Doctor Who Series 13 (aka Flux, as it was called) proved to be Marmite. I personally enjoyed it, though it did falter in the final few hurdles and just scraped through without being woefully bad. But did you know that it was almost cancelled entirely and Doctor Who could have almost ended with Revolution of the Daleks?
Speaking in a recent interview with fan-favourite podcast Radio Free Skaro, former showrunner Chris Chibnall explained that he and the BBC had some serious doubts that the show would be able to be made during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said:
“There was a week where it was not going to be made. There was a week where I’d been offered another job. And because the BBC was just like — the BBC studios — ‘Where’s the money coming from? How are we going to do this? Is it too difficult?'”
He went on to explain how the decision to go ahead with filming the new series went down to the wire, how it all came to a head in one hour. Everyone had to sacrifice things including Jodie Whittaker who had been quite in demand and had to pull out of a few jobs she had lined up for when the original filming schedule had said she was finished. Because of this, the new schedule moved filming to when a few of her other jobs were due to take place.
While there were other aspects of this that Chibnall decided to not divulge, it seems clear that it was a real pain to get completed. Of course Doctor Who wasn’t the only television show or film to have been impacted by the pandemic, but it did seem to be one that would be impacted the most. We saw the photos of the cast and crew in their isolation bubbles so it must have been hard not being able to see family, something that many seemed to take for granted before the pandemic. But it’s times like that we need to remember that even though we might not have overly enjoyed the Chibnall era, they did sacrifice a lot to bring Jodie’s final series to screen. And although it peters out at the end, maybe thanks to the pandemic, this would have been unavoidable. So perhaps it’s time to stop blaming Chibnall entirely?
Hopefully he’ll be doing some more convention appearances soon, because I feel there is a lot he has to say about his time working on Doctor Who and for the BBC that he hasn’t said. By having these discussions, we could finally start getting a much fairer overview of the Chibnall era to see what happened to make it go a bit wrong, outside of some rather lacklustre writing.