Chris Chibnall has disclosed that he and Jodie Whittaker came close to leaving Doctor Who in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Interviewed by Radio Times, the showrunner said:
“That we made Doctor Who at all during the past two years is a miracle. There was a point around April/May 2020 where it looked like we’d have to call it a day after two series. If we hadn’t already planned to leave after series three, there’s no way I’d be staying on now after going through that experience.”
Unsurprisingly, the pause in television drama production due to the lockdown played havoc with plans for future episodes of Doctor Who, and it seems that the programme’s showrunner and lead actor felt their time with the series may have to be cut short. We’ve already learned how the pandemic caused plans for Series 13 to be completely overhauled, resulting in a shorter run. Chibnall now says that this year’s trio of special episodes were affected by uncertainty and late changes too, with Eve of the Daleks having to be hastily rewritten because of budget and production pressures:
“We had to ditch our original idea and I had to write a new script in just over a week. You can’t just go, ‘Right, we’ve got the series and then we’ll do the specials.’ You’re constantly on this treadmill.”
Chibnall has already said that Whittaker’s final episode, due to be screened in the autumn, was a relatively late addition to the schedule, coming in response to the BBC’s desire for a special episode to mark the corporation’s centenary. It’s an interesting insight into the pressures of overseeing the programme, and one can easily imagine the stress resulting from having to produce an extra episode at relatively short notice.
Elsewhere in the interview, in which he firmly rules out writing for the show again, Chibnall looks forward to a less hectic schedule and more quality time with family:
“Having observed Russell and Steven at work, I knew how exhausting the show was, and Jodie and I both have families. I didn’t want to be showrunning Doctor Who in the year my children were doing their A-level and GCSE exams, which they are now. I owed it to my family – I hadn’t seen much of them in recent years.”
Read the full interview at Radio Times. Legend of the Sea Devils can be viewed on BBC iPlayer in the UK.