DOC­TOR WHO

We knew Jodie Whit­taker was right to play the first fe­male Doc­tor when we saw her hand­writ­ing. All over the shop.

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS - JONATHAN PILE

If you were to list in­flu­ences for Doc­tor

Who, how long would it be be­fore you got to For­rest Gump? Be­cause as strange as it may seem, that’s the ref­er­ence point of new ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Dan Strevens.

“It’s a box of choco­lates of a se­ries,” he tells us. “There’s some­thing dif­fer­ent in ev­ery episode.”

This new sea­son, the 11th (or the 37th in old money), will have no twoparters, and the first episode will act as some­thing of a re­boot, in the same way Matt Smith’s first episode ‘The Eleventh Hour’ did in 2010. A “jump­ing-on point” Strevens calls it, but also “a re­stat­ing of what the show is”. Or, par­tic­u­larly, what the show is un­der new showrun­ner Chris Chib­nall (writer of Broad­church), who has al­ready bucked more than five decades of tra­di­tion by hir­ing Jodie Whit­taker to be the first fe­male Doc­tor. Which seems an ideal place to start.

THE DOC­TOR

We’ve glimpsed Jodie Whit­taker as the 13th Doc­tor twice al­ready: in a spe­cially shot re­veal clip that played on BBC One af­ter the 2017 Wim­ble­don Men’s Sin­gles fi­nal, and then at the very end of 2017’s Christ­mas Spe­cial — re­gen­er­at­ing from Peter Ca­paldi be­fore be­ing flung out of the TARDIS and left plum­met­ing to­wards Earth. (Pre­sum­ably she sur­vives.)

But this se­ries was the first time Whit­taker had any­thing sub­stan­tial to do. And she found it ter­ri­fy­ing. “There are 55 years of his­tory and that’s a lot of pres­sure,” she says. “You’re de­cid­ing things on that first day that are go­ing to be tat­tooed on film for­ever — the idea of that is aw­ful.”

It didn’t help that The Doc­tor is un­like any char­ac­ter she’s ever played be­fore. “I’m usu­ally just hav­ing to be very de­pressed in the cor­ner of the set… In one of the au­di­tion scenes I had to dif­fuse a bomb and ev­ery sin­gle word I had to Google. The line-learn­ing is re­ally hard. It’s an ab­so­lute joy to wake up now and not have to learn lines. But we had so much fun on set — you look around and think, ‘We’re grown-ups. How are we al­lowed to be do­ing this?”

Not that she should have wor­ried. “We knew she was good,” says Strevens, “but she’s taken it to a whole new level. What you get from Jodie is a sense of joy, a sense of won­der and a multi-faceted per­for­mance that is in­stantly The Doc­tor.”

THE LOOK

It’s been some time since Doc­tor Who was syn­ony­mous with wob­bly card­board sets and men-in-shonky-rub­ber-suits chic, but the feel­ing was, de­spite mak­ing vast strides in re­cent years, there was still some way to go.

“We wanted to make sure we were in step with our con­tem­po­raries,” says Strevens. “The kids don’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween watch­ing Stranger Things and Doc­tor Who. They aren’t say­ing, ‘Oh, this is a BBC show so it has this much bud­get.’”

There are tech­ni­cal meth­ods to mak­ing sure it looks as they want. It in­volves chang­ing the as­pect ra­tio (from 16:9 to 2:1), which gives them more space to play with in the frame, and film­ing with a set of anamor­phic lenses to add a cin­e­matic qual­ity.

The per­son re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing this hap­pen (in four of the ten episodes at least, in­clud­ing the first) is Jamie Childs (who di­rected that Doc­tor-re­veal­ing promo). And he has a very spe­cific in­flu­ence in mind.

“I tried to Spiel­berg it up a bit,” Childs says. “[His ’80s films] were a big ref­er­ence. And that stuff’s mas­sively come back into fash­ion. The thing that most in­spires me about Spiel­berg is how he moves the

cam­era through the scenes with the char­ac­ters and the shot tells a story.”

THE AC­TION

What does the term ‘menis­cus mem­brane’ mean to you? Pos­si­bly noth­ing, but it’s the part of the knee Peter Ca­paldi in­jured on set of Doc­tor Who, re­quir­ing surgery. Not coin­ci­den­tally, it’s also the part of the knee Matt Smith in­jured on set of Doc­tor Who. Jodie Whit­taker, how­ever, is okay. For now.

“I’ve been fine, but you’ve com­pletely jinxed me,” she laughs. “This is the most en­er­getic role I’ve ever played. There is a win­dow though — dur­ing this sea­son I’ve crept into my late thir­ties. ‘Keep it to­gether, body. Don’t let me down.’”

Tho things the Doc­tor is run­ning from (or some­times to) have changed a lot over the show’s his­tory. But while Strevens is keen to stress many of the mon­sters will be prac­ti­cal, some­times it won’t be pos­si­ble. And run­ning from CGI crea­tures was a first for Whit­taker.

“There have been times when you’re hop­ing your re­ac­tion is big enough,” she says. “And then we’ve gone to ADR [Ad­di­tional Di­a­logue Record­ing] and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, it’s ter­ri­fy­ing. Thank God I re­acted like that. But there were also times when I’d look over and be like, ‘Oh, I’m look­ing in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion to the rest of them.’” Where ex­actly in the uni­verse these ac­tion scenes (or any of the scenes) will take place, no-one’s say­ing. The cast and crew are tightlipped on de­tails for much of the se­ries. Even over whether the lost TARDIS re­turns — although surely it must. Still, even when the blue po­lice box re­turns, this is still a bold new be­gin­ning. Which has al­ways been the show’s se­cret — keep chang­ing, stay fresh. There have been 12 it­er­a­tions be­fore this one. Here’s to num­ber 13.

Above: Jodie Whit­taker’s Doc­tor in ex­trater­res­trial peril from episode one, still wear­ing the bat­tered rem­nants of Peter Ca­paldi’s cos­tume. Left: The Doc­tor is joined by three new com­pan­ions: Yaz (Mandip Gill), Gra­ham (Bradley Walsh) and Ryan (Tosin Cole).

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