Doctor Who team hint at “dark,” “epic” and “squelchy” new episodes

The writers and directors behind Jodie Whittaker’s first series as the Doctor have a few teases for the episodes they’re working on

Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, Jodie Whittaker and Tosin Cole in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC, HF)

While we’re still fairly in the dark about what we can expect from specific episodes in the upcoming series of Doctor Who (probably more than we have been for years, in fact), some of the newly-announced writers and directors involved in the series have revealed a few choice details about the challenges faced by Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor this autumn.

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“Part of the joy of writing for Doctor Who is to try to surprise your audience, no matter what their age,” novelist Malorie Blackman, who was revealed to be part of the new series’ writing team alongside showrunner Chris Chibnall earlier this summer, told Doctor Who Magazine.

“I love unpredictability – where you introduce the unexpected, even into a story the audience may already think they know.”

Dedicated Who scholars who’ve read Blackman’s 2013 tie-in short story The Ripple Effect, which introduces a universe filled with peaceful Daleks, may have already noted her intriguing approach to Doctor Who material – and we can only assume that’ll also extend to Blackman’s writing on the series.

In the same interview, Blackman described her episode (while the writers are acting as a team, each individual seems to be primarily responsible for one story) as “heartfelt, thought-provoking and timely,” in a description that seems in keeping with the series’ forward-thinking new ethos.

In a similar vein, Murdered by my Father writer Vinay Patel suggested that his episode might bring the series back to its educational roots, describing his tale as “educational, epic [and] emotional.”

However, lest fans get worried that the new series be entirely focused on teachable or serious issues, other writers suggested that this could be one of the most entertaining (and scary) runs of Doctor Who yet, with new series scribes Pete McTigh, Joy Wilkinson and Ed Hime describing their episodes as a “creepy, fun, rollercoaster,” “dark, funny, squelchy” and “really rather spooky” respectively.

That “squelchy” comment, incidentally, may refer to some of the bad weather the Who team had to deal with during the shoot, which some of the directors working on the series referred to.

According to Sallie Aprahamian, during the filming of one episode the crew had to deal with “howling rain storms, snow, lots of mud and bright sunshine, sometimes within minutes of each other,” which disrupted production a significant amount.

Other directors had more luck, however, with both Jennifer Perrott (who teased an interesting CGI action sequence in the same interview) and Jamie Childs managing to dodge the worst of the apocalyptic weather.

“I have to say Wales never let me down. I don’t think I got bad weather once, apart from the one time I wanted a specific type of ‘bad’ weather and I got it,” Childs recalled.

“So I was very lucky overall.”

Actually WANTING bad weather is certainly an interesting approach – maybe one episode requires a lot of wind? – but back on the writing side there were other challenges, mainly focused on incorporating Jodie Whittaker’s large Tardis team  (including Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill) into each week’s episode.

“It’s not tricky keeping them busy as they’re all awesome active characters, but it’s definitely tricky fitting all their stories into 50 minutes,” Wilkinson explained.

“You want to give each their moment, but they’re also best together so you need those group scenes too. I love that it’s a real team vibe and that the Doctor, however brilliant she is, needs them all.”

However, there were also positives to having a larger cast, as some of the other writers explained.

“The main characters are our guides through the universe,” Patel said.

“The gift of a larger cast is that it allows for more perspectives on the situations the Doctor brings them into. If you ask yourself what each of those characters thinks about what’s happening around them, you’ll always find a satisfying course of action that springs from it.”

“Once Chris [Chibnall] had established them in episode one I felt like the hard work had been done – I think old and new viewers will just want to hang out with them,” McTigh added.

“I know I do – security have to keep dragging me off the set.”

Overall, Doctor Who’s new behind-the-scenes team seemed to promise a run of episodes that retained the sci-fi series’ freewheeling, offbeat style while also trying new things, and assuming they can pull it off we can’t imagine a better mission statement for a whole new take on the Whoniverse.

Now, if we could just get some more information on what we’ll ACTUALLY be getting in each episode, we’ll feel completely satisfied.

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Doctor Who returns to BBC1 this autumn