Doctor Who – Chris Chibnall Wrote ‘The Timeless Children’ to Deliberately Create Controversy

By now every Doctor Who fan will have seen or at the very least heard about the most recent controversy in the show’s long, twisted history – Chris Chibnall has seemingly defied all pre-existing unwritten rules and has decided to explore the origins of the Doctor in his most recent series finale, and it seems the vocal majority of fans are largely unimpressed. The premise of the episode, which depicts the Doctor trapped in the Matrix and informed by the Master that everything she thought she knew about her origins is a lie, seems to have been specifically designed to invoke fan rage.

Not only does this episode reveal that the Doctor is in fact not a Time Lord at all, but is in fact an entity from another universe who was found by a Gallifreyan scientist called Tecteun and used as the template to create the entire Time Lord race, it also implies that the Doctor has had a previous set of regenerations before the First Doctor, and that after living an entire set of lives working as an agent for a Time Lord organisation called ‘The Division’, who would wipe the Doctor’s memories, revert them back to a child, and begin the chronology of the Doctor’s life that we are already familiar with.

Like all huge revelations that change fundamental aspects about Doctor Who lore, such as The Time Meddler, The War Games, Spearhead from Space, The Deadly Assassin, Genesis of the Daleks, The Five Doctors, The Trial of a Time Lord, Rose, The Big Bang, Night of the Doctor, The Day of the Doctor, Time of the Doctor and Hell Bent before it, the fandom will likely require some time – anywhere between 15 to 25 years – to fully assimilate this new facet of the lore into canon and process its many implications. In the meantime, however, it is important to look above the tangled mess of fan outrage and slander to understand exactly why Chris Chibnall would commit such a heinous act of treachery against the show he claims to love.

The key aspect of Doctor Who that is critical to this debate is the power of hindsight. It is no secret that Doctor Who’s lore is a complete mess, arguably one of the messiest timelines in sci-fi history – whilst Doctor Who has never had to rely on out-of-universe reboots or alternate universes to keep its lore intact, one simply cannot rationalise each and every aspect of the vast narrative universe of the show and its various multi-media spinoffs into one cohesive narrative. It simply isn’t possible. As such, the show has often had to ‘bend’ its own rules and lore in the past in order to tell new, compelling stories.

A perfect example of this is Genesis of the Daleks, a six-part story from Tom Baker’s run that is often lauded as being one of the best episodes of Doctor Who ever made, and yet, for those who were keeping up with Dalek lore in the 1960s, the episode essentially rewrites Dalek history from the ground up, and throws out many of the pre-established concepts from earlier Dalek stories. For example, the Daleks are shown to have been created by a scientist called Davros, and the Thals are depicted as being just as warlike as their enemies. The previously established proto-Dalek race that Terry Nation had previously alluded to, the Dals, were erased in favour of the Kaleds, and there isn’t a petrified jungle in sight.

The same is true of another popular Tom Baker story, The Deadly Assassin. This episode was lambasted at the time for utterly demystifying the Time Lords, reducing them from a godlike race of immortals to a society of doddering bureaucrats, a transition from which the species never truly recovered. To this day, Time Lords are still depicted as being innately corrupt and fallible, whereas the original intention was for the Time Lords to embody temporal justice. Despite the negative reception of this episode at the time, it has since been re-evaluated – particularly as newer Doctor Who episodes helped to reshape the lore to fit the new depiction of Time Lords. Over time, the fandom collectively forgot that the lore had even been changed at all, to the extent that some now see the early depiction of the Time Lords as odd by comparison.

But what does all of this have to do with The Timeless Children? Sure, introducing Davros and changing the lore of the Time Lords may have been a controversial decision, but over time the fanbase has some to accept this ‘new lore’ as simply ‘lore’. The old debates over whether or not the Daleks grew from Dals or were engineered from Kaleds by Davros have long been lost to time, and that is the critical factor: Time. The unfortunate truth is that The Timeless Children is the most recent in a long line of controversial stories, and as it is currently the most recent Doctor Who story to air, there is no ‘cushion’ to help rationalise the new revelations within the lore of the show – whilst the lore-scars of The Deadly Assassin and others like it have long since faded, The Timeless Children is a fresh cut, and the coagulation has barely begun.

The frustration that fans currently feel derives from the fact that we are being presented with a narrative that goes against the grain, and because we cannot see inside Chibnall’s head we do not know where this new road will take the show. The key to understanding where Chibnall intends to take us lies in understanding what this man knows about Doctor Who and, more importantly, what he knows the fans want and, in this case, what they do not want. When watching The Timeless Children, there are several important things to take into account that are very telling of how Chibnall plans on approaching this new plot thread in the future.

The combination of utilising the Master and the Matrix as framing devices for telling the story of the Timeless Child is very revealing in itself. From previous episodes of Doctor Who we know that both the Master and the Matrix are highly unreliable sources – and given the fact that we know that the Master can alter Matrix projections at will (as seen in the Colin Baker story The Ultimate Foe) proves that what we have been shown so far regarding the story of the Timeless Child is not the whole picture, and the fact that this is a story in-progress is very pertinent. Doctor Who fans as a whole have a tendency to take plot revelations in the show at face-value, and Chibnall has clearly exploited this to create the ultimate controversial story – but just because what we learn from that story is presented to us as the truth, it does not mean that we can take it as such. A great example of this is the Valeyard, who in The Ultimate Foe is revealed to be a dark amalgamation of the Doctor’s evil nature, a revelation that has had very little impact on the show’s narrative as a whole.

Oddly enough, there is another aspect to The Ultimate Foe that is extremely relevant to The Timeless Children. Not only does this story give a potential get-out clause as it confirms that the Master not only has access to the Matrix but can also re-write its contents at will, but there are also out-of-universe links between this story and the most recent finale. The writers of The Ultimate Foe, husband-and-wife writing duo Pip and Jane Baker, were publicly lambasted on national television at the time by none other than baby Chibnall, who back in the late 1980s was a prominent member of the Doctor Who fan club. Chibnall’s scathing review of the story proves not only his passion for the show but also his understanding of what Doctor Who fans like and dislike, and this information is critical for unpacking his thought process when writing The Timeless Children.

With Doctor Who, hindsight is everything – and without it new plot revelations can seem shocking, unnerving and ‘canon-destroying’. But when you take a step back and look at the show as a whole, Doctor Who has been built on bucking tradition and charging head-first into the unknown – something that Chibnall has definitely done with The Timeless Children. He has steered his ship into a storm with the fandom tied to the mast, and only when we emerge on the other side will we be able to judge if the path he took was the right one or not. As recent news has suggested that both Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker could be staying with Doctor Who until at least Series 15, it is possible that so far we have only seen the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to Chibnall’s grand plan. A lot can happen in three seasons, and if it is true that what we have seen so far of the Thirteenth Doctor is still her ‘early phase’ (think Series 8 Capaldi or Season 24 McCoy) then who knows what the future holds.

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Doctor Who – First Look at Series 12 Monsters – Judoon Confirmed to Return

Since filming for Series 12 of Doctor Who began in Gloucester, fans have been secretly hoping for a glimpse at what is going on behind the scenes of Jodie Whittaker’s second series as the Doctor. Fans are particularly anxious to learn what enemies the Doctor will face this series, as the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut series was noticeably lacking in threat factor aside from Tzim-Sha and a Dalek. It is good news then that the BBC seem to be more forthcoming about what this new series will feature, however, as they have revealed that the Judoon will be making a return through photos released of the filming in Gloucester.

The most interesting image depicts the Doctor in a standoff with a distinctive Judoon Captain, who sports a mohawk, flanked by Judoon soldiers who appear to be holding a brand new type of blaster. Since their introduction, the Judoon have been depicted as an intergalactic ‘police-for-hire’, stormtroopers with a strict legal code who are employed as hired thugs to execute criminals or carry out other security duties. As such, they often clash with the Doctor on the subject of ethics, as they are known to be brutish and single-minded in their task, and have even been known to execute people on the spot for any perceived crime.

However, the Judoon are not always a foe to the Doctor, and several instances have portrayed them in a positive light. The famous cameo in The Stolen Earth shows that the Judoon guard the Shadow Proclamation, the Galactic Lawmakers, and a Judoon aids Sarah Jane and her friends in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode Prisoner of the Judoon. They have also made the jump to audio, as Big Finish’s Classic Doctors:New Monsters audio Judoon in Chains depicts the Sixth Doctor defending a Judoon on trial for his life. As such, it is not yet completely clear whether or not the Judoon in Series 12 will act as an ally or an adversary to the Doctor, although judging by the released picture, it would seem they are butting heads over something.

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Doctor Who – Top 5 Monsters That Should Make a Return in Series 12

Chris Chibnall definitely delivered on his promise of featuring no returning monsters in Series 11, which was perhaps not the wisest choice for the debut series of a new Doctor and new showrunner. Usually, when a new Doctor is introduced, their first series will retain many recurring elements from the show’s history, to reassure viewers that it is indeed the same show. This is usually done by having the new Doctor face off against classic villains such as the Daleks, and is part of the reason why fans will always yearn for the show’s recurring villains to make continuous comebacks – as the show evolves, the essential aspects of the show’s identity must evolve with it, and there is no reason why new showrunners can’t introduce their own recurring villains, such as the Ood, the Weeping Angels or the Stenza.

Having said that, Series 11 featured a distinct lack of classic villains, and although Resolution turned out to be quite a good Dalek story, it ‘s status as a New Years Special means that it was not included as part of the eleventh series. This makes Jodie Whittaker’s debut series seem quite odd and out of place compared to previous Doctor debut series – and as a result of the lack of truly great villains in the series to stand in for the lack of classic monsters, the Thirteenth Doctor’s character came across as somewhat flimsy and vague compared to recent Doctors like Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi. Perhaps in response to feedback from fans, Chibnall seems to have lifted his ‘ban’ on including classic monsters in the series, as he has stated in several interviews recently that he intends to do more with the show’s iconic monsters – after all, there is no better way to define yourself as a showrunner than to present fans with your spin on the show diverse array of key elements – the Doctor themselves, the TARDIS, the Sonic Screwdriver, but also the classic monsters. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the Top 5 Monsters That Should Make a Return in Series 11.

macra

#5 – The Macra

Though they may seem a strange choice for a returning monster, the Macra are actually quite a topical choice given the recent release of the animated version of The Macra Terror. This fantastic recreation of a lost classic using the original audio manages to capture the essence of the Second Doctor’s era and finally does the concept of the Macra justice, as their previous appearances in the original version of the episode and then in 2007’s Gridlock never managed to truly present the idea to its truest potential due to the sheer lack of budget. One of the things that Series 11 showed fans is that Doctor Who now has CGI to rival that of other modern sci-fi shows, and so now with Series 12 the writers might finally have a chance to write a new Macra story with the CGI budget to justify it.

two-masters.jpg

#4 – The Master

Audio producers Big Finish have been doing some very ambitious projects involving the Master recently – the first canon multi-Master story, The Two Masters, starring Geoffrey Beevers and Alex MacQueen, the War Master box sets starring Derek Jacobi, the introduction of the Master’s first incarnation played by James Dreyfus in the The First Doctor Adventures box sets, and more recently the return of Eric Roberts’ Movie incarnation and Michelle Gomez’ Missy, the latter getting her own audio series. With so many incarnations of the Master ‘active’ in fan’s minds at the moment, and with the Master also being a time-traveller like the Doctor, there is no reason why Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor couldn’t come up against one, or even several existing incarnations of the Master. Particularly good choices for Masters to go up against Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor on-screen include Geoffrey Beevers, who could be featured in heavy makeup or even as the voice of a CGI version of the rotting corpse Master, and Alex MacQueen, who has never had a TV appearance before but would be a fantastic choice to portray the charismatic yet sadistic killer to contrast Whittaker’s good natured Doctor.

time of the cybermen

#3 – The Cybermen

Having been primarily responsible for the death of her previous incarnation, it would make sense that the Thirteenth Doctor would have a bone to pick with the Cybermen. Not only that, but her diverse cast of companions perhaps best portrays the Doctor’s love of individuality and diversity – something that the Cybermen seek to destroy. Given that so far we have only been given one insight into Chris Chibnall’s take on the Cybermen, and that was Torchwood’s Cyberwoman, it would be nice to see Chibnall’s take on the standard Cybermen in the main show. Whilst Cyberwoman did have some really creepy and unique concepts dealing with Cyber-conversion in it, the unfortunate error with the costume design trying to emphasise the show’s adult nature derailed the episode. Now that he runs Doctor Who, however, Chibnall now has a chance to portray a fresh new take on the iconic metal men.

sontaran

#2 – The Sontarans

Having been practically transformed into a comedic joke during Steven Moffat’s era through Strax, the Sontarans stand in a sort of limbo-state at the moment, as all of their appearances – even ones that were not down to Strax – have been for comedic effect since Series 7, and at the moment it remains unlikely that they will ever make a return that can scare or intimidate viewers anymore. Interestingly, there were rumours during the run-up to the release of Series 11 that it would feature an episode that delved into the origin story of the Sontarans, how a ‘clone race’ was actually created, and how their warrior ethos came to be. Although it turned it to be false, the story idea remains a good one – and certainly one that Chris Chibnall could harness given the popularity of the concept.

dalek fleet

Honourable Mention – The Dalek Fleet

Included here as an honourable mention are the Daleks, or rather their Fleet, who should not make an appearance in Series 12 per-say, except maybe have them hinted at as a recurring arc for foreshadowing, as it and, of course, the pepperpots themselves should definitely reappear in the next New Years Special. The Recon Dalek in Resolution was prevented from sending a full transmission to the Dalek Fleet, but given that it was using every single transmitter on Earth at once, it is more than likely that something got through to them, and having Daleks on New Year is definitely something that many fans would happily adopt as an annual tradition.

stenza

#1 –  The Stenza

To give credit where it was certainly due, the Stenza were an interesting race introduced by Chris Chibnall, and as the only recurring enemy in the series, they are effectively Chibnall’s ‘poster’ villain at the moment. All the more reason for them to make a reappearance in Series 12, particularly considering the fact that we only saw an individual member of the race in the series and not, say, their homeworld. An episode called ‘Planet of the Stenza’ would certainly be an interesting concept, particularly as each warrior would have a unique appearance given the fact that each one hunts on a different planet – and so each one would have wholly unique teeth implanted into its face, presumably. How Chibnall manages the Stenza, his flagship race at present, will give us some excellent insight into how he will fare as showrunner in the future. Also, having the Thirteenth Doctor once again come face-to-face with the responsibilities of her prior actions at the hands of the Stenza might become a recurring opportunity to see some development in her character in Series 12, something that the show definitely needs at the moment. So, to sum up, the Stenza might not be the most accepted or appreciated aspect of Doctor Who at the moment, but they certainly have potential – so in a way, they are representative of Chibnall’s Who as a whole, which is all the more reason for them to make a return in Series 12.

UPDATE – Judoon in Series 12

As of May 2019, it has been confirmed that at least one returning villain will appear in Series 12 – the Judoon. Although they originally didn’t appear on this list, the Judoon are an interesting race that have been explored somewhat in spinoffs like The Sarah Jane Adventures and several Big Finish audios, and their ruthless and single-minded nature will certainly contrast with the Thirteenth Doctor’s personality. The on-set photos from Gloucester show some interesting tidbits about the Judoon, such as their new two-handed rifles and the interesting haircut of their commander.

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Doctor Who – Resolution of the Daleks

Though it has been several months now since the release of Resolution, the only episode of Doctor Who in 2019, the full impact of the story still hasn’t sunk in. Despite the positive response that most fans had to Series 11, an undeniable flaw with the series was that none of the villains felt truly scary, and due to the fact that Chibnall has opted for a more child-friendly interpretation of the show than we have ever seen before in the New Series, each and every episode struggled to scare or thrill most of the audience. In that regard, Series 11 was a bitter failure.

However, fear factor is not the only criteria used to judge Doctor Who. In fact, by most people’s reckoning, Series 11 was a success as it managed to create an excellent jumping-on point, making the show more accessible to younger fans (who are, at the end of the day, the future of the show) and also establish a decent base that Series 12 can build upon. Had the ten episodes of Series 11 stood alone, then perhaps we would be more pessimistic – but Series 11 was saved at the eleventh hour by a certain upstart New Years Special.

To get it out of the way, it must be said that Resolution is no masterpiece. However, it is perhaps the best Dalek story of the decade, although there are several factors that blur this assertion not least being the fact that the episode has two plots running concurrently – the interesting plot, involving a single deranged Dalek going on a rampage after building itself a junk casing out of scrap, and the boring plot, involving a microwave salesman. Those who predicted that Ryan’s deadbeat dad would appear at some point in the series were proved right, perhaps a little earlier than they were expecting.

Throughout Series 11 one of the main recurring issues was the characters – not just the companions, but almost every character who appeared in the series. Often character motives or feelings would be expressed through expository dialogue, and whilst this is forgivable for one-shot characters who who get less than 20 minutes of screentime, but it is a poor way to develop a companion. Ryan was perhaps the most exposition-built companions of the bunch, and the vast majority of his dialogue had something to do with his dad walking out on him when he was a child.

The issue here is that, with Ryan’s deadbeat dad situation now resolved, what else really is there for him to talk about? According to Series 11, Ryan is a person who likes to talk about his neglectful father and mention that he has dyspraxia – and following Resolution, his potential topics of conversation have now been halved. Whilst this is a testiment to how flimsy Ryan’s character really is, hopefully in Series 12 the writers will use this clean slate oppurtunity to write Ryan as an actual character and not the flattest in a lineup of cardboard-cutouts. There is some great potential for this, as the scene in the diner in Resolution in which Ryan sits down and talks to his father is actually really moving, and proves that Tosin Cole has great potential as an actor. Hopefully the writers will have a long hard think about how they can use what Series 11 establishes to make Series 12 better.

With the wider concerns out of the way, it’s time to talk about what should be the primary focus of any Dalek story – the Dalek. And Resolution’s Dalek is probably the best singular example of the species that we have seen on the show since Dalek Sec. A cunning, manipulative and surprisingly boastful ‘Recon Scout’ who, after centuries of being trapped on Earth without a casing, has gone completely insane. The basic idea for the story is brilliant, and resembles the kind of imaginative idea you normally get from Big Finish rather than the mainline series – the Dalek mutant, separated from its casing, hijacks a woman’s body and uses her to get around, build a new casing and, of course, murder people. Credit has to be given to Charlotte Ritchie for her incredible performance as Lin, particularly once she has been taken over. The powerful stare coupled with the sickeningly gleeful smile when she carries out an extermination makes her a highlight of the episode, to the point where I was almost sad when the Dalek finally gets its casing back because we wouldn’t be seeing any more of Ritchie’s fantastic Dalek performance.

Neverthless, when the Dalek does get its casing, that is when the episode really picks up. An already respectable body count from Lin’s massacre is quadrupled as the newly-armoured Dalek takes on an entire platoon of British military, including a tank, and exterminates them all. As good as Moffat was at understanding the psychology of the Daleks and offering more nuanced takes on their philosophy, his Dalek stories lacked one vital ingredient – copius amounts of death. Resolution makes up for this by demonstrating the power of the Daleks and providing the first real threat that the Doctor and her friends faced in the entire series. For a one-off design, the Dalek itself is excellent – admittedly, when it first wobbled through the door for its dramatic reveal, my first reaction was to chuckle – the ramshackle parts coupled with the oddly offset design made it seem almost comical. However, we soon find out that this Dalek is just as deadly as its pristine counterparts – perhaps even more so. Whilst fans likely wouldn’t take to it as a standard Dalek design, the one-off Resolution Dalek must be praised for its unique design and thecreative implementation of the first example of a fully-remote-controlled Dalek prop in Doctor Who history.

Resolution proved a lot of things. It proved once again that the Daleks are just as fearsome as ever, it proved that a New Year’s Day Special can work, and it proved that Chibnall and his team can write an excellent Doctor Who story when they embrace the pre-existing aspects of the show that made it so popular in the first place. However, whilst fan reaction to Resolution were largely positive, there was something else that it proved – it proved that the Thirteenth Doctor will need to change as the series progresses.

In many ways, Resolution finally laid bare the primary issue with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, an issue that has plagued several great Doctors early in their tenure – she is almost impossible to take seriously, due to her child-like personality and bumbling nature. For a now-2000 year-old Gallifreyan Highborn the Doctor seems to have suddenly reverted back to the mind of a child in this recent regeneration – we have seen this happen before, as the Third, Seventh, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors all started out with unstable or ‘silly’ personalities when they first appeared, and mellowed as their time on the show went on. Having a silly Doctor can work with the more whimsical episodes but when facing a threat like the Daleks the whimsicality has to drop and a serious tone must take over, otherwise the audience doesn’t stand a chance of taking the show seriously. As introductory seasons go, Series 11 certainly presents the Doctor as likeable, and Jodie Whittaker does a fantastic job with the scripts, but it doesn’t give fans much to go on in terms of the Doctor’s drives and ethos other than the generic ‘I like to save the day’ trope.

For this reason, the Thirteenth Doctor will have to undergo a dramatic personality shift as her tenure continutes. Undoubtedly this is what Chris Chibnall and the other lead writers have planned, but it would have been nice to see some hints as to what direction they want to take the character in Series 11 itself, to give fans who are unsure about the Thirteenth Doctor’s current characterisation some reassurance that she will mature as time goes on. The Eleventh Doctor, often regarded as among the most child-like Doctors, got a scene in his second episode, The Beast Below, in which he is confronted with an ethical dilemma so heartbreaking that the bumbling child-like exterior fell away and we got to see the darker side to the then-new Doctor early on. So far in the Thirteenth Doctor’s run we have had is a vague over-arching theme of family, which could foreshadow a dramatic plot development later in the show (such as the death of a companion) and another pseudo-theme of the Doctor accepting responsibility for her actions through the Tzim-Sha arc. These are interesting points that can be built on in Series 12, but are ultimately not enough on their own to shore up the Thirteenth Doctor’s lacklustre character development.

Overall, Resolution is a great episode that gives fans hope for big improvements in Series 12, but it is by no means perfect and, although fulfilling its role of bringing the Daleks back to our screens in a big way, it perhaps tried to be too many things at once by cramming nearly half a series of sideplots into a 50 minute story. Hopefully the future will prove Resolution to be a key turning point in the Thirteenth Doctor’s tenure, and now that Chibnall’s ‘pilot’ series is over we can look forward to a bigger, better and more bombastic Series 12 after what we saw from the New Years Special.

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