Raised in Lancashire, he studied drama at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, subsequently gaining an MA in Theatre and Film from the University of Sheffield. His early career included work as a football archivist and floor manager for Sky Sports, before leaving to work as an administrator for various theatre companies. From 1996 to 1999 he worked as administrator with the experimental theatre company Complicite (where he met his wife Madeline) before leaving to become a full-time writer.
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Chibnall's first short play was produced as part of Contact Theatre's Young Playwright's Festival in 1988, directed by Lawrence Till. While studying at college, he wrote two plays, Victims and Now We Are Free, which were performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and directed by Edward Lewis. In 1998, he became Writer in Residence with GRiP Theatre Company, writing three full-length plays, including Best Daze and Gaffer! and several short plays. Chibnall's successor as Writer in Residence was Matthew Broughton. Gaffer! was revived at Southwark Playhouse in 2004.
Chibnall took part in an attachment at the Royal National Theatre Studio in 1999, followed by a year-long attachment to Soho Theatre in 2000, which resulted in his play Kiss Me Like You Mean It, produced at Soho Theatre and directed by Abigail Morris. Its cast included Catherine McCormack, Jason Hughes, Marlene Sidaway and Harry Towb. The play was shortlisted for the Meyer-Whitworth Award, and has subsequently been produced in various venues around the world, including a successful three-month run in Paris in 2004.
In 2001 he was approached, together with writer Nigel McCrery, to develop the format for a drama series which became Born and Bred. With a cast including James Bolam and Michael French, Born and Bred ran on BBC One for four years from 2002 to 2005, with Chibnall serving as head writer and consultant producer (later executive producer), writing seventeen of its thirty six hourlong episodes.
Chibnall was the only writer other than the show's creators to write for both series of the double International Emmy-award-winning BBC One police drama Life on Mars (2006–2007). He was part of the production team who accepted the 2007 BAFTA Audience Award onstage at the London Palladium.
During 2005, Chibnall was in charge of developing a proposed fantasy series involving the mythical magician Merlin for BBC One's early Saturday evening family drama slot. However, despite several scripts being written, BBC Head of Drama Jane Tranter eventually decided not to green-light the project, although it later emerged, without Chibnall's involvement, as Merlin (2008–2012).
In 2005, Chibnall was appointed head writer and co-producer of science-fiction drama Torchwood. The series, a spin-off from Doctor Who, premiered on BBC Three in October 2006 to a then record-breaking audience for a non-sport programme digital channel broadcast in the UK. The programme went on to win "Best New Drama" at the 2007 TV Quick Awards and "Best Drama Series" at the BAFTA Cymru 2007 awards. The series has also been nominated for both Hugo and Saturn awards., without winning either. In the USA, the programme has been broadcast on BBC America and HDNet, to critical acclaim. Chibnall wrote eight episodes during the first two series, including both series' finales, and the premiere episode of series two. He worked closely with Russell T Davies across all aspects of the show's production.
While working on Torchwood, Chibnall also penned the 2007 episode "42" for the third series of "Doctor Who".
Chibnall is a long-time fan of Doctor Who, and appeared on the BBC discussion programme Open Air in 1986 as a representative of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, criticising the quality of the series at the time.
In 2007, Dick Wolf and Kudos Film and Television selected Chibnall to become the show runner on ITV1's Law & Order: UK, a police procedural/legal drama based on the original US series. Chibnall was the lead writer and executive producer, writing six of the first thirteen episodes based on scripts from the US series. ITV has commissioned a second run of thirteen episodes. Having set up the series, Chibnall made the decision to leave the programme after one series, to focus on other writing projects.
He returned to Doctor Who for the 2010 season, penning the two-part story "The Hungry Earth" / "Cold Blood", which reintroduced the Silurians to the series. Chibnall also wrote two episodes for the seventh series, "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" (7x02) and "The Power of Three" (7x04) in 2012, as well as the online/red button exclusive episode Pond Life. He later penned another short, P.S., but it was never filmed, and was eventually presented online in storyboard format
Chibnall also show-ran Camelot, an adult retelling of the Arthurian legend for the Starz network. It went to air early in April 2011 and was filmed in Ardmore Studios near Dublin. The show was cancelled after a single season, though again Chibnall claimed he had chosen not to be involved in the second series in any case, due to other writing priorities.
Chibnall's most recent drama, a detective series for ITV called Broadchurch, starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman, was received with overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. It followed the story of the fictional seaside town of Broadchurch, struggling to come to terms with the possible murder of a young boy. The first episode went to air in March 2013, starring Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan, Arthur Darvill, Pauline Quirke and David Bradley. Viewing figures peaked at 9 million viewers in the finale. Due to its popularity, a second series was announced at the end of the first series, with location filming finishing in October 2014. Shortly after the second series aired, it was announced that Broadchurch would return for a third series.
- Life on Mars
- Doctor Who
- Law & Order: UK
- United (2011)
- Broadchurch Series 1(2013), Series 2(2015)
- The Great Train Robbery (2013)
- Born and Bred
- "News". Dreamwatch (Titan Magazines) (137). January 2006.
- "Torchwood scores record audience". BBC News. 23 October 2006.
- "UK | Wales | Dr Who sweeps Bafta Cymru board". BBC News. 28 April 2007. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
- "Torchwood" (2006) – Awards
- Search Results from Metacritic.com
- "DWMail". Doctor Who Magazine (Panini Comics) (375): 11. 8 November 2006.
- Welsh, James (10 January 2008). "'Torchwood' writer to lead UK 'Law & Order". Digital Spy. Retrieved 10 January 2008.
- Chibnall, Chris (8 July 2009). "No, they did ask...". Chris Chibnall's Twitter page. Retrieved 30 September 2009.
- Chibnall, Chris (28 September 2009). "They're shooting S2 now...". Chris Chibnall's Twitter page. Retrieved 30 September 2009.
- Plunkett, John (23 April 2013). "Broadchurch to return for second series after nearly 9m see killer unveiled". The Guardian (London).
- Interview with Chibnall at bbc.co.uk
- Chris Chibnall at the Internet Movie Database
- Interview about his play Gaffer, from September 2004
- Biography at Complicite.org
- Theatrical plays information at Doolee.com