Sunday, February 21, 2016

Doctor Who: The Chris Chibnall Episodes

Hi there! Dave-El here and welcome to a brand new post to my blog, I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

Among my varied interests is the BBC series Doctor Who. I tend to posts stuff about Doctor Who on Sundays but I've kind of taken a break from that for a couple of weeks. But I thought I would jump back into that pattern a bit with today's post. 

As is the timey-wimey nature of Doctor Who, today's post looks to the future by way of the past. Several weeks ago, it was announced that Chris Chibnall would take over as Executive Producer and Head Writer of Doctor Who as of 2018. Naturally, the question arises what kind of show will Doctor Who be under Chibnall? To provide some context for that speculation, let's let a look at what Chris has already done for the show.  

From 2007 to 2012, Chris Chibnall has written 5 full episodes of Doctor Who and written 2 mini-episodes. So I've ranked these 7 contributions from worst to first to see if we can get some insight as to what Chibnall brings to Doctor Who. 

"The Power of Three" (2012)
This episode is a prime example of a Doctor Who episode that starts off with a charming premise but then takes a sharp turn towards the dark and undermines the whole thing. In the case of this episode, it is a very interesting look at how the lives of the Doctor and his companions intersect. I'm not sure if I should give the benefit of the doubt to Chibnall that the stronger first half was mostly him and that the sudden shift in tone in the 2nd half owes to production interference. I have a feeling someone realized, "Hey, we're running out of time and/or money! We need to wrap this up NOW!" If this was the case, it does seem that Chibnall is certainly good at character development but may have some problems with wrapping up a story on the fly.  

"Cold Blood" (2010)
This is the 2nd half of the two parter from Series 5 that brought the Silurians back to the revived series. Part 2 suffers from what a lot of TV shows (not just Doctor Who) run into: after setting up everything in Part 1, what to do next.  It's not a bad episode but a lot of the mood and tension developed in Part 1 cannot be sustained through Part 2. Still, we see good character work from Chibnall in developing the supporting cast for this story.
"P.S." (2012)
This was a mini-episode intended as a coda to The Angels Take Manhattan where Amy and Rory's adopted son meets Rory's dad to explain what happened to them. Limits in time and money meant that the episode was not shot but presented as a bonus feature with recorded dialogue over storyboards. In it's raw and incomplete form, PS is hard to judge but once again, we witness a very touching character interaction as scripted by Chibnall.  

"Pond Life" (2012)
This was a series of 5 mini-episodes, no more than 1 or 2 minutes each. The first four are a lighthearted look at the Doctor's life running parallel to the events of Amy and Rory's lives on Earth. The 5th installment takes a dark and depressing turn. Once more, like The Power of Three, I think Chibnall had to respond to an edict outside of his original concept since Part 5 of Pond Life has to set up the status quo of Amy and Rory's disintegrated marriage that we see at the start of Steven Moffat's Asylum of the Daleks. Of course Chibnall would've known that going in so perhaps this falls on Chibnall for not seeding things better in the first four parts.  

"The Hungry Earth" (2010) 
This kicks off the return of the the Silurians to the revived Doctor Who. Time is spent getting to know our supporting players for this particular drama which is important if we're going to care about them. Their decisions and actions are important to driving this story forward. But this development of the guest stars does not come at the expense of the Doctor, Amy and Rory. And then there's the story itself, the ominous threat from beneath the earth itself and from the Silurians, filled with tension punctuated with action. As noted above, Part 2 does not quite stick the landing but Part 1 is a very effective set up.  

"42" (2007)
This is Chris Chibnall's one entry for Doctor Who that is not for the 11th Doctor and under Steven Moffat. With Russell T Davies at the helm and David Tennant as the 10th Doctor, this is a gripping tale of interstellar terror that is told over the real time span of 42 minutes. The real time concept adds to the tension but works against character development. Still, the guest stars for this episode avoid cookie cutter status despite the rush and the Doctor and Martha are well represented as they each seek to do what they can to help this crew and each other. 
I actually debated whether I wanted to put 42 in the top spot but ultimately, I gave this Series 8 episode the nod for first. There's so much to love about this story, the kick ass Egyptian queen, the droll African game hunter, Rory's too sweet for words dad and DINOSAURS! On a SPACESHIP! This episode is a rollicking good time with some sharp crackling character banter and some far out sci-fi concepts. Once again, it may be noted, that the story does take a sharp turn towards the dark side with the revelation of the total genocide of the Silurians who had been on board and the Doctor's rather cold blooded resolution for the bad guy. In this case, the dark turn seems less abrupt and more organically part of the story. 

So from these episodes of Doctor Who, I imagine we can expect an emphasis on character development under Chris Chibnall as show runner. I would expect less of the fairy tale elements that Moffat introduced during his run and more of an emphasis on more straightforward science fiction. But will we have a show that is darker in tone as many of the above Chibnall scripts tends towards that. But again, how much of those shifts in tone were from Chibnall and how much from outside direction? 

We've got a long time more to speculate on a Chris Chibnall Doctor Who. After all, Steven Moffat isn't done yet. 

OK, that's that for today. Tomorrow is a post on some darn thing or another. Please pop by and see what I slap together for that. In the meantime, remember to be good to one another.   

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