William Shaw on The Rings of Akhaten, the surprising similarities between Neil Cross & Chris Chibnall, and more (Part Two)

will shaw doctor who rings akhaten black archive 42 neil cross farren blackburn chris chibnall jenna coleman leaf matt smith merry

Probably my favourite thing about Chibnall’s Doctor Who [is] that we seem to be moving away from the rigid atheism of a lot of the show’s history. I think some of it is a continuation of trends from the Moffat era. Davies was at times very influenced by New Atheism, and there’s a real softening of that through Moffat and then Chibnall. The Thirteenth Doctor has clearly learned the lessons the Eleventh Doctor doesn’t quite get in The Rings of Akhaten; that religion is more complicated than just this evil parasite that poisons society. I feel very lucky to be releasing the book now, because there’s a really interesting conversation developing about these topics.

Some more thoughtful comments from William Shaw today! Unsurprisingly, they’re still largely about Doctor Who, but we move a little further afield from The Rings of Akhaten today – take a look at Will’s thoughts on Series 12 and its depiction of faith, a ‘what if?’ scenario where Neil Cross took over from Steven Moffat instead of Chris Chibnall, and more.

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William Shaw on Doctor Who, his new book about The Rings of Akhaten, and more (Part One)

will shaw doctor who rings akhaten black archive 42 neil cross farren blackburn chris chibnall jenna coleman leaf matt smith

I think The Rings of Akhaten is one of the boldest, most ambitious, and most radical episodes in all of Doctor Who. It’s a heartfelt story, lushly realised and beautifully performed. It’s a vital early step in the journey of Clara Oswald, the best companion (and arguably the best Doctor) the show has ever had. It’s an early commentary on the show’s fiftieth anniversary. And, as I talk about in the book, it’s a fascinating engagement with contemporary politics. I basically think it’s a critique of New Atheism (cf Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc) and its relationship to Doctor Who, but in doing that it necessarily touches on the legacy of colonialism, and Clara and Merry’s relationship in the story is an interesting way into some topics from feminist theory. Like Clara’s leaf, it looks simple, but it contains multitudes.

I spoke to William Shaw about his new book, the latest in the Black Archive series by Obverse Books, and the definitive account of The Rings of Akhaten. It’s a stellar book, full of all sorts of interesting things about New Atheism, feminism, orientalism, and Doctor Who – and Will had even more interesting things to say about them in the first instalment of our two part interview. So many interesting things! It’s a marvel he’s not run out yet.

Check back in a few days for Part Two, which covers Will’s thoughts on classic Doctor Who, ideas of faith in the Chibnall era, and how Neil Cross compares to Chibnall as a writing. (I told you – no end to the number of interesting things Will has to say about Doctor Who and associated.)

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Hard Sun never quite moved beyond a police procedural, and suffered as a result

hard sun neil cross jim sturgess agyness deyn aisling bea hulu bbc one

It’s not difficult to argue that, in any drama about the apocalypse, the reaction to this knowledge and its effect on society is one of the most interesting things that could be explored. However, Hard Sun largely opts not to explore this part of its premise. Indeed, for the most part, the apocalypse is something of an afterthought as the drama instead retreats to the well-worn hallmarks of a police procedural. With episodes focused on serial killers and kidnappings, the end of the world isn’t so much a focal point but a background detail to add texture; it’s a concept that’s broadly gestured at, rather than a theme that’s interrogated particularly.

For the most part, Hard Sun was frustrating, and ultimately quite dull. It’s a shame, really, because I was really rooting for this show; the concept seemed fascinating, and Aisling Bea was in it, and I think she’s great. Unfortunately, though, Hard Sun wasn’t much of anything in the end. The above review is, to be honest, only really one line of criticism that could be applied to the show – it’s a very particular sort of grim detective show, with all the tropes and pitfalls that tends to entail.

I think it’s going to be on Hulu soon – US viewers, I say don’t bother. UK viewers who haven’t seen it yet, also don’t bother.

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Doctor Who: The Next Showrunner?

doctor who steven moffat action figures next showrunner leaving replace chris chibnall mark gatiss neil cross toby whithouse neil gaiman russell t davies

It seems that the general consensus of Doctor Who fans is that Steven Moffat has had his day. Obviously, this isn’t the case for everyone – there’s still some who’ll sing his praises. Other’s are vehemently against his staying even a year longer. Some just think it’s time for a breath of fresh air.

(Personally, I’m somewhat ambivalent – whilst some of Moffat’s recent work has faltered, there’s generally a high standard throughout)

Even so, I believe he’s said in interviews that he doesn’t see himself staying any longer than 2016 at the most – which, really, isn’t that far away now. Just 2 more seasons, give or take.

Either way, he’ll be going eventually. The question that’s asked, then, is… Who next?

The likely candidate is Mark Gatiss, not least because of his close partnership with Moffat. He’s got a fair bit of experience in different production roles – producer, director, writer, and actor, meaning he’d certainly be able to understand all the different aspects of the roles. He’s also, obviously, a big fan of Doctor Who, and has a lot of experience as a writer – of all the current team, he’s probably the most experienced as a Who writer.

Other candidates are few and far between really, perhaps because Moffat is using the same writers over and over again – Neil Gaiman and Chris Chibnall would likely be too busy, for example, and Toby Whithouse has perhaps not written enough Doctor Who yet…

Personally, I think Gatiss would be a great choice. In my opinion, An Adventure in Space and Time is the best piece of writing ever to have gone out under the Doctor Who name – if his episodes as showrunner were even half that standard, it’d be a rather impressive run.

His would also be quite a different direction to Moffat’s and RTD’s, which I think would be good – life depends upon change and renewal, after all.

What I think might be interesting would be a sharing of the role, like how Gatiss and Moffat run Sherlock. That is, perhaps, what leads to the overall quality increase there, in comparison to the pair’s Doctor Who work.

I doubt it’d be Neil Cross. Whilst he might have enough traction to return as a writer, I say he’d be far, far too divisive to be a legitimate choice to take over. The choice would, I assume, need to be approved by some BBC bosses somewhere – bosses who would presumably have seen quite how divisive his episodes were, and not want to take such a risk.

Nick Briggs is a name that’s thrown around a fair bit, but I sort of doubt it’d be him. Whilst he’s probably one of the best suited to the job, given his work at Big Finish, he’s perhaps not experienced enough in terms of TV writing?

What’s also interesting to note is that, way back in… 2003 it would have been, when Mark Gatiss had a pitch in the running to bring back Doctor Who, it was a collaborative pitch with Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman – perhaps the three of them, or Gatiss and Whithouse working together, would be the right choice?

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