2018 sees big change ahead for Doctor Who, with current showrunner Steven Moffat handing over the reins to Chris Chibnall, the award-winning writer behind Broadchurch, Law & Order UK and Torchwood.
Of course, Who fans will no doubt tell you that this won’t be Chibnall’s first dalliance with the Time Lord.
With five episodes already under his belt since 2007 (not including online webisodes and Torchwood episodes), Chibnall is already well versed in the Whoniverse.
But which tale ranks as his best so far? And do any of them indicate just what tone or direction he’ll take the show in?
5. ‘The Hungry Earth’ (2010)
The first instalment of Chibnall’s Season 5 two-parter starts strong. The central conceit of the ground swallowing up people is scary enough to ensure kids will be afraid to leave the house and the newly realised Silurians are a credible menace (alas not as visually interesting as their 70’s counterparts).
The night-time graveyard scenes especially highlight their power and effectiveness as a real threat, whilst the idea of the Silurians vivisecting humans whilst they are awake is a truly nasty idea. Chibnall truly has a talent for horror.
But sadly, it’s an episode obsessed with setting up the second part, building to a rather limp cliffhanger that hardly screams ‘come back next week’. It also doesn’t help that a lot of the ideas explored here were previously explored in the Silurian’s first appearance way back in Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970). Great for younger viewers, but frustrating for fans.
4. ‘The Power of Three’ (2012)
Great as 2012’s brief run of Doctor Who was, there was the nagging feeling that the Ponds were under-utilised dramatically for what was their final few adventures (they departed in the episode after this one in ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’).
But for their penultimate adventure, Chibnall wisely placed them front and centre, weaving a tale that starts to bring their story full circle, offering a glimpse into their doubts and worries as companions to the Doctor, and pondering whether they have grown out of adventuring with him.
The alien threat is more of an afterthought really and the worldwide stakes are never really convincing, but this matters very little when the character development is so good.
Amy, Rory, Rory’s dad Brian and the newly-introduced Kate Stewart all get time to shine amongst the sci-fi goings-on, setting things up nicely for big emotional moments in future episodes. Like his work on Broadchurch, Chibnall delivers solid character drama all tied up in a high concept package and tackles the real life implications of the Ponds’ TARDIS travels in more depth than their entire run thus far.
3. ‘Cold Blood’ (2010)
The conclusion to 2010’s Silurian two-parter is an improvement on it’s opening episode, but slows to a crawl early on as we’re subjected to scenes of diplomatic debates between humans and reptiles. But above ground, desperate mother Ambrose gives in to her fear and hatred, delivering a big emotional twist that sets up a climactic final act.
Here, Chibnall relishes the chance to deliver seismic events that will have major repercussions for the main characters by the time the season finale rolls around.
The death of Rory is shocking stuff (remember, at this point, we weren’t to know this would become a running gag!), and his erasure from time and Amy’s memories is just as heartbreaking. The timey-wimey element of having old Amy and Rory watching from afar is paid off beautifully, and the big revelation of the TARDIS exploding is a fantastic cliffhanger to leave us on.
‘Cold Blood’ may not be the most original or enjoyable Silurian story ever made, but in terms of its characters and story arc elements, it shows just how talented Chibnall is at juggling multiple plot strands and tying them together, something he’ll need to do as showrunner
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