Fandom can be a toxic thing, and former showrunner, Steven Moffat has admitted that the negativity aimed in his direction did affect him; this comes after the latest Doctor Who Magazine merchandise poll found his Day of the Doctor Target novelisation sitting in the top spot in its category.
Moffat, who wrote for the show since 2005’s The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances and acted as a showrunner from 2010’s The Eleventh Hour to 2017’s Twice Upon A Time, replied to a comment on Instagram about the cruel side of fandom. He said:
“I did used to find that a bit odd. My stories would always do very well in the fan polls and then there would be huge articles about how all the fans hated me. Hard to make sense of that. I suppose I can admit now that I found it all a bit upsetting (some it was very personal and downright deceitful) and I’d sit there and wonder what I got in return for all this misery, and then I’d remember – paid. But it’s the part of the job I don’t miss.”
It’s especially satisfying to see the overwhelming support he received in response to this comment, including from Russell T. Davies, who agreed:
“Good for you. I don’t miss that for a second. They’re still writing those articles about us, they haven’t realised we’ve reached the horizon xx”
Former Brand Manager, Edward Russell added:
“[Y]ou know, don’t you, that it’s all going to turn around. That even your fiercest critics will back down and admit that your writing is brilliant. The problem is that everyone knows that you’re a fan, so some thing that being a fan is your only qualification. And if you can write and run Doctor Who – why can’t they? Jealousy. So there first move is to criticise your writing.”
It does make you question the nature of fandom, which right now seems incredibly divisive. But there’s a big grey area in which we frequently tread.
Personally, I think Steven Moffat is the best writer the show has ever had; he’s an inspiration to me, changed the way I see stories (which is a big thing for a writer), and has given me my favourite era of Doctor Who. Nonetheless, not all of his work is my cup of tea, which is only to be expected.
While I criticised the series, nothing negative I say is aimed at Moffat (or indeed any production members). But then we come to Chris Chibnall, whose tenure as showrunner I’ve found disappointing to say the least. Cast and crew, former and present, have criticised the series – Chibnall quite famously laid into part of the Sixth Doctor’s era on TV – and, as an audience, we’re more than entitled to scrutinise something. Personal attacks are wrong. Then again, is my saying that Chibnall’s era isn’t for me an attack on him? I genuinely don’t know the answer: certainly he’d be upset to know I don’t think his current work is good enough for Doctor Who, but equally, is it wrong to express such an opinion? Freedom of speech has to be fought for: that means I’m fair game too. Don’t like something on the DWC? Tell us. We can’t cater for all, but we can do the best we can.
Some might say that the key is in the Doctor’s “never cruel or cowardly”, but intent is often lost, especially online.
So what can we take away from this? Perhaps the best thing is for us to remember that these aren’t just names – they’re people. They’re you and me. We need to consider the consequences. It’s not to say we can’t express whether we enjoyed something and why; it’s merely a reminder to do our best and know that’s what everyone else is doing that too.