In a little over a week, Doctor Who fans will climb aboard the Tardis for another season of the long-running British science fiction show. This season, which has an official start date of this Sunday, Oct. 7, just about everything is new -- the logo, the companions, the showrunner and notably the Doctor herself. Yes, herself.
For the first time in Doctor Who's 55-year history, the titular character will be played by a woman, Jodie Whittaker. She's the 13th actor to play the role that's changed hands so many times through the character's ability to regenerate into a new body instead of dying (just go with it). In an interview with TV Guide, Whittaker said "that for a lot of Whovians, and for a lot of people who've never watched the show, this could be a moment that invites them in or it could make them re-fall in love with the show."
The first episode is titled The Woman Who Fell to Earth, and written by new showrunner Chris Chibnall. CNET's Richard Trenholm got a look and reviews the episode here.
Last week we got our first look at the Doctor's new beginnings.
For the unfamiliar, Doctor Who dates back to 1963. It's the long-running story of an alien called the Doctor who travels through the always wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey space and time using a police-box-shaped ship called the Tardis (Time And Relative Dimension In Space), which he stole. And yeah, the Tardis is bigger on the inside.
The show can go on decade after decade because the Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, and Time Lords have the power to regenerate. So, when an actor feels like splitting the show (or gets pushed out), the Doctor gets a new face and some new personality quirks, but theoretically, the character's the same person.
Doctor Who is a British institution and staple of Saturday night television. Stateside, it's picked up quite a bit of popularity in recent years after the series was rebooted in 2005 with the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, played by Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant.
There was thought to be a cap on how many times the Doctor could regenerate (12), but during the Christmas special wherein Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor regenerated into Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor, the Time Lords granted him more regenerations.
Along the way, the Doctor meets people who end up traveling with him back in time or to the far-flung reaches of the universe to save perhaps a handful of people stranded on a spaceship, or, you know, the fate of humankind. He's got a knack for running into villains like the Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels and others ranging from campy to creepy.
Release date and where to watch
Doctor Who season 11 begins on Sunday Oct. 7. Yes, Sunday -- a slight departure for the show as it moves to the end of the weekend.
You can catch the show on BBC One in the UK and BBC America in the US, or stream older episodes on the usual spots like BBC iPlayer, Britbox, Amazon, iTunes and Google Play.
Meet the new Doctor
After the Twelfth Doctor, played by Capaldi, announced he'd be leaving after three seasons, talk started swirling about who would get the keys to the Tardis next. In July 2017, the BBC announced Jodie Whittaker would get the gig.
"It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you're told you can and can't be," Whittaker said in a Q&A on the BBC site for Doctor Who.
Predictably, not everyone on the internet was stoked the Doctor would be played by a woman, although there's been outcry before that the role should go at some point to someone who isn't a white guy.
Peter Davidson, who played the Fifth Doctor from 1981-1984, initially lamented that boys would be losing an important role model. Others like Colin Baker, who played the Sixth Doctor from 1984-1986, countered that boys definitely have other heroes to look to, plus the preceding decades of the show. "You don't have to be of a gender of someone to be a role model," he said, also calling it "game-changing casting."
A woman Doctor shouldn't come as a complete surprise -- over the years there have been a handful of hints that Time Lords could change genders. In the sixth season of the reboot, Matt Smith's Doctor referenced another Time Lord called the Corsair who had regenerated into a woman. Most recently, the Doctor's longtime best friend/nemesis (it's complicated) the Master, regenerated into a woman and called herself Missy.
In a new trailer for the season, out mid-September, we got a loud and clear message that Whittaker is very much in charge as The Doctor.
Let's also not forget Doctor Who is getting a new showrunner. Chris Chibnall, who's written for shows like BBC drama Broadchurch and Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood, is taking over from Steven Moffat. Chibnall's written episodes for the sci-fi series in the past, so he's not a stranger to the show. What's more, he's worked on Broadchurch with both Whittaker and David Tennant.
TV Guide has said that with Chibnall at the helm, "the series will also be moving away from the complicated wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey overarching narratives that came to dominate the Moffat era."
Space can be a lonely place.
Throughout the seasons, the Doctor has tended to travel with companions who often abandon the world they know when they get a glimpse of a life zipping around the cosmos saving the day. But more than being tourists along for the ride, companions have served as moral and ethical compasses, emotional anchors, friends and even love interests.
And yet, the Doctor is always confronted with the problem of getting attached to companions who don't always survive their adventures, and the guilt and sadness that comes with saying goodbye to yet another one.
If there's one thing you can count on Doctor Who for, it's a periodic refresh of the cast. These are the new stars:
- Entertainer and presenter Bradley Walsh as companion Graham O'Brien
- Former soap star Mandip Gill as companion Yasmin Khan
- Former soap star Tosin Cole as companion Ryan Sinclair
Whittaker's casting opens up the possibility of some new dynamics on the Tardis. A teaser featuring a first look at the three companions as the Doctor quickly whizzes by debuted during the World Cup, and a trailer for the new season dropped July 19 at San Diego Comic-Con 2018.
During a Comic-Con press conference, Gill said her character Yasmin, or Yas, for short, is a 19-year-old who has a job, but wants more out of life. Meanwhile, Cole described his character Ryan as "a chap" who goes with the flow but can be boisterous.
What we know about the plot
When we left off at at the 2017 Christmas Special, Capaldi had regenerated into Whittaker after a monologue about the importance of being kind, choosing love and never eating pears. When Whittaker, as the Thirteenth Doctor, gets a first look at her reflection, she utters, "Oh, brilliant!" with a big smile. But her joy is short-lived as the Tardis careens out of control and she gets sucked out as a fireball seemingly consumes the interior. And so the first episode is entitled The Woman Who Fell to Earth.
The Doctor's new companions are from Sheffield, a city in the middle of England with a rich history and heritage of steel production. The show is likely to return there, similar to how previous seasons often ventured to Cardiff.
There's been some speculation that a few of the upcoming episodes will be historical, with one even relating to Rosa Parks. There's also been some chatter that the season could be built around a single storyline. While speaking to the Royal Television Society in June 2017, Chibnall was asked if the BBC would allow such a thing and he responded, "Yes. What the BBC was after was risk and boldness."
The show is famous for its recurring villains like the evil Daleks and Cybermen, but Chibnall promises all-new villains for season 11 .
Watch These 9 Classic 'Doctor Who' Adventures on BritboxSee all photos
Writers and directors
This season's writers and directors are (in no particular order):
- Malorie Blackman, children's and young adult writer
- Ed Hime, writer on Skins
- Vinay Patel, playwright and screenwriter
- Pete McTighe, writer of Wentworth
- Joy Wilkinson, writer of The Life and Adventures of Nick Nickleby
- Sallie Aprahamian, director on shows such as EastEnders, Wolfblood: IMDb credits with episodes 6 and 4
- Jamie Childs, director of the Jodie Whittaker reveal video (will helm the first episode of the season): IMDb credits with episodes 7, 9 and 10
- Jennifer Perrott, director of the short film The Ravens and on the upcoming HBO show Gentleman Jack: One credit on IMDb for episode 5
- Mark Tonderai, former DJ and director on Lucifer, Black Lightning, Nightflyers: IMDb credits with episodes 2 and 3
Yes, that does leave episode 8 of this season possibly unaccounted for, but take these eps with a grain of salt -- we can't confirm these credits yet but we'll update this if we discover new info.
The Thirteenth Doctor also appeared briefly in illustrated form, getting a one-page introduction in a recent comic. Titan Comics and the BBC have also partnered on a three-part comic called Road to the Thirteenth Doctor, which features the past Doctors.
As is to be expected, the Doctor has a new Sonic Screwdriver. It glows a dark orange color and the top part spins. The premiere episode reveals that the new sonic draws on the location where it was created.
This story first published on June 24, and is updated frequently as more details become available.
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