Parting is The Way
Steven Moffat has pointed to a significant change in the structure of the next series of Doctor Who, with two-part stories making a comeback. Interviewed in the new issue of Doctor Who Magazine, the showrunner says:
“Yeah, we’re changing the rhythm of it quite a bit. For a long while, those 45-minute stories were the backbone of Doctor Who. They felt new and fresh and different. It just started to feel to me, that as a member of the audience, you were getting too acquainted with the rhythm of it. Do you know what I mean? You sort of think ‘Well, now it’s about time for the music to come up.’ Writing the first two-parter that I had done in years [Dark Water/Death in Heaven] I just thought, ‘I’m liking this. This feels more unpredictable.’ Because you don’t know how far you’re going to get through the story…”
We already know that series 9 will kick off with the return of Missy in a double-bill written by Moffat himself, followed with episodes 3 and 4 which will be another two-parter by Toby Whithouse. And Moffat’s comments indicate that decision to go with longer stories is designed, at least in part, to shake things up and confound viewers’ expectations of what a Doctor Who story should be.
Many people will surely welcome the move. The closing episodes of series 8 may not have been to everyone’s taste but there’s no doubting that they were a good illustration of how a strong cliff-hanger can grab people’s attention and generate that all-important anticipation for next week’s show. Some of the most highly regarded twenty-first century stories have been two-parters (Moffat’s own The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances; Army of Ghosts/Doomsday; Human Nature/The Family of Blood) and if they haven’t always quite hit the mark (The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood; The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People) they have at least allowed things to proceed at a less frenetic pace, with more time to get to know guest characters.
One of the most common gripes about the series since its 2005 return, from casual viewers as well as more dedicated fans, has surely been that the 45-minute format leads to rushed endings, with insufficient time to allow the story to develop. Television had undergone some major changes in the years the programme was off the screen, of course, and the producers may have been justified in thinking that modern audiences just weren’t inclined to follow the same story from week to week (although long-form drama could hardly be said to have died a death). But Moffat is clearly trying to ensure that the series stays ahead of the game, and is frank about the risks involved in repeating the same tried and tested format from year to year.
It won’t come as a surprise to followers of Moffat’s work to read a fairly heavy hint that he’ll be using this new approach as a way challenge assumptions about what’s coming next. Just because a story has been labelled as a two-parter doesn’t necessarily mean everything will be wrapped up by the end of part two:
“The rule I’ve got is that you won’t be absolutely certain whether a show is going to be a two-parter or not. And sometimes something that looks like it’s going to be a single isn’t a single. I think the nice thing is not having the feeling of ‘It’s five minutes until the end of Doctor Who, so he’s bound to start running now.’ You should exploit the fact that there’s a week’s gap. And with each of the two-parters we’re doing, there’s a substantial difference between the two halves.”
So what do you think? Is Moffat right that it’s time for a shift in the format? Or has Doctor Who been doing just fine in recent years with mostly one-parters? Let us know!
You can read the full interview in issue 484 of Doctor Who Magazine, available now across the galaxy!
Posted on March 7, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged BBC, Cardiff, companion, Doctor, Doctor Who, doctorwho, fandom, History, Jenna Coleman, Peter Capaldi, regeneration, Series 9, Steven Moffat, TARDIS, The Doctor, The Master, Time Lord. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.