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Chris Chibnall Series 12-Rumours of chaos and the way back?

I’m really not in the know whether there is any truth in the rumours of disquiet behind the scenes for Series 12 but the factually correct internet blew a gasket with “news” recently with a report that Chris Chibnall had allegedly “gone” from Doctor Who and Jodie Whittaker had left in sympathy with him.

Not liking being told what to do he had allegedly been “fired” by the BBC or had“walked”, depending on the source, from Doctor Who. YouTube reviewers frothed with reasons why this had happened, there were creative differences, disagreements over the political slant in the show. There had also apparently merchandising issues as Chris Chibnall had wanted to create female Daleks and the BBC hadn’t been keen on the choice. This was due to complaints that Series 11 had not produced many merchandising opportunities.

All of this is nonsense, right? I just found all these rumours from unnamed sources as mischief-making and rather tiresome. Okay, let’s indulge the thought and Imagine that for a moment it’s true that Chris Chibnall had gone. How does that really help the show? Rumours like that to have a showrunner go mid-series are really disruptive for the show. The reputation of the show suffers, making the BBC, who owns the show and hire the man as looking very foolish.

Although why the Radio Times stepped up fairly quickly when they no longer have a link to the BBC to quash the rumours seemed strange. They had a “well-placed source” describing it as “all total nonsense”. I think I’ll wait until someone from the BBC officially comments before I believe any of these current rumours have any truth.

I do understand the disquiet amongst some fans after series 11. Chris Chibnall wasn’t the long term fans first choice as showrunner. Other names were thrown around for showrunner, Neil Gaiman, Toby Whithouse, Mark Gatiss all whom perhaps had a better pedigree with the genre. But Chris Chibnall gave us his vision and the facts are the premiere episode of Series 11, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”, received a total of 10.96 million viewers, making it the highest series premiere for a Doctor in the history of the programme, with the highest consolidated ratings since “The Time of the Doctor” (2013).

The ratings were generally higher than for series 10, probably due to the curiosity of a new FEMALE (sorry I just wanted to highlight the gender because Chris Chibnall seemed to think it was rather important) rather bouncy doctor. But a shortened series and the austereness with some of the choices he made for Series 11 made the show feel at times unfamiliar to viewers and the ratings did decrease week on week.

I hope that the production team have reviewed some of the decisions made for Series 11 and recognised the show format needs a few tweaks for the next series

With the series probably 5 months away and I had a list of what I would like to see for Series 12 it would go something like this:

1. Two Parters

A couple of two partners would definitely help as with fewer episodes there is then an opportunity to let all of these characters breathe and plot development. Having every episode as a single standalone last series didn’t work as it meant a lot of time was spent establishing the fresh supporting cast each week, the time and place at the expense of the four main characters. Series 7 was also all standalone and even though it did introduce a new companion in Clara it also gave the audience familiarity with three classics who monsters, Ice Warriors, Daleks, Cybermen and one New Who monster, the Weeping Angels.

The departure of long term companions Rory and Amy was handled in such a way that there was pathos and emotion as they parted from the Doctor at the hands of the Weeping Angels. Series 11 moved away from having recognisable monsters, brought in three companions and suffered for it as none of them felt fully fleshed out.

2. Story Arcs

This is probably a follow on from the point above but let’s have a story arc. I’ve been watching Season 16 recently (the Key to Time) and I think Series 12 would benefit some kind of structure to it. Yes, sure there was an element of fun gallivanting around the universe, with loose adventures for Series 11 but were we all tuning in week after week to find out what happens next? The viewing figures week on week went down for Series 11.

There wasn’t a hook to keep us tuning in. There has to be an element of what will happen next. I’m not talking Series 6 River Song/ Silents intensity but something that joins the episodes together in a broadway. Russell T Davies managed a nice balance between standalone stories and a mystery that would resolve in an epic finale.

Chris Chibnall did try with to create a monster in Tzim-Sha and have a pay-off in the “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos” but it was poor. As there wasn’t any foreshadowing, except a brief mention in “The Ghost Monument” of the Stenza race, Tzim- Sha seemed a villain without weight. So having Graham and Ryan trapping Tzim-Sha in a stasis chamber, telling him to reflect on his actions, including Grace’s death seemed a little disappointing and inconsequential. He was also a new villain which the audience were unfamiliar with.

Although we did get a Dalek in “Resolution” how nice would it have been to have sprinkled some unobtrusive clues throughout the series for the return this classic foe.

3. Developing Yas and Ryan

There were lost opportunities in the last series to develop Yaz and Ryan and for them to grow.

I also felt the companions became secondary to the Doctor. Perhaps this was a deliberate move away from “the girl who waited” “the impossible girl” tags of previous years to make them ordinary. It’s not a bad thing but they became bland as supporting characters were the ones to challenge the Doctor.  Not one of them to rail against the Doctor’s questionable decision to let the spiders slowly die in “Arachnids in the UK”.  All well and good to leave it to the Doctor to criticise Robertson for shooting the giant spider dead, not agreeing it was a mercy killing but was her solution any better?

Give me a Sarah Jane or a Tegan Jovanka please to question a decision the Doctor makes not these passive passengers.

Talking of the companions I would have also have liked to have seen danger for them. One of the most used tropes of the show is the companion gets themselves into danger and has to be rescued. They are going to alien planets, visiting different time periods and don’t seem to attract any curiosity from the locals. I remember Graham was briefly held at knifepoint by Buttons but there wasn’t really any threat to any of them during the series.

Ryan Sinclair and Yasmin Khan having a serious conversation

4. Show don’t tell

A more ‘show don’t tell’ approach to stories. There was a lot of standing around explaining things instead of using the visual medium fully  The doctor seemed to be the main culprit for doing this with long exposition scenes where she explained things. Scenes as what happened to Rosa (the scene in the Tardis) or talking about the Morax, such in The Witchfinders. It may have been done successfully in Broadchurch where the characters were exploring the impact of a crime.

Maybe the writers wanted the Doctor to be seen as clever and wise but for Doctor Who it served to slow the showdown without adding anything. Talking of the Doctor I liked Jodie Whittaker but didn’t love her. I hate to say that as a fellow female but sisterly solidarity be damned.

There is something about her style of delivery of lines that grates on me.  I am a Peter Capaldi fan, and he was so expressive in face and voice that whoever followed him I knew would have to be as strong ( I so wish we’d had Olivia Colman) and impactful. Jodie’s kooky socially awkward Doctor stands back at times and I’m not truly convinced I’ve seen the expected amount of authority required of the Doctor from her yet although “Resolution” was definitely her best story to date.

5. Captivating Plots

Whilst stories such as “Rosa”, “Demons of the Punjab” and “The Witchfinders” were interesting overall, the series suffered because the messages became more important than having strong plots or a decent resolution to stories at times. Don’t get me wrong, I did appreciate the attempts to educate using the current deep cultural divisions at the core of this country as a looking glass into the injustices of the past.

Doctor Who has always tackled issues, whether environmental, political usually through allegory in stories such as The Sunmakers (Taxation), The Power of Kroll (Colonialism),  The Green Death (Pollution) and many others. Series 11 laid its cards on the table even before it started with the trailers for Jodie’s Doctor that proclaimed “its about time” and that the stories would mirror the SJW agenda to promote socially progressive views such as feminism, civil rights and multiculturalism.

But I would have also liked some stronger stories as there were some writers that struggled to successfully merge science fiction and a message in a seamless manner.

So that’s my wish list for changes for Series 12 but do you agree? What’s your hope for the next series and why? If you could plan the series what would you add or change?

Post your thoughts on here or on Twitter. Let’s talk!

Maria Kalotichou

Maria is a 4th and 5th Doctor fan who grew up through the JNT classic era years. Her favourite classic stories are Robots of Death and Earthshock, well probably, but don’t make her have to choose only one. In her grown-up life, she currently works in HR.