Steven Moffat
(YouTube/Doctor Who)

Steven Moffat’s Cancel Culture Comedy Reminds Me Why I ‘Canceled’ Him

Steven Moffat was showrunner of Doctor Who from 2010 to 2017, and he was a controversial figure, to say the least. There were many discussions about the things he did to his female characters, and his constant sexist quipping didn’t help matters, either.

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His casual misogyny, and his sheer cluelessness that this was a problem, was the elephant in the room of Doctor Who fandom at that time. Moffat’s tenure on Who (and Sherlock, for that matter) unfolded before “cancel culture” was really a named concept. But now Moffat has a new comedy-drama show all about it, Douglas Is Cancelled, and from the moment it was announced, eyebrows were raised. It’s all about a celebrity who cracks a sexist joke at a wedding and finds himself on the verge of being canceled—a sexist joke leading to a cancellation, you say? Where could that idea possibly have come from?

I have a complicated relationship with the works of Steven Moffat. I actually love the vast majority of female characters he wrote; I just don’t love the things he did to them. I think episodes like “Blink” and “Boom” and “Heaven Sent” are fantastic. But I’ve never been able to like the man himself, and I can pinpoint the exact moment I personally canceled Steven Moffat.

Moffat has some funny ideas about marriage

Marriage was a big part of Moffat’s early Doctor Who stories. Season five is all about the Amy-Rory relationship, which ends in a wedding. But apparently, in the eyes of 2012-era Steven Moffat, it wasn’t a real marriage until the couple involved had kids.

He kindly explained this in the 2012 Doctor Who Magazine special edition, “The Eleventh Doctor: Volume Four.” In his exact words: “A young married couple without a kid? They’re just dating. You tell yourself you’re married … but really you’re dating.”

That’s his reasoning for making Amy Pond pregnant so quickly after she married Rory. Can’t have people thinking that a childless marriage is valid, after all!

I cannot even begin to describe the waves of hurt I feel when I think about that snide little quip. You see, I myself am in a marriage without children, and I definitely don’t consider myself to be “just dating.” That isn’t even getting into how cruel that line is to couples who can’t have children no matter how much they want them. To this day, it’s just bizarre to me that Moffat thought that was an appropriate thing to say.

But that sums up one of the reasons why many people had such a problem with him: He just doesn’t think about the impact his words might have. He rushes forward with his thoughts on any given thing— feminism, fertility, the backlash against Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor—with the reckless privilege of someone who’s never been told, “You do not have the authority to speak on this subject.”

I don’t trust him to handle a cancel culture comedy with anything other than that same casual callousness on display in that old Doctor Who Magazine. Does Moffat really think childless or child-free marriages are invalid? Probably not … but still, the pain of infertility, the crushing weight of certain personal decisions—these were all just joke material to him.

So I don’t exactly have high hopes for Douglas Is Cancelled.

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Sarah Barrett
Sarah Barrett (she/her) is a freelance writer with The Mary Sue who has been working in journalism since 2014. She loves to write about movies, even the bad ones. (Especially the bad ones.) The Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and the Star Wars prequels changed her life in many interesting ways. She lives in one of the very, very few good parts of England.