13 THINGS WE KNOW ABOUT JODIE WHITTAKER’S FIRST SERIES OF DOCTOR WHO
Take a sneak peek at what’s in store when Jodie Whittaker falls out of the TARDIS in October.
Doctor Who’s always thrived on its ability to reinvent itself, so it’s no surprise that the creative forces behind series 11 see Jodie Whittaker’s arrival as an entry point for newcomers. “The first episode of a new Doctor is always a great place to start, and this year I think even more so,” new showrunner Chris Chibnall tells SFX at San Diego Comic-Con. “I hope it’s as inclusive, accessible, mainstream and entertaining a version of Doctor Who as we could possibly make. I feel like our job is to convince people who’ve never seen it that it is the greatest idea that television has ever had.”
Chibnall reckons that the Doctor regenerating into a woman for the first time was “possibly overdue”. “The world was ready, the show was ready, the audience was ready, I think the fans were ready,” he says. “Actually, Russell T Davies texted me the other day going, ‘I think there’s a mention in “The Hand Of Fear” about the regeneration of somebody turning male to female,’ so it was canon in 1976 or whenever.”
While the press is making a huge deal of the fact that the new Doctor is a woman, the actor playing her is not. “I have never approached a role thinking, ‘How would a woman play this role?’ because I am one,” Whittaker says. “And I don’t know if a guy has ever gone, ‘How would a guy do this scene?’ You just are, and it’s your POV. I suppose my approach for this is coming from a very instinctive place, which feels genderless to me, because it’s never been necessarily ingrained in me that there’s a specific way a woman behaves and a man behaves. The best thing about the Doctor is that I’m not playing either. I’m an alien, so there’s really no rules.”
When it comes to writing the character, the Doctor being female doesn’t change much for Chibnall either. “The Doctor’s still the Doctor,” he says. “There are gender issues, I think particularly when we go into history, that might come up, but I think generally, in contemporary or alien worlds, the Doctor’s still the Doctor.”
Up until now, they’ve mostly been referred to as companions, or sometimes as assistants, but this year the Doctor’s sidekicks are instead being referred to as “friends”. “It’s not an edict or rule,” explains Chibnall. “It just feels a bit more natural to me and to us. It probably speaks a little bit to the idea that the Thirteenth Doctor is egalitarian and she’s got a gang of mates. It just feels a bit more emotionally connected to contemporary language.”
If you’re waiting for old faves like Daleks, Cybermen and the Master, it’s probably best not to get your hopes up. “It’s pretty much all-new stories, all-new monsters, all-new villains,” says Chibnall. “I think we’re two weeks from the end of filming and we haven’t come across any old villains yet.”
The TARDIS might not be in it either. “The TARDIS exploded, so who knows if we’ll see it again?” Chibnall teases.
As for the series structure… “We’ve got 10 standalone episodes that have huge character arcs for all of us guys,” explains Whittaker.
Series 11 has the most diverse writing team in the show’s history. “We have the first writers of colour to write for Doctor Who,” says Chibnall. “We have two female writers and three male writers in the guest writer slots. And we have two female directors and two male directors across the series.”
Jodie Whittaker made sure she was involved in creating the Thirteenth’s Doctor’s already-iconic look: “I’ve never had creative input to that level to any character. We, with Ray Holman, the costume designer, didn’t want something that felt too neat and tailored.”
The look was, at least partially, inspired by a photo. “I found a picture while I was stalking Chris Chibnall to give me the job,” reveals Whittaker, “of a woman working with purpose, deep in thought, and she had short trousers, boots, braces and a t-shirt. It was a wonderful expression of timelessness, purpose and inclusiveness. It didn’t feel like you needed to be a certain shape or age to wear it – or gender.”
After many months of speculation, Chibnall has more or less confirmed the tradition of a Christmas special is continuing into the new era: “Well, we seem to be filming 11 episodes, but it’s only a series of 10. I would definitely think there’s another episode after the series.” We think that’s a yes.
The cone of silence that has surrounded series 11 wasn’t just erected to tease viewers. “The only reason for secrecy – or you hope, as the people making the show – is that everybody comes to it at the same time,” says Chibnall. “It’s not being secret for the sake of secrecy. It’s in service of [the idea that] when it’s ready, we’ll show it to you.”
Read loads more about the new series of Doctor Who in the next SFX, on sale 12 September.
The new gang of four perfect their over-theshoulder looks.