions aren’t traveling with him voluntarily. Who would *choose* to travel with an unreliable jerk?

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    • matthewjulius Reply

      That’s a really good point! I didn’t get into it because this post was already too long, but it’s quite a plot hole. Good analysis of how it COULD have worked too, Stephen!

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  7. Too Much Reply

    Finally someone making some sense! I feel like most reviews and commenters of Doctor Who seem to be by rabid fans that love it so much they’re blind to the nonsensical plots, 2d characters and uninspired story telling.
    I used to love the junk out of this show but its gotten progressively worse and worse to the point that watching it is generally a cringe worthy experience. I really hate how The Doctor is always treated like some sort of rockstar / superhero type wherever he goes either by the characters or by the writing. Can’t he just be a really smart alien going on adventures and solving problems and mysteries like he used to? And why does the companion always have to be in love with him? Seriously? Its like as though women are somehow unable to anything but sexy, cute, flirty love interests or if not an immediate love interest then some sort of flirting / implied sexual tension or awkward sexual innuendo is thrown in there instead. Bleh. Also, Clara is awful. And ‘The Impossible Girl’ is the lamest phrase ever.

    Anyway, thanks for your review, totally agree with you on most points so its good to know I’m not the only one questioning the quality of a once good show.

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    • matthewjulius Reply

      Thanks for throwing in your thoughts, Too Much! “Cringe-worthy” is a good way to describe it… I’m glad to hear that other people have been feeling that way lately too.

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  8. Sadie Thomas Reply

    I really enjoyed reading that. I read the leaked script and then went looking around the internet to see what other people thought of it (and doctor who and Steven moffat in general) and its like you just took all my thoughts out of my mind and wrote them down.
    It makes such a change to read something about Doctor Who that I actually agree with, so many reviews praise Moffat and his writing and it really annoys me. Because like you say, he can write. He can create amazing things. I loved the first and second season of Sherlock. And episodes from the first couple of seasons that Moffat wrote (like blink or the gas mask zombie one) they were incredible. But now Doctor who is just a mess, it rarely makes sense and so many of the characters have no depth to them. I think Moffat is better suited to writing occasional episodes for the series, rather than having to create the entire series plot.

    But yeah anyway, your review was great I really liked it:)

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    • matthewjulius Reply

      I was originally so excited when he was taking over as head writer almost entirely because of “Blink”. I only read this first script (didn’t want to spoil TOO much for myself), so hopefully it doesn’t get to be a tangled mess again. And then it’s even worse when I read reviews that seem to ignore how little sense anything makes anymore! Thanks for reading, Sadie! Glad you feel similarly!

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  10. bookbaron Reply

    I have only watched a few episodes of Doctor Who. Not sure which doctor it was (almost certainly one of the older ones) but my favorite companion was the one who had absolutely no interest in the doctor at all. In fact, she seemed utterly annoyed by him. Wish I knew which one that was. But she was my favorite.

    Hint hint. Was in some sort of Pompeii episode. I keep planning on watching Doctor Who but I’m not sure where to even start.

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  11. Joy Reply

    Oooh, please share your Sherlock thoughts! You can even email them to me if you don’t want the whole internet barking up your tree.

    Personally, I began the new season by unhappily shouting “ARE YOU KIDDING ME” for like twenty minutes, then got over it, loved the batshit second episode, and in the third episode had an intense rage flameout and was so over everything that I felt actually enthused (yet also, paradoxically, let down) when that crazy little spoiler showed up at the end.

    At least Benedict Cumberbatch has sorted out his … face …? though. For the first two seasons, I loved the acting/storytelling/cinematography … but it was hard to relate to a leading man who reminded me of that “Men In Black” alien bug which hijacked Vinny D’Onofrio, except riding around inside an old-school British aristocrat.
    Tl;dr, it was an Uncanny Valley type of thing.

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