Doctor Who – Every Writer Ranked (Moffat Era)

Enter the Moff!

Moffat’s tenure as showrunner (from Seasons 5-10) was full of ups and downs, but it’s still mostly a strong set of episodes. Unsurprisingly, there was also a great team of writers behind it!

As with my RTD list, I’ll only be looking at the writer’s contribution to Moffat’s era. Some spicy opinions incoming!

Before we begin, you can check out some of my related blog posts below:

Bad

20 – Matthew Graham

  • The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People

Poor Matthew Graham – first he wrote “Fear Her”, then he made this awful two-parter. He just can’t help himself but finish bottom on these lists.

There are some ideas in “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People” that are close to being good, but they never explore it properly. This storyline has some of the biggest wasted potential in Who history.

19 – Frank Cottrell-Boyce

  • In The Forest of the Night
  • Smile

“In The Forest of the Night” and “Smile” are two poorly-written episodes, for similar reasons.

In both cases, it hardly feels like the Doctor has any impact on the story at all, and the premises themselves are some of the weakest in the series. Both episodes are filmed and acted decently well, but the writing leaves a lot to be desired.

18 – Mark Gatiss

  • Victory of the Daleks
  • Night Terrors
  • Cold War
  • The Crimson Horror
  • Robot of Sherwood
  • Sleep No More
  • Empress of Mars

One of the most prolific writers in Who history, and yet I don’t think Gatiss wrote a single episode that I truly liked (that goes for his work in the RTD era, too).

At their best, episodes like “Robot of Sherwood” and “Empress of Mars” are just a bit of harmless fun. At their worst, “The Crimson Horror” and “Sleep No More” are borderline unwatchable TV.

Gatiss also wrote “An Adventure in Space and Time” during this era – a delightful TV movie about William Hartnell taking on the role of the Doctor. As lovely as that is, I’m not including it in this ranking.

Meh

17 – Gareth Roberts

  • The Lodger
  • Closing Time
  • The Caretaker

It’s baffling that Gareth Roberts, the man who penned “The Shakespeare Code” and “The Unicorn and the Wasp”, went on to do this.

“The Lodger” isn’t too bad, but “Closing Time” and “The Caretaker” are just pointless filler episodes that I loathe.

16 – Neil Cross

  • The Rings of Akhaten
  • Hide

A great speech does not a great episode make.

If it wasn’t for Matt Smith’s excellent delivery of the speech in “The Rings of Akhaten”, Neil Cross would have dropped down a place or two. That episode, and “Hide” as well, are two stories from Season 7B that I could never sink my teeth into.

15 – Chris Chibnall

  • The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood
  • Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
  • The Power of Three

You can already see that the quality of Chibnall’s writing was starting to dip.

It began with his best effort of them all – “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood” – but then he followed that up with “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and “The Power of Three”.

I still have no idea what the BBC were thinking picking Chibbs as showrunner when there are a dozen better writers higher up on this list.

14 – Catherine Tregenna

  • The Woman Who Lived

I don’t really like the “Girl Who Died” / “Woman Who Lived” two-parter, and in hindsight I think that’s mainly down to the latter.

All of the good will built up in the first half of the story is practically abandoned for a bizarre episode designed to feature Maisie Williams and nothing else. Not bad, but oh so forgettable.

13 – Rona Munro

  • The Eaters of Light

I’m glad they brought back a Classic Who writer for the modern era, but sadly Rona Munroe’s “The Eaters of Light” is a pretty weak effort.

It certainly has its fun moments, and some of the social commentaries are interesting, but it’s nowhere near engaging enough.

OK

12 – Mike Bartlett

  • Knock Knock

A one-and-done writer, Mike Bartlett wrote the very average “Knock Knock” and then peaced out. Nothing too crazy, but far from bad.

11 – Phil Ford

  • Into the Dalek

Phil Ford wrote my favourite ever episode of Doctor Who – “The Waters of Mars” – but his only other story wasn’t my favourite.

The Daleks are always fun to have around, and venturing inside of one is a great idea, but I guess it just doesn’t really blow my socks off.

10 – Peter Harness

  • Kill the Moon
  • The Zygon Invasion / The Zygon Inversion
  • Pyramid at the End of the World

Writer of one of Who’s most controversial episodes, Peter Harness’s work is good on some days and insufferable on others.

Both “Kill the Moon” and “Pyramid at the End of the World” leave a lot to be desired, but the Zygon two-parter is actually pretty good. I think Moffat wrote the Inversion speech for him, though – otherwise Harness would have jumped up a place or two.

Good

9 – Stephen Thompson

  • Curse of the Black Spot
  • Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
  • Time Heist

All three of Stephen Thompson’s episodes are far from masterpieces, but they’re nothing if not unabashedly fun.

“Curse of the Black Spot”, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” and “Time Heist” are all good episodes that are overly hated by the fandom, and are easy to enjoy if you just turn your brain off.

Great

8 – Toby Whithouse

  • The Vampires of Venice
  • The God Complex
  • A Town Called Mercy
  • Under the Lake / Before the Flood
  • The Lie of the Land

Going into this list, I was sure that Toby Whithouse would finish in the top 3. He’s one of Moffat’s most prolific and successful writers, but in all honesty he hasn’t written too many blinders.

“A Town Called Mercy” is the closest Whithouse has come to Who perfection, and most of his other works are great too. I say most – “The Lie of the Land” is a terrible end to a three-parter that showed such promise, and I was disappointed when I found out he penned it.

7 – Tom MacRae

  • The Girl Who Waited

“The Girl Who Waited” is one of Nu Who’s most ambitious episodes, and that’s completely down to Tom MacRae’s brilliance.

The older Amy dynamic is such an interesting one to explore, and they capitalise on it fully. I only wish MacRae wrote more episodes as fascinating as this.

6 – Sarah Dollard

  • Face the Raven
  • Thin Ice

Sarah Dollard only emerged in the final two seasons of Moffat’s tenure, but she immediately seemed like one of those writers who understood the assignment.

“Face the Raven” is a gorgeous send-off to Clara, and “Thin Ice” is a fairly underrated historical. I hope she comes back to write more in the future.

5 – Neil Gaiman

  • The Doctor’s Wife
  • Nightmare in Silver

One of the most esteemed writers to ever grace the show – Neil Gaiman is a Sci-Fi / Fantasy legend in his own right, and he brings all the flair and mastery that you’d expect.

“The Doctor’s Wife” is a really excellent episode, but unfortunately “Nightmare in Silver” falls flat in places (mainly because it should’ve been a two-parter!). I very much want to put Gaiman in the highest tiers, but if I only liked one out of two stories than it would be a disservice to the others ranked above him.

Amazing

4 – Simon Nye

  • Amy’s Choice

“Amy’s Choice” is one of the most underrated episodes in Who history – it’s certainly in my top ten Eleventh Doctor stories.

The plot weaves around at frantic pace, and the twists always subvert expectations. It’s a phenomenally well-written episode, so much so that it’s a tragedy Simon Nye only wrote once for the show.

3 – Richard Curtis

  • Vincent and the Doctor

Like Neil Gaiman, Richard Curtis is one of the most famous non-Who writers to ever pen a story for the show. Despite the fact that Curtis is more known for his rom-coms and other silly comedy movies, however, he made one of the best episodes in all of Nu Who.

The whole of “Vincent and the Doctor” is a fantastic allegory for the famed artist’s manic depression, and the ending scene in the Gallery is a real tear-jerker. A modern triumph of Sci-Fi television.

2 – Steven Moffat

  • Openers, Closers and Specials
  • Every Weeping Angels Episode
  • Listen
  • Heaven Sent

For the second era in a row, the showrunner himself has finished in second place. In fairness to Moffat, it was incredibly close this time around – but I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of coming first twice in a row!

He’s a decent showrunner, but I felt he lacked the focus and emotional oomph that RTD brought. Also, and I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks this, a lot of his season closers and Christmas specials left a lot to be desired.

He’s far from a bad writer, though. Some of the individual episodes, like “Listen” and especially “Heaven Sent”, proved that he was the smartest, most creative person to ever write for the show. And yes, that includes the mighty RTD.

1 – Jamie Mathieson

  • Mummy on the Orient Express
  • Flatline
  • The Girl Who Died
  • Oxygen

The man who single-handedly saved Season 8 from mediocrity.

“Oxygen” and “The Girl Who Died” are two good episodes, but it was “Mummy on the Orient Express” and “Flatline” that earned Jamie Mathieson his place atop this list.

Those two episodes come back-to-back in Season 8, and they give both The Doctor and Clara some much-needed time to shine. They’re fabulously written, and without them I think the season would have been one of the show’s worst. Well done Mathieson!

Aaaaand that’s my list! We only have one era to go (wish me luck …), so until then you can check out some of my latest blog posts below:

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One thought on “Doctor Who – Every Writer Ranked (Moffat Era)

  1. Interesting thoughts here. I don’t tend to agree with many of your Doctor Who opinions- I generally prefer Moffat’s era over RTD’s and Smith and Capaldi’s Doctors over Tennant’s – but I agree with a lot said here. Mathieson is excellent, though I’d put him just behind Moffat since I enjoy Moffat’s grand storytelling. I also don’t share your love of Amy’s Choice.

    Overall, the general tone and style of Moffat’s 6 seasons brings me a lot of nostalgic joy. Even the bad episodes (and you called out pretty much all of them in this piece) get me in that special place I get from watching Who.

    Like

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