Last month’s Doctor Who Christmas special was one of the most momentous episodes in the BBC sci-fi series’ history, following the final adventure of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor before he explosively regenerated into a new, female incarnation played by Jodie Whittaker.
The regeneration was one of the highlights of the episode, kicking off the age of Whittaker with aplomb – and now the actor has discussed the filming of the pivotal scene for the very first time, in an interview that revealed the sequence was shot very shortly after her casting was announced last summer.
“As soon as they made the announcement I was in the studio,” Whittaker revealed in the latest edition of Doctor Who magazine.
“I think the announcement happened so they could get me to the TARDIS set to do the regen without it being leaked. If I’d been seen in Cardiff, being taken to Roath Lock, it would have been very obvious that I was playing the part! So they announced it the day before.”
By the time of the filming, though, Whittaker had spent plenty of time already working on her new character with showrunner Chris Chibnall, who she previously worked with on ITV’s Broadchurch.
“The regen wasn’t the first time Chris had seen me play the Doctor,” she explained.
“I mean, it was the first time he’d seen me as the Doctor in costume, on the set, but we’d rehearsed, and before that I’d been through a few months of auditions. So Chris’ main note was to trust my instincts – they’ve been right so far, and they’ve got you here today. Just remember that.”
And despite the importance of the regeneration scene, Whittaker says she didn’t actually do that much preparation beforehand – mainly because she only had a tiny piece of script to work with…
“There’s not a lot of prep you can do for that!” Whittaker said. “I didn’t read the rest of the episode because I was only given a page to go from, which was the moment that I become the Doctor.
“In a way I had one of the easiest jobs, because all the hard work had been done by Rachel, the art department and the rest of the crew.
“I’d never stepped on that set. Almost everyone else who was shooting that scene had been working there for months and months, but I was there for a matter of hours.
“For me, everything about it felt brand new, so I think it was more about trusting my instincts, listening to Rachel, taking direction and very quickly immersing myself in this brand-new world for the very short time I’m in that episode,” she concluded.
We’d say she pulled it off with aplomb, wouldn’t you? Now we can only hope she keeps up the good work on the full series later this year…
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 this autumn, while Doctor Who Magazine’s latest issue is on sale now