Last week we explored why we were going to miss Steven Moffat as show-runner of Doctor Who. This week we’re going to look at why Chris Chibnall’s induction will be a good thing.
Previously on Doctor Who
Chris Chibnall has already written for Doctor Who – in fact he penned five episodes between 2007 and 2012 under the helm of Steven Moffat and Russell T. Davies. Therefore it’s safe to assume he has a pretty good idea of how the show works.
That’s not to say his previous efforts have all been great, but on the whole they’ve been alright.
In 2007 Chibnall penned ’42’, a realtime thriller set on a spaceship that was slowly being taken over by a sentient sun. The execution of this episode was like recent found-footage episode ‘Sleep No More’: it didn’t quite work.
Chibnall returned in 2010 and revamped the Silurians. His two-parter was divisive, but at its core it was exceptional.
I personally cared little for the human characters, but Chibnall managed to create great empathy for the aliens – in particular Alaya. Now that Chibnall is show-runner, I’m hoping for my long touted sequel to this story.
I desperately want to see what happened 1,000 years later…
In 2012 Chibnall penned four new stories – two full-length episodes, and two shorts. ‘Pond Life’ was a coda to the Ponds, and in it Chibnall managed humour, suspense, mystery and heartbreak – quite a feat given that overall it’s only five minutes in length.
‘P.S.’ served as an effective epilogue to the Ponds, which is surprising given that it was never actually filmed. But thankfully it shows that Chibnall knows how to craft an ending.
‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ is exactly what it says on the tin: a romp in space featuring dinosaurs. But it really wasn’t as bad as many expected; in fact it’s quite brilliant.
Once more Chibnall managed to make people feel empathy for the non-human characters, a trait I am sure will continue through his run.
And ‘The Power of Three’ was nearly executed brilliantly, except for a very rushed ending. I’m hoping that the Shakri return under Chibnall’s helm, and that the wonderfully regenerated UNIT continue to feature.
In 2005 Chibnall was appointed head writer and co-producer for Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood. Whilst his run ended before the exceptional ‘Children of Earth’, Chibnall managed to write eight episodes in total – including several fan favourites.
‘Cyberwoman’ is Chibnall’s stab at attempting, and very much succeeding, in taking an old monster and creating something entirely new. It’s a trick he played once more on the Silurians that I am sure he’ll attempt again.
‘Countrycide’, meanwhile, is utterly terrifying, creating horror out of humanity rather than the extraterrestrial.
‘Adrift’ is heartbreaking and ‘Fragments’ is a wonderful bit of exposition that fills in the gaps of the Torchwood team. Hopefully due to this episode, Chibnall’s Doctor Who won’t be plagued by unanswered questions.
‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’ is Chibnall’s only Doctor Who universe opening story thus far, and one that excels. He managed to draw in the viewers and ensure that they stuck around for the ride, a knack that is needed to write Doctor Who.
And perhaps Chibnall’s best episodes to date? ‘End of Days’ and ‘Exit Wounds’, the final episodes of series one and two, managed to wrap everything up nicely whilst also tearing out the hearts of many fans.
Who can forget the heartbreaking moment where we lost not only Owen but Toshiko too? I’m still not over that!
Chibnall has written extensively for Jack Harkness, so I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see the enigmatic captain finally return. Maybe bring John Hart along too? Just a suggestion.
Broadchurch is one of those shows in which the viewer will rarely smile. But with it comes plenty of emotion, and this is the key trait that I hope Chibnall carries over into Doctor Who. Doctor Who needs emotion – it needs the viewers to be invested in the characters, so that when the Doctor or the companion leaves the viewer cries along with them.
But via Broadchurch , Chibnall has also shown two other key traits needed to be a show runner. Firstly he has shown his ability to craft a connected story arc that pays off emotionally come its end. And secondly he can keep the mystery going for a prolonged number of episodes.
Even after 16 episodes, I cannot wait to find out what happens next.
All of this puts Chibnall in good stead for taking over Doctor Who.
Doctor Who series 10 and beyond
So what can we expect from Chibnall’s Doctor Who?
Well, this is pure speculation at the moment, but if rumours are to be believed we’re going to be meeting a new Doctor. Apparently Peter Capaldi will bow out alongside Steven Moffat, giving the new show runner a fresh start like Russell T. Davies and David Tennant did back in 2010.
Are you ready for Capaldi to go? We’re certainly not.
We want emotion, we want a decent story arc tying everything together, we want the return of UNIT and the Shakri, and we want a new twist on an old enemy. With all of this in hindsight, I think Doctor Who is in very safe hands indeed.