On top of the recently announced new companion in the next season, ‘Doctor Who’ is about to undergo a number of changes over the next few years. Back in January, showrunner Steven Moffat announced that he would be stepping down from the position after he completes his commitments to the relaunched show’s tenth season next year. ‘Broadchurch’ and ‘Torchwood’ writer and producer Chris Chibnall will then step in to fill Moffat’s shoes to helm the series that is set to air sometime in 2018. And in addition to whatever changes and challenges the Doctor will go through onscreen, it appears that Chibnall is looking to shake things up behind the scenes as well.
According to Radio Times, ‘Doctor Who’ is looking at adapting a writers room system for the first time in the show’s 50+ year history. Seen as the industry norm in America, the system sees a group of writers mapping out the whole series together before distributing the workload to work on independently. This is a departure from the typical model in the UK, which has the showrunner plan everything out on their own and then pass out the work to a pool of freelance writers that only get paid for their scripts. The BBC and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain both seem to be on board with the change up in the scripting of ‘Doctor Who’. But a BBC spokesperson said that nothing is set in stone yet:
“It’s still very early days and no fixed model has been decided upon yet. Chris Chibnall as the new showrunner will write his own episodes and is currently exploring different ways of working with new and established writers on the show.“
One reason why writers rooms aren’t typically seen in the UK is that there isn’t a central creative hub where the writers are located. Unlike America where the majority of a writing team is located in New York or Los Angeles, writers in Britain are more spread out across the country, so regular meetings and a workplace environment similar to that of TV shows in the US may be difficult to achieve. And things could get expensive if everyone involved in ‘Doctor Who’ had to move to London. However, WGGB general secretary Bernie Corbett said that the union is open to trying out new things, especially if it means that they could generate a better show:
“[Writers rooms] are expensive and they tend to have big dollars in the US with long running shows. ‘Doctor Who’ is in many ways a show that is perhaps moving towards that kind of scale as US shows so it seems a good fit. It’s not that we don’t want to do it in the UK, but it is about scale.
Three writers is not a writers room it is a relationship but a writers room is in a sense, though not in a bad way, a factory of writing. It’s a big step. If problems arise we will step in. A union has to say that. But a union isn’t here to block progress. We’re here to deal with new ideas as well as old practices.”
If ‘Doctor Who’ does go in this direction, it’s possible that Whovians will be able to see more connectivity between episodes in a season. Also, where Moffat was really the one acting as the keeper of the show’s mythology, Chibnall’s collective could act as a system of checks and balances that could keep some of the more unsavory elements of Moffat’s run from making it to the final product. For instance, maybe Sonic Shades could have been prevented. But either way, it sounds like the ‘Doctor Who’ team is still in the very preliminary stages of making this sort of change to their creative process, so we’ll be sure to provide updates as they become available.
What do you think about ‘Doctor Who’ adapting a writers room model for crafting the eleventh season? Who do you think should join Chris Chibnall on the staff if it comes to fruition? And do you see the long-running seminal sci-fi series benefitting from a creative change like this? Sound off in the comments.
Despite being a “professional writer”, Ben likes run-on sentences and puns far too much. Also, he is willing to relocate to London if he gets a call from BBC to work on ‘Doctor Who’. For more of his attempts at being funny and the occasional insightful thought, follow him on Twitter and Instagram.