The Doctor’s adventures through time and space over the past 50 years has brought us wonder and the occasional fright. The time is almost upon us for new adventures with a new Doctor and her new best friends with the season premiere just around the corner. The anticipation for this upcoming season with the debut of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th incarnation of our beloved Timelord and well as Chris Chibnall taking over the showrunner duties for this iconic series.
Fans were first introduced to the cast during San Diego Comic Con with Jodie Whittaker along co-stars Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill along with Executive Producer Matt Strevens and Showrunner/Executive Producer Chris Chibnall all on stage in Hall H to promote the upcoming landmark season of Doctor Who.
I participated in a press conference prior to the Hall H presentation and that experience provide my with a great first impression of the new Who team. During the press conference Whittaker described playing the first female Doctor as “liberating since the previous rules are all out of the window”. She went on to state that everything is new and making this her own character.
Whittaker was careful not to give away much but did say that there were ten stand alone episodes with huge character arcs. In terms of production Strevens discussed finding the balance between practical effects and CGI. The cast joked that they haven’t seen the episodes and they spent their shoot looking at tennis balls.
Chibnall stressed that his intention for this 11th season of this modern-era of the series was to serve as an entry point for new fans. Described the upcoming season as exciting, funny, emotion and that there will be “a lot of new villains, monsters, and loads of brilliant guest actors”. His hope was to make this season inclusive, accessible, and mainstream which would appeal to fans of the series and those who had never watched Doctor Who beforehand. With that said, he is encouraging fans of the series to reach out to their non-Whovian friends to share the viewing experience.
Whovians know that each incarnation of The Doctor is different in many different ways from dress to mannerisms. Whittaker looks at the The Doctor as someone with a joy for wonder. She went on to describe the character as fidgety, bubbly, humorous, witty, and energetic.
Details on the upcoming season has been kept under wraps and the cast could not disclose too much. Chibnall stated that he wanted the premiere to be as spoiler-free as possible and he wanted everyone to enjoy the episode from the same starting point. To that end the simulcast BBC & BBC America will undertake will allow everyone to experience the episode at the same time.
Aside from the gender change for The Doctor (but in reality the character is an alien so it really is not huge leap anyway) we can see that the new cast with Tosin Cole (Ryan), Mandip Gill (Yasmin) and Bradley Walsh (Graham) is quite diverse. Gill described Yas as being in awe with the Doctor. Cole described Ryan as a person who “goes with the flow” but also challenges The Doctor from time to time. Bradley Walsh could not join the cast in San Diego but sent a video which was shown during the panel. In it he played around on set while the cast was away. It brought out a lot of laughs from the audience. The video was very funny and if there is any indication of what this character will be I It brought a number of people in the audience
Chibnall and Strevens discussed diversity and inclusiveness for the cast and creatives behind the scenes. They highlighted that t the staff including writers, editors, and directors include women and people of color. I commend them for taking this direction and providing these opportunities.
Here is a list of the writers and directors for this upcoming season as reported from BBC America:
Former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman has written over 60 books for children and young adults including the Noughts and Crossesseries of novels, and her book Pig-Heart Boy, which was adapted into a BAFTA-winning, six-part TV serial. Malorie says: “I’ve always loved Doctor Who. Getting the chance to write for this series has definitely been a dream come true.”
Ed Hime was nominated for a Craft BAFTA for his first episode of Skins, and won the Prix Italia for his radio play The Incomplete Recorded Works of a Dead Body. Ed says: “Writing for this series comes down to the adventure really, and telling emotionally engaging stories to bring everyone along with you.”
Playwright and screenwriter Vinay Patel’s television debut, Murdered By My Father, won the 2016 Royal Television Society Award for Best Single Drama and was nominated for three BAFTAs. Vinay says: “I grew up watching shows like Star Trek and Quantum Leap on the edge of my dad’s bed, and I loved how they managed to capture the imagination of a kid like me as well as acting as a moral compass. I never imagined that I’d get to write for Doctor Who – I was pretty thrilled.”
Pete McTighe is the originating writer of Wentworth, the female prison drama that has sold to over 150 countries. He’s written over a hundred hours of TV drama and been nominated for five Writers Guild Awards. Pete says: “My entire television career has quite literally been an elaborate plan to get to write Doctor Who – and no one is more shocked than me that it paid off. I’ve been having the time of my life working with Chris, and writing for Jodie and the new team, and can’t wait for everyone to see what we’ve been up to.”
Joy Wilkinson has been selected as a Screen International Star of Tomorrow and has had two screenplays featured on the Brit List. Her TV scripts include the critically-acclaimed BBC five-parter The Life and Adventures of Nick Nickleby, while her theatre work has won prizes including the Verity Bargate Award. Joy says: “I loved the show and felt like it might be a good fit for me, but I knew it was really hard to get onto. So quite frankly I’m still pinching myself to be here!”
Sallie Aprahamian has been directing television for over two decades with critically acclaimed shows including: Extremely Dangerous, The Sins, Real Men, The Lakes, Teachers and This Life. Sallie’s memories of Doctor Who go right back to the 1960s, when William Hartnell created the role. She says: “I watched the First Doctor from behind the sofa through my fingers, frightened and exhilarated. I was really delighted, as a fan and as a director, to be invited to work on the first female Doctor’s series. What a brilliant time to be on the show!”
Jamie Childs, who directed Jodie Whittaker’s reveal as the new Doctor, returns for the opening episode of the new series. Jamie says Doctor Who represents an important part of our television landscape. “We tend to avoid making many shows in Britain that really allow the audience to properly escape, and Doctor Who has been doing this for decades. So yes, sign me up – I’ve always wanted to be part of that! There really aren’t many shows made over here that allow the viewer to travel to another universe.”
Jennifer Perrott wrote, directed, produced and executive produced her award-winning 35mm short film The Ravens. Since finishing Doctor Who she has been directing Gentleman Jack, a forthcoming BBC One/HBO historical drama series created by Sally Wainwright. Jennifer says: “Doctor Who is an iconic show and one I’d loved as a child, especially when Tom Baker was the Doctor. Space travel has become more a part of modern life and this has opened the door for more human stories to be told amidst the escapist fantasy of saving the world from alien invasion. The aliens are now as emotionally complex as the humans, and I was really excited by that.”
Mark Tonderai went to school in Zimbabwe and architecture school in Kingston, before landing a job at the BBC as a trainee presenter. Mark has directed the full season of The Five, Impulse, Lucifer, Gotham, Black Lightning, George RR Martin’s Nightflyers and Jennifer Lawrence thriller House at the End of the Street. Mark says: “What was really crucial in my decision to direct the show was Chris Chibnall. I’m a huge fan of his and I like the way he sees the world. He has this ability to entertain and also deliver truths – questions, too – about who we are. And he does it all with a hint of a smile.”
When asked to summarize this upcoming season Chibnall described it as “really flipping awesome” and hinted at the possibility of a bonus episode after the ten episodes have been completed (hint for a possible Christmas episode).
For me the role of The Doctor is more than one person, gender, race, or hair color (call back to Matt Smith incarnation of the Doctor’s desire to be ginger). It is an embodiment of inclusion, wonder, friendship, hope, helping others, and solving problems when faced with insurmountable odds.
In a few days time the world will get see Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and I am very confident her time in the role will be BRILLIANT.
Set your TARDIS coordinates now – Doctor Who returns Sunday, October 7th at 1:45 ET/ 10:45 PT / 18:45 BST.
Are you planning on watching the season premiere at NYCC with fellow Whovians or in the comfort of your own home trying not to hide behind the the couch? Click here to join the Doctor Who conversation on the FoCC forum.