It’s been a very difficult year for Whovians. Reviled showrunner Steven Moffat — a person we hate for giving us all the great things we love in the thing we love — has announced his departure from the show. But in traditional Moffat form, that departure doesn’t make anyone feel better. The show is on hiatus for all of 2016, with only a single one-off Christmas special planned. Then, Moffat will oversee a final season before the next showrunner takes over. That man is Chris Chibnall, who previously cut his teeth with Who spin-off Torchwood and concieved the mystery show, Broadchurch.
This leaves Doctor Who in a very precarious place: an uncertain two-year landscape and a lot of creative overhaul. That said, casting the “Doctor” is always a fun game, and between showrunners it might be the perfect time to completely revamp the show and score a new lead, especially since Capaldi has proved to be such a divisive choice. Rumors are flying already (including those from Capaldi himself) that Capaldi might only have a season or two before he hands the sonic screwdriver off to someone new.
Then, we got today’s blockbuster news.
The actor has confirmed to RadioTimes that the BBC has asked him to stay on as Doctor Twelve — The Accidentally Magician Looking One — for the show’s eleventh season, the first under Chris Chibnall. We don’t have solid confirmation, though. Indeed, the actor went out of his way to clarify it’s not an offer he’s accepted quite yet:
I’ve been asked to stay on, but it’s such a long time before I have to make that decision. Steven’s been absolutely wonderful, so I love working with him. Chris is fantastic, and I think he’s a hugely talented guy. I don’t know where the show’s gonna go then. I don’t know. I have to make up my mind, and I haven’t yet.
Capaldi also added: “As Steven will tell you, it’s very difficult to say goodbye.”
So Capaldi is still in, for at least one post-Moffat season. This thrills me, as a die-hard Capaldi fan, but — oh boy — does that mess up any opportunity for the gigantic overhaul that the BBC was probably dreaming up. Rumors about format keep swirling, including the concept of moving from seasons to isolated movie events — in the style of Sherlock. But Moffat will probably go episodic for his final run, and you have to imagine that will inform the Chibnall era.
This is a great move for the BBC (and hopefully Capaldi will accept the offer) because his run as Doctor has an unlimited set of outcomes. His ability to infuse fifty years of lore and fandom into a single person is what makes the show interesting to me. And with that mix of old and new adventure there really isn’t anything off-limits to the writers. We’ve already eliminated a lot of story threads from Moffat’s era, so let’s hope Capaldi gets used as a victory lap of sorts in the next season. And, then, offer Chibnall the chance to make unholy tears in the universe that need help once he’s finally in the driver’s seat.
Knowing Capaldi will be there waiting for us makes the barren wasteland of 2016’s Who-fandom a bit easier to swallow. Let’s hope the show knows what to do with him if they keep him in the TARDIS, and let’s hope that his presence anchors the writers to what the show does best rather than letting a total reboot ruin the excellent direction it has been headed in.