Steven Moffat’s legacy: 6 things the showrunner gave ‘Doctor Who’

Steven Moffat

Executive producer and lead writer Steven Moffat will be leaving Doctor Who after Season 10 airs in 2017.

Moffat took over as showrunner from Russell T. Davies in 2010 and wasted no time in putting his own whimsical, madcap spin on the Doctor’s wanderings in time and space.

His Doctor Who era has been fraught with criticism and controversy, his episodes among the most divisive for Whovians. Some have argued that Moffat has been the worst thing to happen to the show; others have praised his tireless efforts to take the show to new heights. Consequently, the news of his departure has fans crying either from joy or from sorrow.

Doctor Who Mexico Steven Moffat

His time as showrunner has been controversial, true, but it has also seen some undeniably brilliant and unforgettable moments that have changed the course of the show forever. Whether you’re a fan of his tenure or not, Steven Moffat has left an indelible mark on Doctor Who.

> Buy the complete Season 9 box set on DVD on Amazon.

> Buy the complete Season 9 box set on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Here we take a look back at his legacy…


He brought back the Eighth Doctor

Doctor Who Paul McGann Eighth Doctor

First appearing in the 1996 TV movie, Paul McGann went on to play the Doctor in numerous Big Finish audio productions, but his appearance in 2013’s ‘The Night of the Doctor’ minisode was the first time in 17 years that the Eighth Doctor had appeared on screen.

A surprise release that delighted fans who had become accustomed to knowing spoilers months in advance, ‘The Night of the Doctor’ featured the origins of John Hurt’s War Doctor and the return of McGann’s woefully underused Eighth Doctor was more than welcome.

What was even more impressive was that the Doctor named many of his audio drama companions, effectively making them an official part of the Doctor Who canon.


He saved Gallifrey

Doctor Who Hell Bent Peter Capaldi Twelfth

When Doctor Who returned in 2005, fans were overjoyed to see so many elements of the classic series included in the updated version. There was one startling difference; however: all of the other Time Lords were dead, and Gallifrey itself had been destroyed in what the Doctor described as the Last Great Time War.

The Time Lords had always played a key role in the classic series; even when they didn’t actually appear, their presence was always felt in one shape or form. To hear that they were all dead was a crushing blow. It was hard enough to see the Doctor grapple with the burden of being the only survivor of a civilization that had once controlled all of time and space, but the additional revelation that he was the one who destroyed it in the effort to stop the Time War was astonishing.

Doctor Who Day of the Doctor button John Hurt War Doctor

Then along came ‘The Day of the Doctor’, which turned everything viewers thought they knew about the Time War on its head. In the midst of its timey-wimey plot we discovered the mind-blowing truth that Gallifrey had not been destroyed.

The Doctor had found a way to save his people, but due to the time streams being out of sync (different versions of the Doctor working together in the same time), he did not remember if his plan worked. But it had worked; the Time Lords were alive, albeit locked away in a pocket universe.

Moffat would later go on to bring Gallifrey back into the normal universe in 2015’s Season 9 finale, ensuring that the Time Lords are back and once more casting their shadow over time and space.


He brought back more classic monsters

Doctor Who Madame Vastra

When Doctor Who returned in 2005, it brought with it a plethora of new foes. The likes of the Slitheen, Sycorax and Gelth were just some of the fresh enemies for the Doctor to face in the modern series.

Old familiar favorites such as the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Sontarans and the Master did not take long in surfacing, either. Starting with his first year as show runner, however, Moffat began to work some of the lesser-appreciated classic foes back into the show.

The Silurians had not appeared on screen since 1983, but after their return in 2010, they were quickly accepted by the new generation of Whovians, so much so that the show features a Silurian as an ally of the Doctor’s, Madame Vastra, leader of the Paternoster Gang.

Doctor Who The Zygon Inversion

The Zygons’ return in 2013 was an eagerly anticipated event, and their story has continued to play out since then.

Moffat also brought back the Ice Warriors and the Great Intelligence, and who’s to say he won’t bring them back again for his final season?


He terrified us with new monsters

Doctor Who Silence

Moffat brought back more classic monsters than we had previously seen in nu-Who, but it’s important not to overlook his own fearsome contributions to the Whoniverse. After all, this is the man who created the Empty Child and the Vashta Nerada, the Weeping Angels and the Silence, the Whisper Men and the Veil.

One of the trademarks of Moffat’s monsters is the ability to take something completely mundane and ordinary and transform it into something absolutely terrifying. Thanks to him, real life is now filled with more unknown perils than ever before.

Is the basement light flickering? The Vashta Nerada might be preparing to attack. Did the next-door neighbor get a new angel statue for the garden? Better not blink. Heck, we even made us scared of our wi-fi.


He gave the Doctor a new set of regenerations

Doctor Who Time of the Doctor crack

As Doctor Who continued to air, Whovians often wondered how the Doctor would circumvent the twelve-regeneration limit so the show could continue.

It hardly seemed likely that the BBC would actually just end a successful series due to a throwaway continuity line from decades ago, but with the other Time Lords dead and gone, the Doctor’s resources for gaining a new regeneration cycle were slim indeed and Moffat knew that fans would want it addressed at some point.

Of course, Gallifrey’s salvation in the 50th anniversary meant that they were once again a potential way for the Doctor to gain a new set of regenerations, which is precisely what happened.

Granted, Clara had to persuade them to give the Doctor a new cycle, but the end result was the same: the Doctor now possesses an unknown number of new regenerations, granting the show a potentially endless lifespan.


He gave us a glimpse of the Doctor’s future – and it’s a happy ending

Tom Baker the Day of the Doctor Doctor Who

One of the highlights of ‘The Day of the Doctor’ was the appearance of former Doctor Tom Baker as the Curator of the National Gallery… but there were subtle (and not-so-subtle) hints that this mysterious old man was, in fact, a future version of the Doctor himself.

If this is true, it means that Moffat showed us the Doctor’s ultimate future; he revealed that in spite of all of the unknown dangers and time-wimey conundrums he faces, the Doctor will be alright.

He will eventually regenerate back into his fourth face and enjoy a peaceful retirement as the Curator of the National Gallery. Seeing as the Fourth Doctor is considered the quintessential incarnation of the Time Lord, somehow that fate seems perfectly fitting.

Moffat will be remembered for many things when he leaves Doctor Who, some of them good, some of them bad. But the legacy of all the good he has done for the show should never be forgotten.


> Buy the complete Season 9 box set on DVD on Amazon.

> Buy the complete Season 9 box set on Blu-ray on Amazon.

What will you remember most fondly from Steven Moffat’s era? Let us know below…

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  • War Doctor, 11th Doctor, 12th Doctor. These three things alone cement his legacy as the best thing to happen to the show since it started. Everything else, including the stuff in the article, is just a bonus. And of course we must not forget he’s just given us the best season in 52 years with series nine.

    • You are like the positive to my negative, lol. Everything you say seems to be the opposite of what I think. 😀

      • Dr. Moo

        I’ll wear that badge with pride, Flynn! 🙂

  • Mack59

    Listen, Heaven Sent and Day Of The Doctor three of the best episodes I’ve had the pleasure to have watched over my 52 years, on and off, of watching Doctor Who. Let’s not forget how under his tenure how popular the series has become across the world. I agree with Dr, Moo that series 9 / 27 has been the best but hopefully the next series, when we do get it, can at least equal or even surpass the previous one especially if it is both Mr Moffat and Mr Capaldi’s last one.

    • *37

      Listen is the best Doctor Who of all time. The Witch’s Familiar is my second-favourite. Also in the top ten can be found The Empty Child and The Zygon Inversion. That’s the impression he’s made on me.

      • Mack59

        The whole family enjoyed The Witch’s Familiar but I think that was because of the humour as well as the amazing Doctor / Davros conversation. Listen and Heaven Sent weren’t so popular with them though. They seem to enjoy the rompy episodes like Dinosaurs On A Spaceship than the more thoughtful ones that get better on multiple viewing and haven’t really enjoyed the Capaldi era. I, on the other hand, have and do really hope he’ll be onboard for at least one series with the new showrunner as he can raise even the most mundane episode into something better.

        • Capaldi’s going down better with the long-term fans than he is the more casual audience it would seem. I too would like to see him do series 11 with Chibnall so that the people who return to the show due to the new showrunner can see just how good he truly is.

          • Mack59

            Plus having a lifetime fan playing the Doctor will ensure some continuity to the show and I’m sure will be able to have some input into how Chibnall will take series 11.

          • russell

            Although decisions of the coming and going variety are made well in advance- we have yet to see Peter, and the new companion…HIS companion. What if it turns out, that such a combo is an absolute blinder? Peter with the public, seems to be a bit of a slow burn- but by his third series, he will have cemented himself in the role in such eyes.I would love it, if new ideas and a fresh approach, spark greater enthusiasm…making viewers cry out for more. HE deserves to stay: afterall, it could be argued, that DANIEL CRAIG, didn’t properly arrive into the role of Bond, until Sam Mendes added his ingredients to the pot!

          • Charlieboy

            I’d have been alot happier if Clara had left before Last Christmas. Would have set up Capaldi quite nicely!

          • russell

            I agree.Much of Peter’s time so far,has felt like dealing with leftovers. Continuing my previous point, The Avengers, is also a good example of how a leading man in a show, can see his stock rise with changes in format and casting. Although having run for a number of years- the arrival of Emma Peel saw the show reach new heights.Peter’s era has yet to really have its OWN style.It was also a mistake (in my view) to make him so cold.It worked at first with Hartnell,because he was surrounded by more agreeable characters…we looked at him more from afar. When the DR is more central,like Colin-without such support-he merely comes across as a git. Making him initially so insulting was also ill advised.IN MY VIEW, series 9 should have given him a clean break; instead of the misjudged “Same old-same old”. Let’s see how things develop for 10…Charlieboy.

          • Charlieboy

            We were told series 8 – New Doctor New era! But, all we got was the same. First episode with the lesbians and comic Sontaran!!! Starting with a stupid Dinosaur transported through time because it was choking on the TARDIS – stupid.They got rid of the awful impossible girl and replaced it with horrendous Missy, only for the impossible girl to return in series 9. He failed with Amy, and tried again with Clara. Both, interestingly, get pregnant (depends if its a fixed point etc). Clara was always annoying, but worse in series 9.
            Absolutely, no chemistry!
            Moffat has each character lying to the other. Doctor Who isn’t about lying! How do you know whats true or not, or to trust/like?
            Moffat is a poor writer who leaves gaps because it takes him a year to think up an answer!. Hack!
            Moffat/Gatiss have given us a series and a special of Sherlock – and the viewer still doesn’t know the fate of Moriarty!

          • russell

            I am pleased Steven Moffat took over from RTD. He was the obvious choice-having contributed many of that periods highlights; but with overall control, I enjoyed his take less.Many of the points you raise above Charlieboy, I am in accord.Series 5 was indeed,pretty good…but as his run continued (for me),his description of “timey~wimey” too often felt like “wishy~washy”. There has to be logic in storytelling – even in a fantasy. TOO often things just didn’t add up. I am NOT a Moffat basher (and am really looking forward to series 10…especially with the near perfect Peter Capaldi),but whereas you describe him as a hack- my feeling is that he is better at quality(small amounts),rather than quantity.His taste too is often not mine…..Missy/Clara/The Doctor…they often talked with the same voice: Sarky, smartarse; their lines almost interchangeable in his scripts. Steven has been a great ambassador for the programme – no question – let us hope, that his last season, proves to be the greatest single piece of WHO he ever did.

          • russell

            ………oh…and if someone has to die…can they at least be allowed to do so!! Surely, there can be nothing greater in a story, than the loss of a character an audience come to care about? Who knows- such powerful drama might make a tale, last for what? 2,000 years…..? ( now I’m being smartarse)!

          • Charlieboy

            I’ve said many times that all drama is lost when it is revealed that the character brought back from the dead. If, there were ever a character that died and didn’t come back then the audience feel conned. They don’t believe the character is dead, and feel no empathy or lose. The drama is lost.

          • russell

            You’re right Charlieboy.Can there really be anything more “DRAMAtic” than death itself? The doctor does cheat death/continue – but he does indeed DIE ( as should other characters be allowed to).One of the greatest strengths of our beloved programme, is that its hero, finally comes a cropper…he passes away…….we lose him……..and it hurts : yes, he is ultimately reborn: but we feel the loss. To not even make him die (just make him lean backwards and glow a little orange; as in the case of Matt and Peter), is to not recognise one of the truly unique gifts of dr who. Such failings, have been a weakness in the Moff’s tenure. The caves of Androzani – for instance- show how it should be done.But of course, that was Robert Holmes.

          • Charlieboy

            But do we feel the lose of Clara, Rory, or Osgood everytime they die, only to return an episode later?

          • russell

            NO, not really Charlieboy- we don’t. The difference with the DR in the past, is that we DID lose a version of him – an incarnation. He regenerated yes…but Dr’s 1, 3, 4 etc, died. And with that,everything changed. By bringing back “HIS” characters- as you say- Moffat lost: Drama/Tension/Consequence! If you don’t think anything is going to happen to a character when in danger- you are not going to care ( give a toss). Again, you are right to suggest this was a poor aspect in Moffat’s writing. Considered silly by many – it was a turn-off. Quite literally, it would appear.

    • Helles

      Agree completely. I’d rank Empty Child and Blink up there too but what an amazing legacy that is alone. The prospect of how great series 10 is going to be with the always extraordinary Peter Capaldi is incredibly exciting even if a little sad but Steven Moffat’s instincts over the last 18 months have been perfect. There is no reason to think that he will in any way ‘Broadchurch 2’ his next series. I feel quite sorry for Chris Chibnall having to follow what promises to be one of the very greatest things on television in 2017, with restored audience numbers now that the BBC is finally going to promote the show properly and return it to the spring and aired at a sensible time.

  • Charlieboy

    RTD brought back Cybermen, Sontarans, Daleks and Master. Moffat brought back Silurians, Ice Warriors and Zygons. NOT MORE.
    He should have brought back the 8th Doctor for the 50th episode, but didn’t.
    True, he gave the Doctor a new life cycle, but needlessly used up an incarnation on the War Doctor. The series would also have ended if he didn’t write in a new lifecycle. It was going to happen anyway.
    Why would a future Doctor choose to pick a decrepit version of a previous self?

    • DJCo

      It’s doubtful that the Doctor would regenerate into a decrepit version of a previous self, yes. It’s much more likely that he regenerated back into Tom Baker in his prime, and then lived that body into old age.

      I agree that McGann should have been the War Doctor, but “using up” a regeneration doesn’t bother me, as he then gave the Doctor a potentially unlimited number of regenerations anyway, so what difference does it make?

      • Charlieboy

        Well, thats the version we would get if Tom Baker returned!

        • DJCo

          Well, that’s not going to happen is it. If they were to play out this scenario, it would involve bringing back 82+-year-old Tom Baker as the series’ lead again. The Curator was probably the Doctor’s 139th incarnation or something. It was a cute anniversary moment that was never going to be followed up on.

          • Charlieboy

            Another moment set up by Moffat, thats not going to happen!

          • DJCo

            There’s a difference between a loose-hanging plot thread and something that’s obviously there as an anniversary nod and can’t logistically be followed up on without ending the series.

          • vjks27

            I just wonder if the Tom Baker we saw in the 50th, as the Curator, was actual result of the weird regeneration of 4th into 5th – Like the version of 10 that stayed with Rose on parallel Earth.

          • DJCo


            “It’s the end… but the Moment has been prepared for.”

            That’s pretty neat.

          • Seriously? You’re calling on that as a “moment set up that’s not going to happen” even though it’s never written as something that’s more than a one-off nod to the past.

            You need to get over yourself.

  • timmy

    From the first paragraph this article was so desperate to accomodate the criticisms (“some good, some bad” repeated over and over) that, no matter what the core list was, it ended up giving the impression that Moffat’s time somehow hasn’t been an era of astonishing quality with only a few elements that the internet regularly whines about because it’s the internet. And that’s very clearly not the case. You don’t have to be this reluctant to big the man up, just do it (and if the intention was to maintain some kind of undercurrant of authority by doing so, that’s not great.)

  • LM

    Big Finish brought back The 8th Doctor. Night of The Doctor just acknowledged the outstanding work McGann has done on the audio adventures.

    • Eter Puralis

      Well, yeah, but none of the audio stories can be considered proper canon unless it ties in with the tv show. Moffat made it official.

  • Helles

    Goodness, what a grudging review. History is going to be very kind to Steven Moffat, even more so that his era will be anchored between the maudlin pandering Davies era and what is likely to be the dull and plodding Chibnall era. Even without being the tasty filling between two dull and stale crackers, Steven Moffat’s legacy has been assured by producing the two most purely entertaining and accomplished series in the history of the show – series 5 and series 9, anchored by the most talented and most superbly realised versions we have ever had of the doctor in Matt Smith’s gloriously awkward and charming 11 and Peter Capaldi’s commanding and fascinating 12.
    Ultimately though his real legacy won’t be the cartload of awards Moffat has won as a writer and showrunner (I am certain that in addition to Peter Capaldi’s guaranteed Best Actor BAFTA this year, the show is likely to be recognised as Best Drama) but the fact that he has ensured the long term survival and flourishing of the show by making it so very popular overseas. I think that is his greatest legacy ultimately.
    Series 9 stands as the greatest in the modern era and probably in the 52 years of the show just as Peter Capaldi stands as the greatest actor and doctor over this period. Series 10 though could be even greater and that alone makes the leaving of Steven Moffat so bittersweet.

    • Charlieboy

      BAFTA? Couldn’t even win the NTAs!

      • Intothevervoid

        NTAs are for reality shows and populist numpties. Nobody cares or watches the show or can even remember who won. It’s just a popularity contest at the level of lowest common denominator stuff.
        While I agree with the view expressed above that Peter Capaldi is a certainty to win the Best Actor BAFTA this year and I am hearing that pretty well everywhere, not just in our little part of the Who world, I would be very surprised if the show itself is nominated. It would be a nice surprise and maybe Steven Moffat’s announcement about leaving might tip an award his way. Who knows?

  • Edward Delingford

    Moffat’s legacy is large and wide. The obvious ones are the incredible writing, the fabulous doctors he gave us – 11, 12 and the War Doctor, his brilliant eye for casting and incredible story arcs. While series 9 would have served as a wonderful stepping off point as it is without doubt the strongest since the return of the show and possibly a genuine contender for the greatest in the show’s 52 years and the Husbands of River Song would have certainly been a lovely final note, something tells me that series 10 may be even greater. There is now a real finality for Moffat and he certainly will go out all guns blazing, more so if Capaldi goes with him. We certainly won’t have snivelling and whining as the new man or woman rises as the 13th doctor.

    The more intangible legacy is the suite of new writing and directing talent Moffat has sought out during this time, including an unprecedented number of female writers and directors; giving the show a bullet proof future by making it a huge international success and working closely with the BBC to continue to nurture that by expanding the world of the show through minisodes, special events, conventions and changing the show’s profile from a fun kiddies program which was the direction Davies took to one which is now considered by critics in the UK and around the world to be on the same level as any other high prestige BBC offering such as Wolf Hall or War and Peace.

    So let’s all enjoy the prospect of what should be a fabulous series 10 and all of the wonderful new things which a genius such as Steven Moffat must have rummaging around in that mind of his. I am not optimistic about the quality of the show once Moffat has gone but I am sure it will continue to be popular. Chris Chibnall is very lucky to be able to stand on the shoulder of a gian.

  • Intothevervoid

    Steven Moffat’s biggest legacy for me is his constant ability to surprise me. I never thought series 5 would be surpassed by him as I felt that parts of series 6 and series 7 in particular were not quite as fresh and consistently well written, even though the acting remained stellar and the show continued to produce amazing episodes like The Doctor’s Wife, The Snowmen, The Girl Who Waited and of course Day of the Doctor. The loss of Matt Smith and a somewhat patchy start with Peter Capaldi didn’t make me change my mind that series 5 would remain the high water mark for new Who for possibly all time. Then came series 9 which blew everything else before it out of the water, including the previously untouchable series 5. It convinced me that Steven Moffat still had lots of fresh ideas and inspiration and we were nowhere near how great the show might be.
    Steven Moffat gave me back the show I had loved growing up when he produced the dazzling series 5 and last year he made me feel as though that magic happened again. I will be very grateful for that.

  • Richard Freeman

    He fucked over the Silurians giving them tits, human faces and mini skirts. He also did the whole Time Lord sex change bollocks. He allowed Kill the Moon an Forest of the Night to be made. Good riddance I say.

    • Charlieboy

      So, true!

    • TimeyWimey

      RTD allowed Fear Her to be made
      Barry Letts allowed ‘The Claws of Axos’ to be made.
      Bloody hell… some episodes don’t work – it’s the nature of the show.

    • Lemmy Koopa

      You have a point with the Silurians. Hopefully this can be compromised by saying they’re a different breed, allowing the original, superior design to make a return (but alas, it is unlikely).

      Everything else you said I would disagree with. I’m completely nuetral on sex change regeneration. And every producer has allowed bad episodes to air.

  • Notyet

    Steven Moffat cast Matt Smith who may be the most purely talented actor of the this decade, he created the three best doctors of the modern series (11, 12 & War), he created the best and most iconic monsters in the show, he created the superlative River Song, he wrote some of the greatest episodes ever broadcast on British television and he reinvented and saved the show after the mess made by RTD. That is an impressive legacy I honestly don’t think the show can survive without him, particularly when his successor has such a terrible track record on Who, Torchwood and other programs and completely ruined Broadchurch by not stopping when he should have. At least series 10 should be marvellous and we have DVDs for series 5 – 9 to keep us company in the very dark days ahead.

    • russell

      Please try not to be so negative Notyet….give Chris a chance! It’s great, that you enjoyed the Moff’s tenure so much; but DR WHO had been in exsistence for over 40 years before his contributions.It may well be, that HIS time on the show will always be your favourite…BUT, all ” dr who ” in general, is pretty neat and cool really. As for Broadchurch 2…the first had been SO successful- there was always going to be a second. In my view, it was a mistake for the plot to so closely follow the events of the first. What the audience REALLY wanted ( despite perhaps being too obvious) was an original mystery to follow. Number 3, will probably do this.

  • James Sheppard

    Am I the only person in the whole damn world who thinks Moffat’s made bigger strides in the standard of writing for female characters in Sci fi, not to mention he has shown, on damn screen, that timelords can change genders and races in their regenerations?! THAT IS THE BIGGEST THING TO HAPPEN TO THIS SHOW!!! It opens the casting door for the Doctor to literally ANYONE!!! I see a lot of hate on Moffat for his stories, but stories are art, they’re subjective, but Moffat has done more for Doctor Who outside the context of the stories (Casting of the doctor, making it huge in the USA) that is just as valuable and I think it’s a crime that’s not being prasied more!

    • Charlieboy


    • TimeyWimey

      Agreed 🙂

  • joaultman

    how does one get the McGann audio books????

    • Charlieboy

      www big finish dot com

  • Kathy Hoover

    Since the return of Tom Baker as The Curator, and as was mentioned in TDOTD “revisiting some of the old faces, but only the favorites, eh?” maybe we could see the return of Paul McGann, as a past face of The Doctor is revisited? (he deserves it!) Heck, this really sets it up to revisit many other younger faces of The Doctor, say Matt Smith himself as the FIRST incarnation of The Curator in a decade or two…..or he could retire and take up “watercolors”, painting “Gallifrey Falls No More” !?! Then The Doctor (whomever it is) and The Curator could have another reunion for the 60th Anniversary!

  • kabphillie

    A pretty divided fanbase, if you read enough online comments, but providing depth of story, character and the universe of Doctor Who is a fantastic legacy to have. He brought much more gravity to the Doctor than RTD, in my opinion. I give RTD credit for bringing back Doctor Who and writing some good stories, but there was too much light-heartedness in the Tennant-era.

  • Mike Hare

    The way things referred to previous episodes and brought more clarity to the present.