Steven Moffat leaving Doctor Who, Chris Chibnall to take over, and no season in 2016
Big news for Doctor Who fans – in fact, several pieces of big news for Doctor Who fans. Let’s start with the big one: Showrunner Steven Moffat is stepping down at the end of season 10.
Moffat has been in charge since 2010, ever since Russell T. Davies stepped down. By the time he hands the keys to the TARDIS over, Moffat will have overseen six seasons spanning seven years – which brings us to the second part of the news: Doctor Who won’t return until 2017.
In an official statement, the BBC confirmed that Doctor Who will have a Christmas special in 2016, but that’s it. There won’t be any other specials (at least that’s not the plan at the moment), so fans will have to make do with the spin-of series following a group of Coal Hill School students, Class.
Steven Moffat will step down as Head Writer & Exec Producer after S10… Chris Chibnall to take over! pic.twitter.com/iMhNoEAegy
— Doctor Who Official (@bbcdoctorwho) January 22, 2016
An exact date wasn’t given, but season 10 will return to the air at some point in the spring of 2017. The season will consist of 12 episodes. BBC One Controller Charlotte Moore explained the reason for the delay. They aren’t very good reasons, but they are reasons.
“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,” Moore wrote. “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!”
And now the third piece of news: following Moffat’s departure, Doctor Who writer and Broadchurch showrunner Chris Chibnall will take over.
“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,” Moffat wrote in an official statement. “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.”
Like Moffat, Chibnall has been a lifelong fan of the series since the classic show was on the air. He has written for several TV series, including Life on Mars (starring the one-time Master John Simm), Law & Order UK, the DW spinoff Torchwood, and Doctor Who itself.
Chibnall’s DW episodes make it tough to pin down exactly what type of showrunner he will be. He scripted the average third season episode “42”, the decent-but-forgettable “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”, and the solid “The Power of Three”. He also wrote a handful of web specials like “Pond Life”, but his best story was the fifth season’s “The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood” that reintroduced the Silurians.
A better indicator of his potential is probably Broadchurch (starring former Doctor David Tennant). The British crime series recently finished a second season in the UK, and a third season has been confirmed. A US remake titled Gracepoint, also starring Tennant, only lasted one season.
“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,” said Chibnall. “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.”
The tenth season will be a big one for Doctor Who. Not only will it see the departure of a longtime showrunner, it will also see the introduction of a new – as yet uncast – companion. It isn’t yet known if the new companion will debut in the Christmas special, or if they will be held back until the start of the news season.
There is also a question of whether or not Capaldi will continue after the tenth season. He has confirmed that he will complete at least one more season, but he was vague as to his plans after that. He may still continue on, but he may just as easily decide that Moffat’s departure is a good moment to step away, much like Tennant did when Davies left. Ultimately, the choice may not be his.
The BBC may prefer Capaldi leave. If so, it wouldn’t be a judgment on Capaldi, but introducing a new showrunner and a new Doctor could be an easy and timely way to refresh the show. With a series that is over 50 years old, being able to keep things fresh is likely appealing to the network.
As for Moffat, he has plenty to keep him occupied. Along with writing the final episodes of Doctor Who, he is currently working on the fourth season of Sherlock, which is expected to debut in January 2017. He will then continue work on Doctor Who, then move on to whatever his next project may be – he will have no shortage of options.