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Doctor Who May Move to Feature-Length Specials in 2016

Since the word came out that the 10th season of the modern Doctor Who era would be shortened, we naturally assumed it would just be fewer one-hour episodes and maybe a handful of specials. We also thought it was because showrunner Steven Moffat was going to be busy with the return of Sherlock, so it would be time to give the Time Lord a rest. Now the word is going around that all is not well with the TARDIS and that plummeting ratings may be causing the BBC to rethink how and when the Doctor saves the world.

Worried BBC chiefs are considering scrapping next year’s series of Doctor Who and screening feature-length specials instead ... the cult show has hit a crisis period. Viewing figures have plunged below four million. Sources say they are also weighing up the drastic step of axing the 12-series run planned for 2016. Instead they would film a couple of Sherlock-style feature-length specials plus a Christmas episode. – London Mirror

Now there are rumors, and there are rumors. And short of going to the official BBC website, we have to go to the main sources that have their fingers on the pulse of the “Who-niverse.” According to DoctorWhoTV, executives have been seriously considering scrapping the entire 10th season due to three key issues: One, ratings have plummeted in the last few years due to lackluster stories. It's so bad that executives are using the “c” word (Crisis) to describe it.

Secondly, companion Jenna Coleman recently was believed to have been cast to play the role of Queen Victoria in a new dramatic series that's along the lines of Downtown Abbey. Coleman has been considering leaving the series since the Capaldi era began, and now it looks like she's serious about it. 

But perhaps the most telling issue is that Capaldi himself is thinking about leaving, due to the series workflow being overwhelming and a desire to spend more time with his family, which is usually code for wanting to do other things. He's already going to be directing a television episode of VEEP in the U.S. later this year.  

Where did we last hear this reason? When 9th Doctor Christopher Eccleston left. Both initially considered Doctor Who the ultimate dream job, but after a year of intense 16 hours days in the TARDIS, the bloom looks to have fallen off the proverbial rose (and no, we're not talking about Tyler, either). 

The bottom line though, is that the trouble effect of the TARDIS is gonging. Fans aren't altogether happy with the new direction that showrunner Steven Moffat has taken the series, and frankly, I think it's time that he regenerates into a new head writer. It seems to me that Moffat's attention is not only divided, but he's starting to lose track of the Whoniverse in favor of personal little story arcs, like more focus on the Companion, and a darker, less socially competent Doctor. And don't get me started on those sonic sunglasses. 

So could this be why BBC executives are thinking about trying to save their flagship series by giving fans less of it? Producing several feature length specials, ala Moffat's other series SHERLOCK, would enable the BBC to create event television, and give Capaldi more time between to rest up and spend time on other projects.  It would also allow fans to recapture their passion by missing the show more.  But there's a risk in that. Fans may just simply move on, and the drop in ratings may never recover.

According to the Mirror report, the other option on the table is to simply reboot the entire series again, like they did with the Matt Smith era, where a new showrunner, Doctor, and companion were all put into place at the same time. Outgoing show runner Russell T. Davies was leaving, and then tenth Doctor David Tennant decided to go with him, as his companion Catherine Tate (Donna Noble) had already been written out of the series. So the time seemed to be right.  

Giving the show to a new head writer would give Doctor Who another fresh start, and be able to build the hype machine around who could be the next Doctor. Already rumors are swirling that Game of Thrones start Richard Madden is at the top of a very short list, and since the Master has been rebooted as Missy, the possibility of bring a female Doctor into the TARDIS is gaining steam.

“We are only three weeks into this year’s run. It is far too early to discuss next year’s commission.” - BBC Spokesman

So that's where the state of Doctor Who right now, and we've just started the 9th season. There's still a whole season ahead, and if the further reliance of two part episodes can do its work and turn around the ratings, all this may be for naught. But don't hold your breath.

Frankly, I think it's time to get a new showrunner. Moffat has taken the series to great new heights, but it's lost a lot of it's luster, that needs to be brought back. Frankly, I think having more feature length stories would give it back some of it's epic tone. I'm all for it.