a. Steven Moffat is dead, and
b. the BBC have mounted a cover-up.
Well, maybe he's not dead. Maybe he just has what communist Russia might term "a slight cold".
I suppose the BBC are concerned about such news potentially damaging international sales in this, Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary year. Accordingly they seem to have hired a ghost-writer to 'do a Moffat' to keep on churning out his distinctive style of script so that the public, and overseas buyers, don't notice his absence. A bit like Max Headroom standing in for Edison Carter.
I just have no other plausable explanation for the extensive recycling of his previous scripts in tonight's episode, plus its delay in transmission by six months. This featured such dutifully reproduced Moffatisms as the Doctor becoming a recluse, the TARDIS' external telephone impossibly working, children, automatons disguised as humans, a bit of innuendo, and a lippy girl whose identity holds the key to the mystery.
(less well-trodden recycling would include leaving said girl in danger to go get coffees, storing people on computer, the motorbike sequence and the TARDIS materialising on an aeroplane, but I'll let them have those)
Even the real villain pulling the strings here turns out to be only the boring old Great Intelligence again, unseen in the series since… oh, the preceding episode, which was also written 'by Steven Moffat'. That time the GI had been plotting to take over the world using snowmen, so we can hardly be expected to find any awe at all in the lightweight entity's 'return' here.
Hmm, or is there? Might we be going to see said entity retconned into being the villainous computer WOTAN in 1966's The War Machines, to explain why the Doctor was actually called 'Doctor Who' in that one? Perhaps similar villainous computer BOSS in 1973's The Green Death also? Let's see, there are 33 Saturdays between now and the fiftieth anniversary on Saturday 23rd November 2013, 20 episodes in hand to screen leaving 13 unaccounted for. A story from each of the 10 earlier Doctors leaves three Saturdays still outstanding, which would be negligible… Wouldn't it be great if we actually got a new second-unit story for each of the surviving Doctors this year, plus minisodes and traditional team-up at the end? Well, I'm not holding my breath, but all the same, the joy in Doctor Who has always been its power to fire the imagination, so I'll dream a little longer while I still can.
Anyway, while I'm a bit vague on the GI's plan this time (something to do with storing people / replacing people / needing them to have clicked on a link to do so), there are a lot of good ingredients in this latest crowd-pleasing season-opener. Wi-Fi, the cloud, the Shard, the flagrant use of time-travel, Moffat's trademark use of banter… yes, this is exactly what you would manufacture if you were trying to forge his style.
And yet, the thing about his scripts that has always made me go wow would have to be all his new ideas. And this episode sadly has none.
Confusingly, there are even Russell T Davies-isms littered throughout, including the present-day alien invasion that no-one remembers afterwards, BBC News, and the handy pressing of a button to handily undo everything at the end handily. Consequently, the plot is identical to The Power Of Three, which as you know was only three programmes ago.
Basically, this is a great episode if you have never seen Doctor Who before and so won't recognise these tropes. It's fun, exciting, and not the least bit scary. It's also set in London and refreshingly actually filmed there for a change.
And after everything I said last time about the Doctor looking older, in this one he manages to look even younger than in The Eleventh Hour. How does he do it? Well, given how long this one's been waiting to get shown, they've probably been shot years apart and in the wrong order.
All in all, I enjoyed this start to finish. Fuzzy picture in places, quiet audio but mixed well for a change, and some new music and costume design choices, all good. And, having witnessed the same companion's death twice before now, in this one she really did look like she wasn't going to make it. Now that is a tough thing to convince a weekly TV viewer.
But I couldn't watch 14 remakes of this each year.
As I said, Doctor Who's strength has always lain in its imagination, and that requires at least some elements to be fresh.
I hope you're still out there somewhere, Steven Moffat, and not trapped in your own story.
Now, that is the sort of thing we've come to expect of you…