Young Chris Chibnall views on Trial of a Time Lord likely flavored 13th Doctor

; Date: May 23, 2020

Tags: Doctor Who

As a young member of The Doctor Who Appreciation Society, Chris Chibnall appeared on TV as part of a panel being interviewed about the controversial Trial of a Time Lord season. That season, and the 6th Doctor's run in general, likely set in motion the changes resulting in the cancellation of Doctor Who at the end of the 7th Doctor's run. What Chibnall said in his chance TV appearance as a 16-year-old Doctor Who fan has interesting parallels to what happened to Doctor Who under his tenure as Doctor Who Show Runner.
Source: BBC

It was 1986, and the BBC chose to put Colin Baker in as The Doctor, and made the ill-fated choice for The Doctor to be rough and brash and pompous. For example in the opening episode of the Sixth Doctor's time, The Sixth Doctor woke up from regeneration and almost immediately started choking Peri (the Companion). To Peri's timeline, they had just been on a planet where Peri got a seriously bad fatal disease, The Doctor had gone to such lengths to get the cure for the disease that The Doctor got the disease as well, but he gave the cure to Peri sacrificing his own life to regenerate into the Sixth Doctor. For Peri, it must have been shocking to have The Doctor immediately start choking her after all that. It was certainly shocking for the audience.

Leading up to The Trial of a Time Lord season, there had been a series of complaints lodged with the BBC by certain members of the audience that the show was too violent. Hey, it's Doctor Who, of course there are monsters and whatnot, and in some episodes nobody but The Doctor and the Companions come out alive.

The season in particular, The Trial of a Time Lord, seemingly was a response to the public criticism. It showed a season-long story arc where The Doctor was on Gallifrey defending himself against accusations that The Doctor had committed crimes.

What's interesting is that every member of the Liverpool Doctor Who Appreciation Society -- surely they were serious fans of Doctor Who -- complained about that season. They, the uber-fans, called it hard to follow, etc.

Somehow none of them called out Mindwarp, the episode of that season which saw the companion Peri brutally killed in a horrible way.

Instead, Chris Chibnall, in one of his several bits of air time, described The Terror of the Vervoids as a simple rehash of old tropes (a who-done-it story set on a star liner) -- "routine Doctor Who" that wasn't "very challenging for the audience to watch". He followed that up by saying "it would be [great] to have something totally different from the norm just for a change." And he called out the last episode of that season as an example.

That episode -- The Ultimate Foe -- was set inside The Matrix, which has been described as an archive of all Time Lord Knowledge, and which has a record of every life of every Time Lord. The episode showed The Master having subverted The Matrix, and having lured The Doctor and The Valeyard (...er... a previously unknown incarnation of The Doctor) into The Matrix so they would fight each other, hopefully destroying each other, and causing a power vacuum into which The Master can then take control of Gallifrey.

So.. um... Chibnall as Show Runner had The Doctor and The Master go into The Matrix on Gallifrey, so that The Master could reveal something about previously unknown facts about The Doctor's background... uh...? Oh, boy, isn't that a rehash of old story lines, eh Mr. Chibnall? Especially since this Timeless Child stuff is simply a rehash of the Cartmel Master Plan that dominated the stories told during the Seventh Doctor era.

An interesting thing at the end of this clip is where Chibnall rebuts the idea that Doctor Who should be dismissed as a childrens program:

This is what we try to aim for telling people,

... That Doctor Who is not a childrens program

That is why we would like the show to be made a lot more adult, because it has the capacity to be very adult, very entertaining, and very dramatic.

Say what you will of what the adult Chris Chibnall has done with Doctor Who as the Show Runner... he has brought some adultness to Doctor Who.

Chris Chibnall on Open Air 1986

About the Author(s)

David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.