Welcome to the weekly meeting of the Chibnall Era Support and Recovery Society.
(GROUP: Hiiiii, Glen!)
If Season /Series 12 of DOCTOR WHO has taught us anything, it's that reigning showrunner Chris Chibnall struggles tremendously with consistency and thematic delivery. Or, he simply doesn't care to foster 'baseline consistency.' Or, perhaps some combination therein... (?)
Episodes like Spyfall Part One and Fugitive of the Judoon vividly illustrate that he is more than capable of landing material which is deft, impressive, and compelling by a number of measures. Sadly, episodes like Orphan 55 and Praxeus reveal an alternate Chibnall: a creator alarmingly at home flopping around in a fanficy, Middle School-level grabbag of disjointed conceptualization and clumsily conceived storytelling. As often as not, he appears more than happy to actualize tales whose lazy ineffectualness roundly and systematically undermines whatever quality uptick (and commensurate good will from the DW fan base) was previously gained by stronger episodes.
As much as some decry Chibnall to be an 'enemy' of DOCTOR WHO, in S12 he is emerging as a showrunner who is also his own worst enemy. There's nothing more frustrating, nothing more dangerous to a show, than a showrunner who clearly knows what quality is...yet doesn't reach for it, or even establish a reliable, relatable personality for his or her show...on a regular basis. This has been occurring throughout S12, and occurred again with last Sunday's Praxeus. It is my contention that the cost of his inconsistent, languid stewardship are viewership numbers which fluctuate at best, but have also seen recent, precipitous declines.
With Praxeus, director Jamie Magnus Stone retuned to the show (having previously helmed the superior and aforementioned Spyfall Part One), doing his best to bolster a lackadaisical and conspicuously anorexic script by injecting a modicum of style and editorial propulsion into otherwise stayed proceedings. The results on the directorial front were mixed-but-admirabl. But in all fairness, even the strongest helmer would not be able to sufficiently compensate for a script in which 1) nothing really happens, and 2) messaging blasts forth with such utter gracelessness (a Chibnall trend denoting his lack of faith in his audience's ability to grock more understated delivery). Leaving us with another middle-of-the-road episode whose only macro narrative takeaway was an inescapable sense that, in S12, we're chiefly sitting around waiting for Bradley Walsh's Graham and Tosin Cole's Ryan to (from all appearances) exit the show. And kinda wishing they'd get on with it...as they're both hugely gifted actors deserving of far stronger material than they're being given here.
What flavor of Chibnall will we get with this week's Can You Hear Me? Helmed by Emma Sullivan (known chiefly for BBC's DOCTORS), and co-scripted by Chibnall and Charlene James (A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES and BBC 4's SNATCHES: MOMENTS FROM WOMEN'S LIVES), Can you Hear Me? is described thusly by The Powers That Be:
From ancient Syria to present-day Sheffield and out into the wilds of space, something is stalking the Doctor and her friends… As Graham, Yaz and Ryan return home to see friends and family, they find themselves haunted by very different experiences. Who is the figure calling from beyond the stars for help, and why? And what are the fearsome Chagaskas terrorising Aleppo in 1380? To find the answers, Team TARDIS must embark on a mission which forces them to face their darkest fears.
S12's trend of far better than average promotional images continues this week, highlights being a lovely shot of Walsh's Graham, and of Whittaker and TARDIS.
So on we go, deeper into what may well be remembered as DOCTOR WHO's most polarizing, and bi-polar, Series/Season to date.
We warmly invite and encourage an open discourse and free exchange of ideas, but will enforce a strict zero tolerance policy regarding trolling, disrespect, or hate speak of any kind.
COMING SUNDAY FEBRUARY 16:
The Haunting of Villa Diodati