The Moffat > Chibnall regeneration

There’s a civilized discussion happening at Eruditorum Press about the showrunner change coming two years from now. Here’s what I wrote there:

Not only has Chibnall never written an outstanding Who episode, but I have a hard time picturing him doing a charismatic, daring, innovative job promoting and orchestrating the series as a showrunner. So I’m in the disappointed camp.

Apart from “Hungry Earth”/”Cold Blood,” though, I haven’t actively hated any of his stories, and so to make a dutiful effort at optimism, I ponder the question of what point of view is Chibnall Who likely to take.

To be reductive about it, I think you can extrapolate from “Rose,” as though it were a piece of fairy cake in the Total Perspective Vortex, almost everything you need to know about the RTD era. Or, if you don’t buy that, pick “Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways,” which folds in the rest of the important stuff about gods and hubris and too much power along with the pop culture and the beauty of the ordinary. Similarly, you can take one of Moffat’s early episodes — I think “Girl in the Fireplace” has it pretty well covered — and extrapolate lots of the key elements, concerns, motifs, and themes of the Moffat era. You can see from his individual episodes what his era would be about, generally speaking.

So what does Chibnall’s work on Who have in common? I’m cheating a bit by thinking of his Torchwood episodes and Broadchurch as well, but if there’s any thread at all, it’s something about past wounds causing a savage (over)reaction in the present. Revenge and retaliation are all over “42,” “Hungry Earth / Cold Blood,” and “Dinosaurs.” The recurrence of past friends as present enemies is there in “Cyberwoman” and the Captain John Hart character. I couldn’t tell you exactly how, but the unearthing of past trauma in “Adrift” and even Broadchurch series 1 seems connected to this. It’s a stab in the dark, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this (gothic?) mode ended up dominating Chibnall’s Who. It’s not the worst approach to Who ever — arguably it has a lot in common with the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era — but also arguably we’ve already had it, with evil Rassilon and the ripples of the Time War.

I didn’t think the RTD and Moffat eras were perfect, but they were of such a high quality, and with such heart underpinning them, that it’s hard to imagine this will be a patch on them. The one silver lining I see is that — and I don’t know why I give him this kind of credit — I can imagine Chibnall casting a female Doctor and/or a Doctor of color. I can’t quite see any of the other prospective showrunners doing that.

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