Now that only three episodes are left in Doctor Who Season 7, speculation is at an all time high - as fans pour over the story so far in anticipation of the upcoming (and possibly controversial) finale. BBC has released official synopses and titles for the remaining episodes and, while week to week viewing is sure to shed light on a few secrets, where Steven Moffat (show runner and lead writer) intends to take the series in season 8 is becoming an increasingly frequent topic of discussion. Season finales are always a big deal but a trip to Trenzalore would mean major changes for the Doctor and the show - changes that would only be compounded by events in the 50th anniversary special.
As a result, it's only appropriate that with so much uncertainty comes the news of another change in the series - as BBC has announced that Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Sarah Jane Adventures alum, Brian Minchin will serve as executive producer of the series in season 8 (and likely beyond).
Minchin will fill the executive producer chair vacated by Caroline Skinner (who departed just after season 7 part two began airing); that said, Minchin could have a slightly more active role in the future of Who than Skinner - since his resume includes work as script editor on earlier seasons of the show (along with Torchwood).
Additionally, given Minchin's history with the franchise, it's probable that he was selected to help take some of the pressure off Moffat - as a knowledgeable second in command, well-versed in Doctor Who lore, that can help support the increasingly busy show runner. Plenty of fans are still on-board with the direction Moffat has taken the series (though he has a vocal group of detractors too) but there's no question that he's been spread thin - overseeing too many elements of day-to-day production.
Given rumors that Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith might be planning to depart the series in the not-to-distant future, some fans will no doubt speculate that Minchin's hiring could mean that Moffat is also looking to hand-over the reigns in a year or two. For now, there's no reason to think Moffat will step down any time soon but it's likely that BBC is looking at Minchin as a possible (though not guaranteed) show runner candidate - when that time does come.
After all, in the announcement of Minchin's new role, Faith Penhale, BBC Head of Drama Wales, was keen to point out the new Executive Producer's talent for story and passion for the Doctor Who franchise - both attributes that are key to Moffat's success as show runner:
“I've no doubt Doctor Who will enjoy a very exciting time with Brian at the helm working alongside Steven. Since joining BBC Wales in 2005, he’s proved he has a fantastic eye for story and a sharp awareness of what makes a drama like Doctor Who unmissable."
That said, Doctor Who fans that are eager to see Moffat leave the series shouldn't hold their breath. For the time being it sounds as though Minchin's efforts will be focused on working with the current show runner - not preparing to take over. In response to the new executive producer announcement, Moffat was excited by the choice for his new companion in Doctor Who:
"When I first took over Doctor Who, Brian was there as script editor, and in the most difficult time of a new Doctor and a new era, was completely brilliant. We lost him to producing The Sarah Jane Adventures at the end of our first run. Rising talent keeps rising, is how I comforted myself back then - but now I am beyond happy that Brian has risen all the way back to Doctor Who, in his new role of Executive Producer. I look forward to getting hopelessly lost in space and time with him."
Like Skinner (whose first credit was The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe), Minchin will cut his teeth as a Doctor Who Executive Producer with the 2013 Christmas Special before working on season 8 of the series.
Speaking about his new role and the future of Doctor Who Minchin said:
“I'm thrilled and excited to be joining Steven Moffat on a show that has meant so much to me over the years. I've watched in awe as Steven has taken Doctor Who to wild and imaginative places and I can't wait to get started on many more adventures with the Doctor.”
Moffat and his team have been tight-lipped about the finer details of what's to come in the upcoming season 7 episodes, 50th Anniversary Special, 2013 Christmas Special, much less season 8 of the series - which will presumably debut, though nothing is official yet, in the same time frame as season 6 (with a premier in April 2014). Doctor Who seasons do not always stick to a standard release window and an April 2014 premiere isn't confirmed - so it could be awhile before we hear any official season 8 story or release details.
In the meantime, check out our Doctor Who Viewing Guide: Tips, Suggestions & Complete Episode List!
Doctor Who airs Saturday @8pm on BBC America. The 50th Anniversary Special is set to air in late 2013.
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