Every man, woman and their robot dog is pretty excited to see the debut of Jodie Whittaker’s new Doctor later this year – but when will Doctor Who actually be back on our screens?
Here’s everything we know – as well as a few misconceptions about what the facts might mean…
When is Doctor Who coming back to TV?
Despite what you may have read, all that has been confirmed by the BBC is that the ten-episode series will return in autumn, a season which officially runs between Sunday 23rd September and Friday 21st December. You may have heard of it.
But assuming the BBC isn’t taking things THAT literally, we’d say this statement means the series will begin at some point between the end of summer (ie the end of August) and December.
Apart from that, the BBC have officially said they haven’t landed on a firm date and any comment on the airtime is just speculation.
But isn’t the series coming back in October?
Not necessarily. Earlier this month, a photo taken from a BBC Worldwide Showcase event included a note that the new series of Doctor Who would “deliver” in October 2018, leading many fans (and various websites) to come to the understandable conclusion that this was a confirmation of when the series would begin on TV.
However, this isn’t necessarily the case. In BBC Worldwide’s terms, a show having been “delivered” means it is in their hands ready to be distributed to foreign buyers who will then show it on their own networks. This gives an indication of roughly when a show will air in the UK but it could be that the broadcaster – in this case the BBC itself – delays transmission to suit its schedule. It won’t necessarily broadcast a show as soon as it’s delivered. In other words, Doctor Who could actually be on even later than October.
What does this mean for the Doctor Who Christmas special?
Of course, an October start would leave Doctor Who series 11 still on the air perilously close to Christmas, when it traditionally has a festive episode (well, since the series returned in 2005 anyway).
However, rumours have been knocking about for a while that new showrunner Chris Chibnall doesn’t fancy doing a Christmas special this year, with the initial announcement of the series only mentioning the ten-episode main series and the BBC Worldwide Showcase also not referencing any extra festive episodes.
Of course, it could be that the Christmas special is being counted as part of the next run that comes after the forthcoming series 11 (not unusual for Doctor Who – series nine technically began with the 2014 Christmas special before it kicked off properly in September 2015) – but it could also be that Chibnall is getting rid of the separate festive episode entirely.
Or it could allow for Chibnall to create a Yuletide episode within the confines of the main series, assuming the episode aired near enough to Christmas Day. And this wouldn’t be completely without precedent in Who – prior to 2005, the only Doctor Who Christmas episode was the seventh part of 1965-66 serial The Daleks’ Master Plan, an episode called The Feast of Stephen that just so happened to air on Christmas Day and so had some Yuletide shenanigans shoehorned into the plot.
However, we’ve had it pretty much confirmed that all series 11 will air in its entirety in “autumn 2018” so assuming it won’t spill over into 2019, and that Chibnall wants it to run weekly without a break from start to finish, that might give us a specific and slightly later start date. If we count backwards from Christmas Day, a Tuesday, and assume the rest of the episodes are in their traditional Saturday slot, that gives us a series 11 launch date of 27th October.
Of course, we have all our fingers and toes crossed that we’ll have all ten episodes AND a separate Christmas special, but to quote the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want.
But will the series still be on Saturday?
Here’s an interesting one – there have been rumours for a while that Chibnall is considering moving the series from Saturday to Sunday, cementing his vision for Doctor Who as unmissable drama (traditionally, drama is more popular on Sunday evenings) while also allowing Who to avoid being pushed around in the schedules by Strictly Come Dancing, which happened the last time it aired in the autumn.
The BBC are remaining characteristically tight-lipped about whether this move could happen but it’d definitely be a big change for the series – even during its classic run Doctor Who aired on Saturday evenings, so this would be upending a decades-old tradition.
Well, that we do know – Doctor Who series 11 will have a 65-minute opening episode, followed by nine 50-minute episodes.
Some official BBC Worldwide advertisements have suggested the series will have over 11 hours of content this year, but this almost certainly refers to spin-off videos, prequels and tie-in shows like the Doctor Who Fan Show rather than an extra episode or two.
For now, that’s pretty much all we know about Doctor Who’s airdate – but check back here for any updates.