He emerges from the TARDIS, a little blue box we’re all more than familiar with … but something’s changed. Who is this bitter old Scottish man with “attack eyebrows” and a haggard face? This isn’t the Doctor we know and love! Where’s the fez and the flirting with companions? Where’s the wacky sense of wonder? What happened to “Doctor Who?”

The answer is simple, brilliant and found in a move that is really making me miss Steven Moffat already: “Doctor Who” got old. Fifty to be precise, making him the oldest science-fiction franchise of all time — beating out both “Star Trek” and “Star Wars.” For the first time in the series’ history, the actor and the show itself are the same age. Actually, Peter Capaldi, number twelve of the Doctors (but Malcolm Tucker in the hearts of any fans of “The Thick of It”) is fifty-six but the specificity isn’t what’s important here.

Most of the time, the Doctor’s “regeneration” protocol is an easy ploy (to those non-Whovians, the Doctor never dies, but rather is mortally injured and regenerates himself to have a new physical form; in other words, same guy, different face). Oftentimes, the executives of “Doctor Who” simply used it as a way for the show, and character, to outlast the actors. But now, it actually means something: the Doctor, after fifty years on screen, is finally showing his age.

Not to say he’s not the same Doctor. The wit, wonder, genius and personality is still all there. But now, with Moffat almost done with “Doctor Who,” it seems he’s leaving his final dent in the series’ long-running history. Yep, we don’t know how he did it with no one else noticing, but he made the good Doctor a wisecracking, good-natured and brilliant middle-aged Scotsman with a bit of moral outrage and a love of truth, no matter how much it hurts.

Steven Moffat made the Doctor into himself. Okay, that’s not entirely accurate. But still, it’s hard to imagine whoever’s replacing the Moff not to feel a little anxious. The man has stirred controversy no doubt for truly maturing the Doctor from a British cult favorite into an international phenomenon, and of course there are some people out there who miss the days of shaky sets and bad graphics.

But the Moff did something exceedingly important as well: He’s reaffirmed the literary potential of the series. Steven Moffat is easily one of the best television writers in the business and I’m anxiously awaiting what he’s going to do after he’s left the TARDIS for good. Some of his detractors have complained that Moffat’s storylines have been overly complex or that the general lack of week-by-week plots are lessening the quality of “Doctor Who.” These claims are rubbish. As with “Sherlock” (Moffat’s other television creation), Moffat has succeeded in taking the approach of a serial novel or prose work and applying it to storytelling on the screen. His characters are richly drawn, doing much more than providing target practice for the Doctor’s witticisms.

Moffat has often been reviled for some of his female characters, something I find just ridiculous. I can’t think of a better subversion of a classically subordinate character than the recent revelation of Mary Moorston’s past on “Sherlock.” Nor can I think of a more fitting “Doctor Who” spin-off than lizard humanoid Lady Vastra, her wife Jenny and their butler Strax solving crimes in Victorian London together as was seen in “Deep Breath” (and major props for the kiss scene between Vastra and Jenny; a scene which has unfortunately been censored in several countries). Clara as well, a character some might have thought a tad too conventional for the Doctor’s lovely assistant, is seen growing out of her shell and into someone almost tragic in her affection for a man who aged from twenty to fifty in the span of a day.

“Doctor Who” is the best kind of science-fiction. Sure, it involves an alien dinosaur rampaging through Victorian London, but it does so in a way that’s about who we are. This season asks the question “If you were to continuously rearrange yourself for an eternity, would you even still remember who you were at the beginning?” The Doctor, Clara, friends and finally Moffat, himself, all bring their A-game in delving into such ideas and questions in a way that, quite frankly, has simply never been done to such an extent and on a program as big as “Doctor Who.” Doctors might change, writers go and time might be forever in flux; as of right now, though, I’m very much enjoying the present state of “Doctor Who.”

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