DOCTOR WHO

THERE’S A NEW DOCTOR WHO – AND FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE SHOW’S HIS­TORY, SHE’S FE­MALE. “I FELT THE WORLD WAS READY,” NEW SHOWRUN­NER CHRIS CHIB­NALL TELLS RICHARD ED­WARDS

SFX - - Contents -

The Thir­teenth Doctor is fi­nally here! We board the TARDIS along­side showrun­ner Chris Chib­nall and new com­pan­ions Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole.

Wed­nes­day 18 July 2018. It’s the day be­fore san diego Comic-Con gets prop­erly un­der­way, and ex­cite­ment lev­els for the next day’s Doctor Who’s hall h panel are strong enough to re­verse the po­lar­ity of the neu­tron flow. a few of the fan faith­ful have camped out overnight to make sure they’re first in line for new doctor Jodie Whit­taker’s first ap­pear­ance in front of the 6,500-strong hall h au­di­ence, while the long hooded coat and sub­tly striped jumper of the thir­teenth doctor’s al­ready-iconic out­fit have be­come an in­stant cos­play hit around town.

there’s al­ways buzz about the ar­rival of a new doctor, of course, but this time it’s mag­ni­fied. be­cause even on a show whose time-hop­ping, re­gen­er­at­ing for­mat makes sure mess­ing with the for­mula is as im­por­tant to its dna as hav­ing two hearts, there’s some­thing tan­ta­lis­ingly, ground­break­ingly dif­fer­ent this time round – and it’s not just that the new doctor has a york­shire ac­cent. the new face of the doctor is – like the Master’s dur­ing Peter Ca­paldi’s run – fe­male.

“I felt the show was ready, I felt the au­di­ence was ready, I felt the world was ready,” new showrun­ner Chris Chib­nall, a vet­eran of Torch­wood, Law & Or­der UK and Broad­church, tells SFX. “It was a re­ally straight­for­ward de­ci­sion, and once I knew Peter was leav­ing, that was it, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. then it was the short­est dis­cus­sion you could pos­si­bly have with the bbC. It was like, ‘I think we should do this,’ and they said, ‘yep, great, on you go!’”

Join­ing Chib­nall for our chat – in the pic­turesque sur­round­ings of san diego’s Coron­ado ho­tel, once the lo­ca­tion for movie clas­sic

Some Like It Hot – are tosin Cole and Mandip Gill who, along with bradley Walsh, will form the doctor’s new tri­umvi­rate of com­pan­ions (or “friends”, to use the new ter­mi­nol­ogy).

so with the new se­ries im­mi­nent and the pro­duc­tion team fi­nally ready to speak (the lev­els of se­crecy around the show this year have ap­proached abrams/nolan pro­por­tions) it’s time to talk about the Chib­nall era. “no, no, no, let’s not call it that,” Chib­nall laughs loudly. “let’s just call it Doctor Who…”

WHAT­EVER WE’RE GO­ING TO CALL IT, THE THIR­TEENTH DOCTOR’S TEN­URE BE­GAN AT CHRIST­MAS WITH THE RE­GEN­ER­A­TION SCENE. DID THAT FEEL LIKE THE MOST DAUNT­ING TWO MIN­UTES OF TV YOU’VE EVER WRIT­TEN?

CHIB­NALL that was the eas­i­est two min­utes I’ve ever writ­ten be­cause steven [Mof­fat] had to write the 58 min­utes be­fore it. It was great be­cause I sort of knew how I wanted to bring Jodie’s doctor in, with a wham, bang, smash and blow­ing things up – so that was fun.

YOU LEFT JODIE WHIT­TAKER’S DOCTOR TUM­BLING THROUGH THE SKY, WITH THE TARDIS GET­TING A RATHER FIERY IN­TER­NAL MAKEOVER...

CHIB­NALL the TARDIS ex­ploded! did you not see, it ex­ploded! Who knows if it’s even in the se­ries? [laughs]

SO WITH A NEW SHOWRUN­NER, NEW DOCTOR, NEW COM­PAN­IONS AND, WHO KNOWS, MAYBE A NEW TARDIS, DO YOU LOOK AT THIS AS A BLANK SLATE?

CHIB­NALL It’s a con­tin­u­a­tion, in the way that all Doctor Who is. ob­vi­ously SFX read­ers are go­ing to know if you go from “the War Games” into “spear­head from space” or even from “lo­gopo­lis” to “Cas­trovalva”, those are big changes, but it’s also ex­actly the same show. you’re hon­our­ing ev­ery­thing that’s come be­fore, and you’re think­ing about what Doctor

There are big changes, but it’s the same show. it’s not about wip­ing away the past

Who is go­ing to be like for the next few years, while un­der­stand­ing in our hearts what we all love about the show. It’s not about wip­ing away the past, it’s about build­ing up­wards.

IS YOUR MIS­SION TO AT­TRACT NEW­COM­ERS TO THE SHOW OR TO KEEP THE EX­IST­ING FANS HAPPY?

CHIB­NALL the bal­anc­ing act is to do both. I think any new doctor is a great op­por­tu­nity for new view­ers to come in. this year, very de­lib­er­ately, we’re do­ing 10 stand­alone sto­ries, so it’s very much a jump­ing-on point. there’s no bar­rier to en­try, there’s very lit­tle mythol­ogy this year – it’s all about the ad­ven­ture of Doctor Who and show­ing the range of sto­ries that it can do. but also if you’re a Doctor Who fan, I think the se­ries demon­strates all the things you love about the show.

Jodie came in and was in­cred­i­bly doc­tory. she was fresh and new, and lov­able

WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN CAST­ING THE NEW DOCTOR? ARE YOU LOOK­ING FOR SOME­ONE WHO FITS YOUR VI­SION, OR DO YOU FIT YOUR VI­SION AROUND THE AC­TOR?

CHIB­NALL I think that’s a re­ally in­ter­est­ing ques­tion. from my experience of do­ing it once, you’re just look­ing for the doctor and I think you don’t know what that is un­til you see it. then you go, “oh my god, there’s the doctor!” and that’s what hap­pened with Jodie.

ob­vi­ously I know Jodie well from hav­ing worked with her [on Broad­church], but I wrote three au­di­tion scenes for ev­ery­one who au­di­tioned, and she came in and just blew us away. she was in­cred­i­bly doc­tory, and at the same time she was in­cred­i­bly fresh and new and funny and alive, and lov­able.

be­cause we were so blown away – and also be­cause we didn’t want there to be any sense of bias in terms of my hav­ing worked with her – we gave her an­other two scenes to do af­ter that, so I think she’s read more than any Doctor Who au­di­tionee has ever had to. she was bril­liant.

I’d known what type of doctor I was look­ing for, but the best thing about au­di­tion­ing ac­tors

is when people like these guys [ges­tur­ing to Gill and Cole] and Jodie come in, you have a sense of what it is [you want] and they show you it’s more than just that. With tosin and Mandip and brad [Walsh] and Jodie, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are just bound­less.

TOSIN AND MANDIP, HOW FA­MIL­IAR WERE YOU WITH DOCTOR WHO BE­FORE YOU SIGNED UP FOR THE SE­RIES?

COLE ob­vi­ously I knew about the show, but I’d only watched like two episodes in my life – I didn’t re­ally know much about it. so not re­ally much of a Who­vian.

GILL yeah, the same. Clearly I knew what it is, and I’d seen a fair few episodes be­cause I’ve watched it when friends are in it, or when I’ve been to the gym and it’s on net­flix.

but I also don’t think it was re­quired of us to have known what went on. our char­ac­ters ask a lot of ques­tions, so you have that level of dis­cov­ery, when you don’t re­ally know what’s go­ing on and you ask what her sonic screw­driver does. It kind of worked in our favour re­ally to not know what’s go­ing on – when I looked con­fused, that was real!

DID CHRIS GIVE YOU ANY EPISODES TO WATCH AS HOME­WORK?

COLE In the au­di­tion process, they asked if I was fa­mil­iar with the show. I was like, ‘no, not re­ally,’ and they were like, “Cool, no prob­lem,” be­cause that’s what they kind of wanted, a fresh slate. If you watched ev­ery­thing, you might be try­ing to repli­cate what some­one else did four or five sea­sons ago, whereas Chris wanted you to just come in, be your­self, be fresh and add a new flavour to the show.

GILL there was a big con­ver­sa­tion about truth and stuff, and just read­ing what was on the pa­per. If I’d watched loads of stuff I feel I would have gone in that di­rec­tion. It was all there in front of you, so you didn’t re­ally need to do re­search.

CHIB­NALL I think it would be a ter­ri­ble note to give an ac­tor com­ing into a show, to say, “Go and watch the past 53 years!” be­cause what you want is the things that these guys bring. the other stuff is there, but it has no im­pact on their char­ac­ters in the show what­so­ever.

DUR­ING STEVEN MOF­FAT’S RUN ON THE SHOW, AMY AND CLARA WERE EF­FEC­TIVELY “CHO­SEN ONE” CHAR­AC­TERS ENTANGLED WITH THE DOCTOR’S PAST OR FU­TURE. ARE YOUR CHAR­AC­TERS LIKE THAT, OR WILL THEY BE MORE NOR­MAL, DOWN-TO-EARTH TYPES LIKE ROSE TYLER?

COLE there’s no des­tinies, no en­tan­gle­ment, it’s just that some­thing hap­pens and then our char­ac­ters get drawn in and we go down this road. re­ally we go with the flow.

GILL I’d say they’re very or­di­nary people in ex­traor­di­nary cir­cum­stances, and I think that’s why people will be able to re­late to them, be­cause you’ll be able to see your­selves in the char­ac­ters, and I think that’s why it will work. I think that’s why a lot of people have an in into the show, be­cause they’d be able to re­late to ei­ther of our char­ac­ters, or brad’s char­ac­ter as well.

DE­SPITE BE­ING BIG­GER ON THE IN­SIDE, THE TARDIS OF­TEN FELT CROWDED WHEN THERE WERE THREE COM­PAN­IONS IN THE PETER DAV­I­SON ERA. WHY DID YOU DE­CIDE TO BREAK WITH RE­CENT TRA­DI­TION BY HAV­ING THREE FRIENDS IN THE TARDIS THIS YEAR?

CHIB­NALL I think it’s very hard com­par­ing the cur­rent it­er­a­tion with the show in the ’80s be­cause they’re dif­fer­ent run­ning times, dif­fer­ent struc­tures… there’s not much you can nec­es­sar­ily ap­ply from there to here be­cause tele­vi­sion is so dif­fer­ent, the pace of tele­vi­sion is so dif­fer­ent – it’s not quite a di­rect com­par­i­son. also, the for­mat of the show in 1963 was a doctor and three com­pan­ions, so we’re not break­ing or chang­ing any­thing.

but I think that one of the rea­sons be­hind it was I’m very keen – as the show has al­ways been – for it to be big, pop­u­lar, main­stream, in­clu­sive and that ev­ery viewer who wants to join the show has got an ac­cess point, a char­ac­ter they can feel is re­lat­able for them. and I think emo­tion­ally and across the se­ries, you get that va­ri­ety of emo­tional dy­nam­ics – they’ve all got in­di­vid­ual jour­neys across the se­ries, and you’ve got the fun of the dif­fer­ent team-ups.

ASIDE FROM YOU, CHRIS, IT’S AN EN­TIRELY NEW GROUP OF WRIT­ERS ON THE SHOW

THIS YEAR. WHAT WERE YOU LOOK­ING FOR IN YOUR TEAM?

[Since our in­ter­view with Chib­nall and the Doctor Who cast at Comic Con, the BBC has an­nounced that the team will con­sist of Noughts & Crosses au­thor and former Chil­dren’s Lau­re­ate Malo­rie Black­man, Skins writer Ed Hime, Mur­dered By My Fa­ther scripter Vi­nay Pa­tel, Went­worth’s orig­i­nat­ing writer Pete McTighe, and The Life And Ad­ven­tures Of Nick Nick­leby’s Joy Wilkinson.]

CHIB­NALL I was look­ing for… great writ­ers! [laughs]. It was the next gen­er­a­tion of writ­ers for Doctor Who in terms of people who can come in and own the show, and hav­ing writ­ers from di­verse back­grounds was re­ally im­por­tant to me, as well. ul­ti­mately with writ­ers it’s like ac­tors – you read their work and you re­spond to their work. all of them ab­so­lutely adore the show, all of them have been bang­ing down the door to get an op­por­tu­nity, so it’s just people who had sto­ries to tell and un­der­stood what we wanted to do with this it­er­a­tion of the show.

PRE­SUM­ABLY WHEN THEY STARTED WRIT­ING THEY HAD NO IDEA THAT JODIE WOULD BE THE NEW DOCTOR?

CHIB­NALL no, they didn’t. a lot of drafts of scripts have got “he” in. the writ­ers didn’t know – no­body knew – un­til that re­veal video went out [dur­ing Wim­ble­don last year].

WHEN YOU BRIEF THEM, DO YOU ASK THEM TO FOR­GET ABOUT THE DOCTOR’S GEN­DER IN THEIR WRIT­ING?

CHIB­NALL yes, it’s very hard for me to think of a de­ci­sion that the doctor has taken in 55 years that is a gen­der-based de­ci­sion or ac­tion. I’d re­ally strug­gle to think of one.

DOES THE DOCTOR BE­ING A WOMAN BE­COME A FAC­TOR IF SHE’S VIS­IT­ING LESS EN­LIGHT­ENED PE­RI­ODS IN EARTH HIS­TORY?

CHIB­NALL yeah, I think par­tic­u­larly in the his­tor­i­cals – if we’re do­ing his­tor­i­cals, which I’m sure we are – ob­vi­ously that then af­fects what hap­pens to all these char­ac­ters when you go into cer­tain pe­ri­ods of his­tory.

YOU’VE GOT A DOCTOR WITH A YORK­SHIRE AC­CENT, YAZ IS FROM SH­EFFIELD, AND THERE’S BEEN SHOOT­ING IN YORK­SHIRE. ARE YOU GET­TING AWAY FROM THE TRA­DI­TIONAL LON­DON AND CARDIFF BASES?

CHIB­NALL We’ve been all over the place, ac­tu­ally. I think you’ll see more of a north­ern bias to Doctor Who this year, def­i­nitely. and about time!

AS A LONG­STAND­ING FAN OF THE SHOW, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE PLAY­ING IN A GI­ANT DOCTOR WHO TOY­BOX?

CHIB­NALL I’ve talked to rus­sell [t davies] and steven [Mof­fat] about this, and it’s funny – you don’t write it as a fan. you park your fan. It’s a use­ful bit of knowl­edge, so in a sense you’ve been an ap­pren­tice gath­er­ing knowl­edge that you never thought was go­ing to be use­ful pro­fes­sion­ally, and then you can think, ac­tu­ally there’s a thing there or there’s a line there or what­ever.

but as a writer and an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer it’s the big­gest toy­box, be­cause the for­mat of the show is so phe­nom­e­nal that you’re go­ing from that place to that place to that time pe­riod [clicks fin­gers]. the show does ev­ery­thing. It’s got to be funny, it’s got to be dra­matic, it’s got to have emo­tions, it’s got to have amaz­ing char­ac­ters, it’s got to have mon­sters, and it’s got to grab every­body from five to 105. It’s de­light­ful – and yes, there are mo­ments, like Mandip was say­ing, where you go, “We made a sonic screw­driver, that’s re­ally awe­some!” there’s lovely lit­tle things along the way.”

Doctor Who re­turns to BBC One this au­tumn. In the next SFX, on sale 10 Oc­to­ber, we speak to the new Time Lord her­self, Jodie Whit­taker!

The doctor’s new friends are or­di­nary people in ex­traor­di­nary cir­cum­stances

Hol­lyoaks star Tosin Cole plays Ryan, one of the new Who team.

Jodie’s Doctor with Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole.

Mandip Gill plays Yaz. We love her cool look al­ready.

They kept try­ing to tell her not to cut the red wire.

Bradley Walsh plays the Doctor’s third new friend, Gra­ham.

The new sea­son fea­tures the most di­verse Doctor Who cast to date.

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