One of the great things about “Doctor Who” is its ability to constantly renew itself through the process of regeneration that allows its lead actor to change into anyone, and this same principle applies to its showrunner, which has changed hands twice since the show was revived in 2005. Recently, it was announced that Russell T. Davies will once again lead the show after the exit of current showrunner Chris Chibnall and current Doctor actress Jodie Whittaker, which has renewed my confidence that the series will elevate in quality.
I’m an American viewer who got hooked on the show during David Tennant and Matt Smith’s runs on the show, and Peter Capaldi is easily my favorite Doctor, but I’ve been dragging my feet on watching Whittaker’s run, as her first series bored me to tears and while I like some episodes of her second series (such as “Spyfall”), the show just isn’t as good as it used to be, for a myriad of reasons. For one, Chibnall doesn’t seem to know what to do with the Doctor’s large ensemble cast of companions, all the new alien threats Chibnall introduces are either just OK or forgettable, and he’s done a complete reversal on making the Doctor the focal point of the show to the point where Whittaker’s version of the character feels like she hasn’t grown or changed since her first episode, which seems like an overcorrection of Steven Moffat’s time as showrunner, in which the Doctor’s character, psyche, struggles and fame were front and center.
Davies is a good choice to take over because it’s been over ten years since his first run and he will no doubt imbue the show with fresh new ideas without completely disregarding what came before (he might even tie up some glaring loose ends Moffat left behind like Trenzalore). As a showrunner, he understands that the show is about not only the Doctor and their character, but also the fantastical places and people they visit across time and space. There’s a lot of episodes in his first run as showrunner in which the Doctor serves as a relatively unimportant witness to events unfolding in some alien or historic place, and others that are all about the Doctor and his struggles with immortality, with losing friends, and dealing with his fellow time lords.
Davies’ second run will not be perfect, just like his first run was not, but I have great hope that he will raise the quality of writing, the scope of the stories, and will develop the characters of the Doctor, their companions, and even their enemies in a way Chibnall just hasn’t been able to do.
And this is not to doom Chibnall to the annals of failure — there have been some very good episodes in his run; he’s just 0-2 in terms of delivering satisfying, clever finales, and his character direction has just failed to live up to what came before. Thankfully, he has one more series and a few specials to correct course and give us something interesting. It’s better late than never, and if he gives us a great departing series, that’s all that fans will remember long-term.
“Doctor Who” was one of my favorite shows before Chibnall’s run, and I have great hopes that it will not only return to form with Davies’ return, but also that Chibnall will finally hit a home run in his last at-bat as showrunner.