It’s been over a month since Steven Moffat ended his tenure as showrunner of Doctor Who. Whilst I would do a retrospective, I feel like I’ve discussed his era too much in the past. For now, let’s look to the future and what Chris Chibnall has in store for Whovians. Outside of casting we don’t know too much about his era, which is great. I do have faith in him to deliver a strong run but here’s a list of things I hope he follows through on. I did a list before the Series 9 finale about wishes for Series 10, which were mostly fulfilled (two new interesting companions, great returning monsters and cool new ones and a better balance of story and character). My other two weren’t really followed through on (a consistent costume and more alien planets) so they are on this list as honourable mentions. I do like the Thirteenth Doctor’s costume so far, but I need to see it in action and let it sink in.
So, let’s dive into what I would like to see in Chris Chibnall’s era-
- A new, original arc
I cannot stress this enough, but a series without the Daleks, Cybermen or the Master would be brilliant. I don’t think the latter two are appearing but the Daleks almost certainly will, which would be fine as long as they aren’t the story arc.
Remember (ba-dum) how effective the Silence were? We had a brand new, original threat for basically two seasons. You could argue the Series 6 arc teetered out of control and that the Silence were wasted but the fact remains that Steven Moffat created a fascinating new villain along with a highly engaging arc. I hope Chris Chibnall does the same and creates new threats, supporting characters, worlds and arcs.
Without trying to sound like I’m bias, the RTD era really had this under control. We had Ood and Weeping Angels, Torchwood and Sarah Jane, three trips to New Earth and well thought out, interesting arcs. Moffat had this in a way with Matt Smith (Silence and Angels, River and the Paternoster Gang and the Silence Will Fall arc) but Peter Capaldi’s run suffered from a lack of originality. Am I a good man? That was basically Eleven’s arc in Series 6. The companion and the Doctor are in a dangerous partnership? Explored in the God Complex. It’s why I loved Series 10, as rehabilitating the Master had never been done before. But there can still be more.
Have a cosmic war. Have a chase across time and space by bounty hunters. Have the Great Old Ones return, ready to wreck havoc across the universe. Have Rassilon plot an elaborate revenge against the Doctor. I would love Chris Chibnall to just go nuts with his story arcs and ideas. Don’t just rely on old enemies or retread old ideas, do something truly captivating and original. The whole universe can be explored, why are the arcs so Earth focused and why is everything something from the Doctor’s past? Move away from sequels to Classic Who or yet more Time War angst and do something new.
- Good villains
Without looking them up, how many Twelfth Doctor villains can you name? As in proper, compelling, original villains (Missy doesn’t count). My guess is that you can’t name many, as most of them weren’t really villains and the ones that were weren’t very good. The Monks were promising but ended up being just the Silence, and there really isn’t that much from Twelve’s rogue’s gallery. There’s the Boneless yes, but what else?
William Hartnell battled cosmic entities and rogue Time Lords. Tom Baker encountered the last of the Osrians, the Guardians of Time and more. Sylvester McCoy fought Fenric, a being from beyond comprehension and David Tennant battled the Devil. My point is that Peter Capaldi’s rogues were a bit less impressive. Oh no, lion people. Oh no, sleep dust monsters. Watch out for the weird robot owl thing and you better hide from the terrifying King Hydroflax!
My wish for Thirteen is that she gets some amazing villains. They don’t have to be sympathetic or misunderstood, you can just make them evil. Is there a single redeeming quality about the Mara, or the Family of Blood? No, they’re just evil. It would help if they had some depth but sometimes they can be just evil. As long as they’re interesting, the audience will care. It says a lot when the best villain last series was a CGI wolf with tentacles.
- Have fun
Let’s not beat around the bush here, Doctor Who is at its best when it’s dark. There’s a reason Phillip Hinchfliffe’s era is beloved. However, it’s important to have fun and embrace the camp. Having the Doctor be light hearted, caring and zany is hugely important, and unfortunately Twelve was none of that, at first anyway. The show turned utterly serious and dour with plot points like the Moon being an egg and flying Cybermen being treated incredibly seriously without any acknowledgement to the stupidness of the concepts (and the show itself is stupid. It’s about a shape shifting alien who flies in a box through time and space. But that’s what makes it great). Tom Baker had dark stories, but he was still a buffon who tripped over his scarf. Jon Pertwee was a snarky know-it-all who loved driving and David Tennant had some of the most mature storylines in the show’s history, yet he still randomly referenced pop culture, had a positive attitude and made jokes, all whilst managing to maintain the darkness of the storylines.
Sometimes it’s good to go dark. Inferno, Waters of Mars, Curse of Fenric, The Doctor Falls- all very dark. But don’t have the basic outlook of the show be dark. Why did I like Robot of Sherwood and The Return of Doctor Mysterio? Because they were fun. Why did the fanbase dislike them? They were different from the typical Twelfth Doctor episode. Twelve was out of character for those as he was acting the way any other Doctor would act in those situations- having fun. My advice for Chris Chibnall is- lighten it up when it’s appropriate. When there are dark storylines, have them be dark. When there are light hearted or goofy scenarios, have fun. This is why having a lighter, nicer Doctor helps.
- Take risks and don’t spoil things early
I’m going to go on a slight tangent and bring up The Last Jedi. Nothing about that film is what you’d expect. Luke Skywalker is a jaded old man and Snoke, the supposed big bad of the new trilogy, is killed off. Think about how risky that is, and how refreshing it was. Iron Man 3 does something similar with the Mandarin, turning the character from a generic bad guy to a metaphor about modern media and manipulation.
My point is, Chibnall really needs to think outside the box. Don’t give the audience what they’re expecting and subvert expectations. Of course it was going to be Missy in the Vault. But what if it wasn’t? Of course the Doctor wasn’t really working for the Monks. But what if he was? The funny thing about that last example is that Skulduggery Pleasant did a similar plot point in Resurrection, released the same week as Lie of the Land (having the main character turn evil) but actually stuck to it. That’s a risk.
The show has taken risks in the past, such as Heaven Sent, but I want more. Truly challenge the audience and make them think about the show they’re watching. What if the mysterious box in the TARDIS isn’t the arc, but the companion we’ve been following throughout the series has been working for the bad guys the whole time? What if the Earth is invaded by aliens in the most painfully generic plot imaginable, only for the Doctor to realise that they’re not on Earth and are actually on a game show? That’s the kind of risk I’m talking about. Extremis is a great example of a risk that worked.
There have been episodes in the Capaldi era that took risks, but the show as a whole needs to do more risky things, especially in regards to the story arcs. Do something that will shatter expectations and make the audience react. Don’t fear backlash, just go for it. Chibnall also needs to make sure the risks pay off- Series 8 had a dark and depressed Doctor but it didn’t really work as nothing was being subverted- he was just angry and miserable. How about a pure historical? Or a non-linear episode? Or (dare I say it?) a musical episode? As long as they’re good then the fans won’t mind.
How about a pure historical musical?
Also, don’t spoil things. How much more awesome would John Simm’s reveal in World Enough and Time have been if it hadn’t been spoilt? The Internet would have gone nuts. I know it’s harder to keep secrets know but the BBC need to have some degree of control over spoilers.
- A consistent time slot
This is less about the show itself and more about scheduling. Back in the day, David Tennant’s Doctor would be on TV at around 7:00. OK, so I stayed up slightly later on Saturday. But with Peter Capaldi, I didn’t know what time the show was on as it was never consistent. Sometimes it was 7, sometimes it was 8:35. You’d think with a Spring start Series 10 would not fall victim to this, but as early as Smile the schedule was being pushed around for… football. I respect that people like watching football, but if Doctor Who is on at a certain time, I want it to be on at that time and not have to wait to see if the episode will be pushed back a week just because people can’t kick a ball in time. Seriously, is there not a separate channel for sports? That would be the only hiccup you’d think, but no, it happened again for Pyramid at the End of the World and then the show was aired even earlier to accommodate a new BBC show. Hey Beeb, maybe it’s not a good idea to start a new show when your flagship sci-fi show is currently airing.
Little things like it airing five minutes before or later than last week really bug me. Is it so hard to just have a slot for Doctor Who? It’s managed with the other shows. Even Peter Capaldi has spoken out about this, and it’s believe to be one of the reasons he left, despite initially stating he was going to do more than three seasons. With Series 11 not airing until autumn, I’m worried that the same thing will happen with Series 8 and 9- instead of putting the show in that magical slot known as “before Strictly Come Dancing”, the Beeb are just going to put it afterwards and air it depending on how long Strictly lasts. It got even worse in Series 9 when the BBC chose not to air the show before the Rugby World Cup, rather letting the show run through it. Great move guys, maybe this is why the viewing figures have tanked.
If I was managing the BBC, I would air the show at 6:00-6:50 every Saturday. This way, the whole family can eat dinner whilst watching (which was the point of airing the show at around that time anyway) and there won’t be any conflicts. It’ll be autumn so it’ll be dark so any scary episodes will be appropriate and the show will not air too early or too late. I really hope this is sorted out and I hope Chris Chibnall actually has a say in this as he has a lot riding on this series (if the viewing figures are low, the BBC will just assume it’s because of Jodie Whittaker being the first female Doctor). I know when the show is on every week because I watch every week and make sure to check when it’s on but the general public, who drop in and out, will not be as dedicated as me. The show needs a proper time slot.
So, those are five points I hope Chris Chibnall expands on in his era. Have some original ideas, some great villains, have fun but don’t forget to take risks, don’t let anything be spoilt in advance and don’t let the show air inconsistently. Let’s wait and see.