From Moffat to Chibnall: The Dawn of a New Era
Connor Johnston reacts to yesterday’s big changeover announcement
It was only a few days ago that we sat, both eager and hesitant for news and announcements regarding the immediate future of Doctor Who – though I seldom think any of us would have been prepared for an announcement as monumental and groundbreaking as the one that came! Yesterday it was revealed that while Series 10 will film throughout the coming months, its release will be postponed until Spring 2017, kick started by a 2016 Christmas Special. Not only does Series 10 promise to live up to the standard and energy of Series 9, but it also marks the end of one of the most critically acclaimed and popular eras in Doctor Who’s long history – with Steven Moffat due to resign as show-runner following the 2017 series. The uncertainty of who would be an able to fill the showrunner shoes of such an accomplished, loved – though sometimes (as with anything) divisive personality – has been the topic of immense debate for the last few years. Filling the void will be none other than British Drama veteran Chris Chibnall. Today, in the wake of such a colossal announcement, join me in anticipating and reacting to the dawn of a new era…
Farewelling the Moffat Era
There can be no overstatement in addressing how much Steven Moffat has done for Doctor Who. The legacy that this man leaves behind (after taking over from the similarly impressive Russell T Davies) is without a doubt one of the most profound and popular periods of the show’s long history. At the end of his reign in 2017, Steven Moffat will have overseen the creation of Doctor Who for over 8 years; in which time he will have introduced 3 incarnations of the Doctor (despite writing for 7 of them… or technically ‘all 13’), at least 5 major companions and countless alien worlds and foes. From the depths of Earth’s history to the glory of Gallifrey’s return – the Moffat Era has seen it all. At the core of its success has been a focus on its characters, political undertones, and gripping story arcs. The global popularity of Doctor Who has skyrocketed to unprecedented levels under Steven Moffat, and it’s been his undying passion for creating the show as well as his unwavering creativity that is to thank.
I’ve decided not to stew too long on Moffat’s legacy today, given that we will still have just under 2 years of his presence to enjoy – as well as the fact that there will be ample time to reflect, celebrate and pay tribute to his time on the show in the future. For the moment, the Moffat Era is still in full swing – with one more series promising a worthy amount of shock, surprise, comedy, heartbreak and drama to send off one of the most influential figures of the show’s history. Whether you’re a fan of his work or not, there is no denying the fact that Steven William Moffat is unquestionably one of the most accomplished and groundbreaking television writers of our generation – with a list of awards including the Royal Television Society Award, Bronze Rose Award, British Comedy Award, Writers Guild of Great Britain Award, BAFTA, Emmy, 4 British Academy of Television awards and 4 Hugo Awards. I think I can speak for all fans when I say that however enthusiastic we are about Steven’s last series of Doctor Who, we’re equally excited to see what he does next. Will he stay on writing standalone episodes for Doctor Who on a regular basis? Perhaps headline his own Doctor Who spinoff? Or maybe something completely new and unconnected to the series. Whatever it is, one thing that is for certain is that there will be an audience right there and waiting to pay his work the credit it deserves.
Welcome to the Day of the Chib
Personally, I’ve always felt Chris Chibnall’s work on Doctor Who has been underrated by most of the fan base. His credits so far include the ‘42’, ‘The Hungry Earth’, ‘Cold Blood’, ‘Pond Life’, ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ and ‘The Power of Three’. Looking at his work on a show from a broader perspective, it’s clear that there is a great variety in the stories he tackles. On top of that there’s also a certain dependability and confidence to his stories to provide a solid and entertaining standalone adventure. Structurally his episodes are quite impressive, especially in his writing of background characters and gripping premises. Though there’s been nothing I’d deem as ‘overly spectacular’ in terms of series significance or creativity, as yet. What remains is a great amount of potential and a promising starting point. Chibnall’s work as co-producer and writer of most of Torchwood’s first two series provides a far greater interpretation on to his competencies in writing Doctor Who, with notable highlights including ‘Adrift’, ‘Fragments’ and ‘Exit Wounds’.
Of course outside of Doctor Who, Chibnall’s credits receive much more of the public adoration that his work deserves. Most famously is his work on the BAFTA award winning drama, ‘Broadchurch’ – of which production of Series 3 commences this May. In a period of time where there was fear the genre had begun to feel predictable, ‘Broadchurch’ totally changed the way audiences interact and invest themselves with British Drama. Building on the momentum of an emotionally draining murder mystery, the ITV series is a showcasing of Chibnall’s greatest assets as a television writer: Killer characterization of both headline and background characters, a gripping intensity that doesn’t ever seem melodramatic, a sincere understanding of the human condition and a gritty, realistic portrayal of emotion and grief. Above all, despite the incredibly high expectations the show sets for itself, ‘Broadchurch’ rarely disappoints in the way of significant and satisfying closure for its characters and storylines. If you’re yet to immerse yourself in the story of the Broadchurch community and are still finding yourself doubting Chibnall’s ability to produce quality television, this is the show you need to watch.
Chibnall also worked as executive producer, writer and effectively ‘showrunner’ of ‘Law and Order: UK’, which over its 7 year run saw an abundance of Who alumni grace its main cast. Under Chibnall, the series was praised for its ‘crisp’ writing as being an authentic translation of the original American series. Other notable works include the critically acclaimed BBC Medical Drama ‘Born and Bred’ as writer and executive producer, as well as written works for ‘The Great Train Robbery’, ‘Camelot’, ‘Spooks’, ‘United’ and of course ‘Life on Mars’. Chibnall has also overseen the translation of ‘Broadchurch’ internationally as executive producer of both the American remake ‘Gracepoint’, and the French ‘Malaterra’. A veteran of both British Television writing and executive producing, it’s Chris Chibnall proven ability in his field that is one of the strongest reasons to warmly receive his new role on the show come 2018.
A New Dawn, A New Day, A New Life
What an exciting time this is for Doctor Who fans everywhere, with the next three years bringing some of the biggest restructurings that the show has ever seen. 2016 will welcome the launch of Doctor Who’s third spin-off, ‘Class’ (and the first in over 5 years of television) written by Patrick Ness, before 2017 sees Moffat’s promising final series take back its rightful place in the Spring timeslot. All of this before Chris Chibnall opens a brand new era of Doctor Who in 2018, once again breathing new life into a thriving legacy. There’s a sense of renewal, rejuvenation and, dare I say is, regeneration in the air – and as change and transformation has been at the core of the show’s success for over half a century, it’s no secret what a flourishing and prosperous future lies ahead for the show*. The Dawn of a new era is here.
*As long as Peter Capaldi remains for AT LEAST 2-3 more series. This is imperative and non-negotiable.