“Family” is a key watchword for the Chris Chibnall era of Doctor Who

A family vibe on screen – and hopefully lots of families watching – is a major aim say show insiders

Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall and star Jodie Whittaker (Getty, BBC, HF)

Talk to those in the know about the hopes and dreams of Chris Chibnall-era Doctor Who and there is one word on their lips – family.

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That certainly seems to be the watchword for the new era as Jodie Whitaker takes charge of the Tardis for series 11, according to production sources.

Not only does that seem to be the desired “vibe” between the new companions played by Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill, who will follow Whittaker’s Doctor through Time and Space. But new showrunner Chibnall is also said to be very keen to make it a show that more families will sit down and watch.

Filming has already started on the new run late last autumn and the precise relationship between the multi-companion set up has not been revealed.

But whatever their relationship, the feeling according to one production source is that the adventurers are a family – with Walsh’s character Graham taking a “parental” role.

“The first Doctor played by William Hartnell was a grandfather to Susan and he had the companions Ian and Barbara in these early adventures,” said a source. “Chris’s show will be very much its own thing but that is kind of the vibe.”

Another source added: “There is a feeling that the drama has been complicated by self-referential plotting at times and Chris wants his Doctor Who to be a show notable for its emotional intelligence.”

Last year Chibnall revealed in an interview with the Royal Television Society’s magazine Television that he was after “risk and boldness” with his version of the show – a fact demonstrated by his decision to cast the first female Doctor.

But it seems that his plans also involve a keen desire to restore its appeal as a family show, as noted by Chibnall’s friend and collaborator, the director James Strong.

“It used to be – and I stress this is my personal opinion – at the heart of the schedule, an unmissable family show and, for some reason, it’s slipped a bit from the national consciousness,” said Strong in the same piece.

“For me, when it goes towards story­lines that are a little bit more for the fans, I think you can lose that general appeal. I think Chris is going to offer a slightly different take on what the show should be… I think Chris, essentially, writes emotional thrillers, and that’s perfect for that show.”

Jodie Whittaker’s very first episode in the BBC sci-fi series will be 65 minutes long, properly introducing the Thirteenth Doctor and her Tardis team before reverting to a shorter 50-minute format for the series’ nine subsequent instalments.

The Corporation has confirmed that the new series will air in the autumn – with many speculating that it will begin in October.

The Corporation also revealed a new logo for the show at the recent BBC Worldwide showcase.

A BBC spokeswoman declined to comment.

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Doctor Who returns to BBC1 this autumn