What Went Wrong With Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who

Doctor Who Updates: Chris Chibnall is stepping down as the showrunner of Doctor Who and here is why the Chibnall Era is considered so problematic.

Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall recently confirmed that he would be leaving the show after 2022. Having grown up as a big Doctor Who fan, Chibnall’s dream to become Showrunner of the BBC show, came true when Steven Moffat stepped down and handed him the reins of the show. Chibnall’s era saw the first female Doctor as he casted Jodie Whittaker in the role of the Thirteenth Doctor.

During Chibnall’s tenure Doctor Who saw a new height of success as he constantly tried to improve the show’s production value. However, the criticism that the show faced during his tenure outweighs the success. The script and character-work had been heavily criticized.

Chibnall’s decision to bring the Timeless Child retcon at the end of Season 12 was not received well by the fanbase that has become divided over the years. Now Chibnall has confirmed that he is departing from the show.

In a statement, he mentioned that Jodie Whittaker and he had made a three series pact and they will be departing after that. He will be leaving after Season 13 and three specials that are due to release in 2022.

Chibnall’s tenure as Doctor Who showrunner has been deeply flawed. Let us take a look at what makes his era such a critical mess.


First, Chibnall’s love for the Classic Doctor Who was a problem. When Russel T. Davies relaunched Doctor Who in 2005, he used the Time War to wipe the slate clean. This set up a new status quo and reintroduced the Doctor to both old and new viewers.

In Steven Moffat’s tenure, he used elements of Doctor Who mythology but mostly stuck with what Davies had established. However, Chibnall‘s era made the show old-school and very much like the classic Doctor Who episodes. His love for the classic of the 80s inspired his rendition of the show.

His Timeless Child retcon puts the Classic Who above the new and massively clashes with the idea that Davies and Moffat had tried to set. His tone doesn’t fit with what Davies and Moffat had set for the show and feels very outdated.

Second, Chibnall’s Doctor Who companions were underdeveloped. Davies relaunched the show thinking that it must be updated according to the modern viewers. Therefore, he introduced the concept of the episodes having the Doctor’s companions as the center of the story. It is through the companions that the viewers interpret the Doctor, therefore, it was important to make the companions complex and relatable to the viewers.

However, Chibnall did not go with the idea. Even though he stocked the TARDIS with a potential crew, he did not think it necessary to flesh out their character. He instead made the show focus on the Doctor. The viewers had a direct look at the Doctor rather than interpreting through the companion. It was not a wise decision as the viewers could relate and empathize with the companion better than the ancient and enigmatic being that is the Doctor.

Third, The storytelling in the Chibnall era was extremely problematic. Often the scripts would depend on a third-act twist which made the show hard to catch up to. In Season 12’s Timeless Children, the viewers were bombarded with plot elements which eventually led to the reveal of the truth of The Timeless Child.

When so much information comes at once, it becomes extremely frustrating for the audience. Chibnall also handled some serious subjects clumsily. When it came to issues like climate change or even political matters, the subject was dealt with bluntly and seemed overbearing at times. The Doctor does address the issues, but they turn into long-winded static lectures when in the past the Doctor had been seen relating important information while on the move. The static camera work makes it look detached from the story.

Fourth, The Timeless Child retcon. While much of the fanbase is not happy with this retcon, this would define Chibnall’s era as Doctor Who’s showrunner. While he has laid the foundation in the 12th season, he is yet to build upon it. It could go either way, but we won’t know until he completes the work and provides a new direction for the Doctor in season 13 and the subsequent specials.

While the Chibnall era was deeply flawed, there is still time and opportunity for him to redeem himself. Chibnall could play to his strengths with the long-form serialized approach. The Chibnall era may have been flawed and heavily criticized but it does not mean that it would end the same way.

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