Doctor Who: CHANGE, MY DEAR...

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Isa Gunther is here to address the recent Doctor Who showrunner announcement, and it seems not a moment too soon....

It's safe to say that right now is a very...interesting time to be a Whovian. On Friday night, we got the double bombshell that not only would there be no full series in 2016, but that Steven Moffat is leaving at the end of series 10, to be replaced by Chris Chibnall. This announcement has started a flurry of activity, discussion, and more than a little panic in the fandom.

As if not getting another Who episode until Christmas were not bad enough, now we have an entire year, plus a season, to work ourselves into a state. The “Moffat-haters” have already come out in force “thank God he's finally leaving—he ruined the show!” (usually followed by “bring back RTD”). The Moffat fans are in despair “it'll never be as good without him!” (occasionally followed by “and Chibnall sucks, have you seen what he did to Broadchurch?”). Then we have the more moderate fans who may or may not have liked everything Moffat did, but are neither sorry to see him go nor overly excited about his demise.

But Whovians—our show is built on change and evolution. That's how it has lasted over a half a century. Two years ago, Peter Capaldi was too old to play the Doctor. Four years before that, Matt Smith was too young. Look how they both turned out. And regardless of opinion about Chibnall or Moffat, this is far from the first time the showrunner has changed. The one thing that has remained constant is the fandom's support of the show. That is what has kept the show going through good and bad writing, and good and less good Doctors. And that is what we need to bring to the forefront now. Will Chibnall be “as good” as Moffat? Was Moffat “as good” as Davies? There is no answer to either question, because they are different writers with different styles, and as fans, we have different ideas about who “The Doctor” is and what the show should be, Yet we have, for the most part, given the new showrunners and Doctors a chance before either leaving the show or enjoying it even more. Chibnall may be a rather odd choice, but he deserves the same chance we gave Davies, Moffat, Smith, and Capaldi. I may not always like Moffat, but I do trust him enough to not hand over his show to someone he didn't think would do right by it and the fans.

Now, there needs to be some discussion about the future of Doctor Who. We know that we're not getting a full series until 2017. We know that Chibnall will be taking over in 2018. We've also heard stirrings of rumors that series 10 will be Capaldi's last. The way I see it, one of three things will happen:
  1. Moffat leaves, Capaldi leaves with him. I highly doubt this will happen. Capaldi has gone on record stating that he would have to be “dragged of the show.” Unless something major comes up, such as health issues or serious disagreement with Chibnall, or an agreement with Moffat that we don't know about, I don't see this happening.
  2. Chibnall takes over and ousts Capaldi so that he can start fresh with a new Doctor. While this is a possibility and would be well within Chibnall's right as showrunner, I submit that this would be the worst of the three scenarios. Chibnall is going to have a rough enough time establishing himself as head writer, and he'll need Capaldi's support. My concern here is that Capaldi has also said that he has been told (by someone he won't name), that this might be his last series as the Doctor.
  3. Chibnall takes over, Capaldi stays. This is by far the best option, at least in my view. Keeping the current Doctor would provide some stability for the show and fans, and it would let us see what Capaldi and Twelve would do under a new showrunner. Also, Chibnall could benefit from Capaldi's knowledge and experience. If he's smart, he'll also seek out Capaldi's input.
Overall, while it will be a difficult year for us with with no new Doctor Who on our screens, this is a period of transition for the show as a whole. A year break will allow time for the new showrunner to learn his craft, make decisions, and get his ideas in order. It also allows the fans time to calm down and get used to the idea of a new showrunner, and allows the new showrunner to settle in even before he starts.

Isa Gunther

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