The BBC announced this afternoon that the tenure of long-controversial Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat would be ending in 2017, to make way for a new showrunner, Chris Chibnall. Chibnall is best known for being the showrunner on Broadchurch, the David Tennant-led drama about a small child’s murder in rural England. The show had massive critical acclaim, and it’s obvious Chibnall built himself a lot of goodwill to be handed the BBC’s biggest international export.
The way the transition will work is a little odd, but not that unusual for Doctor Who: Moffet’s last season will begin with a Christmas special this year, and then air over the rest of 2017. Chibnall will then take over starting with the 2018 season. My best guess is that this is due to Chibnall’s schedule, but there really hasn’t been any confirmation – the BBC says this is due to 2016 being too full already with the Olympics and other nationwide events, but that sounds like a bit of a stretch.
Moffat leaves behind a mixed legacy – the man undoubtedly wrote some of the best episodes of Doctor Who ever, including “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances,” “The Girl in the Fireplace,” “The Pandorica Opens” and “Blink,” and the show became more popular than ever under his leadership. The Matt Smith era will always be known as the era when Doctor Who went from being a cult show to a mainstream success, and Moffat certainly knocked the 50th anniversary of the series out of the park.
The flip side of that is that Moffat has repeatedly made statements, both on his shows and in the media, that are offensive and degrading towards women and minorities, and missed several opportunities to make the show itself and the character of The Doctor more inclusive. His season long arcs after he took over the show are often meandering and usually solved with hand wavey space magic rather than science or cleverness, which has disappointed fans of the show time and time again. Moffat often felt as if he was too full of himself and too appreciative of his own storytelling skills.
With any luck, Chibnall will bring us some of the things Whovians have been requesting for years now – a doctor who’s not a white british man, a companion who isn’t a cute, twenty something white british woman, and some sort of arc that doesn’t involve the two of them flirting. Here’s hoping he takes the best moments of the show and improves on them, so that when we talk about his legacy, we don’t have to do it with a giant asterix.