Well, if you are enough of a fan of Doctor Who to be reading this post then you probably know that in the last couple of days there was a Doctor Who panel in the San Diego Comic-Con@Home event, featuring head writer Chris Chibnall alongside returning cast members Jodie Whittaker and Mandip Gill, and newcomer John Bishop.
(Daily Doctor Who #245)
A new series for the show has been in production for a little while, but until now there hasn’t been any release date announced or trailer or anything. Now we have some of that.
First, there’s the trailer which is available on Youtube and anywhere else people are sharing it, so here’s that…
Looks like it could / should be cool, right? Not much in there as far as story details or whatever, but certainly there’s some fun energy on the screen. That’s no guarantee it will be any good, of course, but we live in hope.
One thing we know about the season is that it will be eight episodes long (no idea if that includes any sort of holiday special, but I’m not hopeful, unless the season just happens to end on New Year’s or whatever) and it will tell one continuous story. This should mean that the promise of the trailer…that this is the Doctor’s biggest adventure yet…will be true, at least as far as actual television minutes are concerned. In other words, eight episodes of say, approximately 52.6 minutes each (my quick calculations for the average length for Series 12 episodes) equals roughly 420 minutes, which is longer than The Daleks’ Masterplan (roughly 300 minutes) or Trial of a Time Lord (roughly 350 minutes).
According to Chris Chibnall in the SDCC event, this was a response to filming in pandemic conditions–that doing this allowed the show to still be big, to go lots of places with lots of characters and monsters. The alternative, apparently, would have been to do a series of very small-scale stories with limited monsters. I’m not sure what the difference is between one story that goes to lots of settings or several episodes that have only a couple each, but can imagine that there is (maybe due to sets and guest characters being used over a longer period of time, or just the logistical clarity of knowing what the scripts were going to demand earlier, or whatever).
The idea of a season-long story is not new to television, of course–many many dramatic programs work this way now, including (for the most part) the new live-action Star Trek shows, the live-action Marvel shows, and of course, Broadchurch…Chris Chibnall’s most famous television effort prior to Doctor Who. Even Torchwood did this in its last few seasons.
Now, on the whole, I’m not a big fan of Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who. I find most of the episodes produced under his leadership to be flat and unsatisfying, I think the lead characters are massively under-developed, I hate the Timeless Child idea, and I think the show seems more concerned with getting its message on point then telling a good story (more skilled writing does both).
And I’m not the biggest fan of the season-long story idea for television, where the show ends up being just like a really long feature film that you watch over several weeks. In a lot of shows I think that has led to the inability to make really good individual episodes–like this is something of a lost art. I definitely don’t feel this has been a good approach for modern-day Star Trek to take. And Doctor Who felt like one of the last shows that I like which was still trying to tell the really good self-contained story (even if it wasn’t always successful).
I think I’m a little worried that it will feel like I’m only getting on Doctor Who story this year, rather than feeling like I’m getting the biggest and best Doctor Who story possible.
But I loved Broadchurch, at least the first season (the only one I saw). So maybe this whole approach is more Chris Chibnall’s wheelhouse, and maybe the results will be stronger. And of course, most of us longer-term fans adjusted ourselves to the idea of the single-part story back starting in 2005, so I’m sure I can get my head around a new format for the show if we need to–if it’s done well.
The panel also introduced a new recurring cast member played by Jacob Anderson. Apparently, I’d be well familiar with him if I watched Game of Thrones. But I didn’t and so I’m not.
But presumably, come later this year, I will be.