Big, big news for Whovians has come out of the United Kingdom today: per a report from the BBC, longtime Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat is stepping down from the helm as the lead writer and executive producer. These duties will now transfer to Chris Chibnall, best known to audiences as the writer of Broadchurch, another UK-produced show (ITV/BBC) starring former Doctor David Tennant. In addition, the announcement has come that there will be no season of Doctor Who episodes in 2016, only a lone Christmas Special.
To make things even more complicated: the Christmas Special for 2016 will be overseen by Moffat, as will the 10th series (season) that is now scheduled to air in 2017. After this is all wrapped up, 13 episodes in all (12-episode season with the additional Christmas Special), then Chibnall will take over the head writer and exec-producer duties, starting with the 11th series in 2018. Confused yet?
The biggest head-scratcher, of course, is the decision to not air a season of DW this year. In response to the questions of “why God why,” BBC1 controller Charlotte Moore said thus:
“I have decided to schedule Steven’s big finale series in Spring 2017 to bring the nation together for what will be a huge event on the channel. 2016 is spoilt with national moments including the Euros and Olympics and I want to hold something big back for 2017 – I promise it will be worth the wait!”
To further cloud the issue, it’s reported that the BBC is undecided whether Doctor Who will now revert back to being a Spring-premiere series, as it was when the show was first relaunched in 2005, as opposed to a Fall-premiere show.
For his part, here’s what Moffat had to say on his decision to step down:
“Feels odd to be talking about leaving when I’m just starting work on the scripts for season 10, but the fact is my timey-wimey is running out. While Chris is doing his last run of Broadchurch, I’ll be finishing up on the best job in the universe and keeping the TARDIS warm for him. It took a lot of gin and tonic to talk him into this, but I am beyond delighted that one of the true stars of British Television drama will be taking the Time Lord even further into the future. At the start of season 11, Chris Chibnall will become the new showrunner of Doctor Who. And I will be thrown in a skip.”
If you’re unfamiliar with Chibnall – no real worries, as you’re in the majority, most likely. He’s a life-long Doctor Who fan, and in addition to writing and producing Broadchurch, he’s also performed work on episodes of Torchwood, Life on Mars, Law & Order: UK, The Great Train Robbery, and United. Here’s his quote on the matter:
“Doctor Who is the ultimate BBC programme: bold, unique, vastly entertaining, and adored all around the world. So it’s a privilege and a joy to be the next curator of this funny, scary and emotional family drama. I’ve loved Doctor Who since I was four years old, and I’m relishing the thought of working with the exceptional team at BBC Wales to create new characters, creatures and worlds for the Doctor to explore. Steven’s achieved the impossible by continually expanding Doctor Who’s creative ambition, while growing its global popularity. He’s been a dazzling and daring showrunner, and hearing his plans and stories for 2017, it’s clear he’ll be going out with a bang. Just to make my life difficult.”
Fans, obviously, will be largely displeased with the decision to not produce a season of the show this year. Perhaps, if a big enough stink is made, this decision will change, but for now, it appears as firm as the fact of Moffat stepping down.