Doctor Who has finally just gone ahead and made the implicit explicit: Showrunner Steven Moffat is stepping down after the show's upcoming 10th season ends in 2017. Taking his place will be Chris Chibnall, a former writer for Doctor Who and its spinoff Torchwood, as well as the creator of small-town murder mystery Broadchurch.
Steven Moffat will step down as Head Writer & Exec Producer after S10… Chris Chibnall to take over! pic.twitter.com/iMhNoEAegy— Doctor Who Official (@bbcdoctorwho) January 22, 2016
Said Moffat in a statement distributed to the press:
Feels odd to be talking about leaving when I’m just starting work on the scripts for season 10, but the fact is my timey-wimey is running out. While Chris [Chibnall] is doing his last run of Broadchurch, I’ll be finishing up on the best job in the universe and keeping the TARDIS warm for him. It took a lot of gin and tonic to talk him into this, but I am beyond delighted that one of the true stars of British Television drama will be taking the Time Lord even further into the future. At the start of season 11, Chris Chibnall will become the new showrunner of Doctor Who. And I will be thrown in a skip.
Moffat's stint on Who has been a contentious one. When he took over for Russell T Davies in 2010, his collaborations with Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith and companions Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill resulted in some of the series' most ambitious storytelling to date. Throughout his tenure, however, Moffat has also endured criticism of how he treats his female characters, most notably the companions who've seemed to lose the ability to talk about anything other than how brilliant the Doctor is.
In the past year, Moffat's Who has remained on fairly solid ground, with Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi bringing a much different dynamic than Smith. Meanwhile, Twelve's relationship with the Doctor's most recent companion, Jenna Coleman's Clara, was much more platonic than other doctor-companion relationships had been during the Moffat years. Vox's Todd VanDerWerff even argued that season nine, which concluded in December, "made [Doctor Who] good again."
News of Moffat's exit will be surprising to some. But Moffat has always known that Doctor Who was a temporary gig for him. And as he told the Guardian in December 2015, "I won’t be leaving because I’m suddenly miserable. It’ll be because I want to do something else."
Time will tell what that "something else" is, whether it's more Sherlock or something entirely new. Regardless, Moffat now has a unique opportunity to make Doctor Who's 10th season spectacular — or at least something to remember him by.