Doctor Who “The Power Of Three” Writer Chris Chibnall Interview
“The Power of Three”, the fourth episode of Doctor Who’s seventh series, is heading our way on Saturday. Below, we’ve got an exclusive interview with writer Chris Chibnall, but since the BBC has also released its own bunch of interviews about the episode today, let’s have a quick butchers at what he has to say in the official gumpf first.
The episode features an invasion of Earth led by black cubes, and when asked where the inspiration for this came from, Chibnall comments: “A few years ago, near where I live, the MSC Napoli got stuck in Lyme Bay. A lot of its contents got washed up on to shore and people just started taking the contents. I wanted to do a story based on humanity’s ability to go ‘Oh look at that I’ll take that.’”
This will, of course, be Chibnall’s second script of the series after “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship”, and he says that, “Doctor Who is the best show to write for, because of the actors and the scale of imagination that it demands. Being asked to do the impossible, it is the best job in the world!”
However, he admits that it can be tricky to pack the story into the lean 45-minute running time, remarking that, “The show demands big ideas and big stories told in a relatively short period of time. It is an incredibly technical show to write for.”
There’s also something a little more spoilery that he talks about, so if you want to read about that, it’s on the final page of this article.
And now for our interview.
SFX: Did you always know that you were going to be doing two scripts for this series, or was it that you handed in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”, and they were like, “That’s great, do another one”?
“I was always supposed to be doing two, and then I was supposed to be doing three, because I was also supposed to be doing episode two of the next run, post-Christmas. But then I had my own show for ITV green-lit, so I’ve had to go off and do that. It’s a show called Broadchurch and it’s got David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Arthur Darvill and Vicky McClure in it. So, because of that, I had to back out of Doctor Who, and apologise to Steven quite profusely, but yeah, I always knew I’d be doing at least two episodes.”
“The Power Of Three” sounds very different to “Dinosaurs On a Spaceship”. What’s the conceit behind it?
“It’s Doctor Who from Amy and Rory’s point of view. We’re in the last days of the Ponds as everybody keeps saying, and it was really a chance to see where they’ve got to in their lives since “The Eleventh Hour”, and to see what it’s like to be them. And I think what’s interesting is that the companion/Doctor relationship in this series is very different to any we’ve seen before because really, they’re part-time travellers.
“They’re living at home, and the Doctor pops in and goes, ‘Shall we go somewhere?’, and they’re off. That’s very new, because they’re not permanently with him, and I wanted to see what that would mean. So it’s very different to ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’, and I think it’s very different to pretty much any other episode of Doctor Who ever, which is both wonderful and terrifying. It’s got a very different structure, a very different feel, and there’s a threat to Earth in there as well, so it’s a really unusual episode.”
What is unusual about the structure?
“Without giving too much away, because part of the delight of it is what’s different about the structure, I think that, generally, and this isn’t a universal truth, but generally, the show is from the Doctor’s point of view. This episode is absolutely not from the Doctor’s point of view, so that had a lot of structural impact. As soon as you make the decision and say, actually, this is going to be about what it’s like to be Amy and Rory, then, everything goes off that, but it’s got a very different pace, and it takes place over a very different sort of time span in lots of different ways. But it still feels like Doctor Who.”
The thing is, though, what is Doctor Who?
“Yeah, I think that’s another thing. Steven has shifted up the pace of some – some – of the storytelling, not all of it, but he’s shown what’s possible, and I think what he really wanted with this episode is something that again pushed the form. I think Steven continually likes to go, ‘What can we do that we haven’t done? What can we try that we haven’t tried?’ And ‘The Power Of Three’ is very much an attempt to just twist the perspective a bit and say, ‘Ooh, look, see what it looks like from over here.’ But also it has to be very celebratory of the Ponds, and very funny and very warm, and the big brief was to just spend some time with them, and see how fabulous they’ve been and really celebrate that relationship.”
It sounds slightly similar to what they did for Donna in “Turn Left”. Is that the case?
“There’s an element of ‘Turn Left’, but at the same time, it’s not like it at all. If you put the companion at the centre, then yes, inevitably, it’s going to feel more similar to that than to ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’, but it takes place in a normal reality, so, instantly, it’s very different from ‘Turn Left’.”
There are some big names in this one; you’ve got Steven Berkoff in there…
“We have, and we’ve got Jemma Redgrave, I mean, ‘The Power of Three’ is really packed with stuff, and I hope there are lots of great little treats and surprises. I can’t really say much more because I think, the lovely thing will be if we get to ‘The Power Of Three’ and people don’t know some of the stuff that’s coming up in it.”
Read our spoiler-free preview of “The Power Of Three”