11 things we learned from the Doctor Who series 11 premiere

Secret wigs, future Daleks, Capaldi connections – and the grand mysteries of Sheffield… series 11 is full of surprises

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

The stars of Doctor Who series 11 descended on Sheffield for the world premiere of The Woman Who Fell to Earth, Jodie Whittaker’s first episode as the Doctor.

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After showing the highly anticipated episode, showrunner Chris Chibnall and the stars took part in a question and answer session that revealed all sorts of interesting tidbits about the new series.

From behind the scenes secrets to teases about the future of the series, there was a lot to learn, starting with…


1. Wearing Peter Capaldi’s costume helped Jodie Whittaker find her Doctor

Jodie Whittaker had a tough job in The Woman Who Fell to Earth, trying to play a character who hadn’t quite worked out who she was yet. Apparently, wearing the costume of her Doctor Who predecessor Peter Capaldi helped her find her feet.

“I think the thing that’s really helpful about episode one is being in Peter’s costume and feeling that I was literally in someone else’s shoes,” she said.

“So it felt as if I was continually trying to discover things and, I suppose, settle in. I really love the euphoria of the scene where the Doctor finds what she wants to wear because it does feel for me from that moment that the electricity is on.

“I feel that it was a really helpful episode for an actor playing a brand new role.”


2. Bradley Walsh wears a wig

Bradley Walsh as Graham in Doctor Who (BBC, HF)
Bradley Walsh as Graham in Doctor Who (BBC)

Well, when he’s playing new companion Graham anyway, as his commitments to ITV game show The Chase meant he couldn’t dye his hair grey.

“I had to wear a wig, because fortunately at this precise moment at my age I’m not too grey,” Walsh told the crowd. “I needed to be much much greyer.”

“Rather than colour my hair – because of another job I do – I had to have a wig made,” Walsh explained.

“I’ve never worn a wig before; I quite liked it!,” he said. “I liked the transformation – it was really good, excellent.

“And I’m now having one made for weekends,” he joked. “But blonde.”


3. Even Doctor Who fans don’t recognise Mandip Gill… yet

You might think that joining Jodie Whittaker’s Tardis team would make you a household name – but according to new series star Mandip Gill, that simply hasn’t been the case.

“Actually there was a lady the other day reading the Doctor Who Magazine next to me,” she said.

“She’d offered me a chocolate and said, ‘I love Doctor Who’. I thought she’d obviously recognised me. But she hadn’t, so I read the whole article over her shoulder and then went and bought it. I’ve had one picture and then nothing. I’m waiting for it.”


4. Bradley Walsh had never seen a full colour episode of Doctor Who before

While Bradley Walsh was a fan of original Doctor William Hartnell during the 60s, he fell out with the series as he got older – which means that in an odd twist, the first episode he’s ever seen in colour was one in which he appeared.

“My background on Doctor Who is watching William Hartnell and Pat Troughton,” he told the audience.

“As soon as it got to colour I stopped watching it. And the reason is I was too busy playing football. Every Saturday I was playing, you see, and so tonight that’s the first whole episode I’ve watched since around 1971. Whenever Pat Troughton finished, that was it.”

But apparently, this particular episode was worth the wait.

“I’m thrilled with it, I really am,” Walsh said.

“All those hard nights out in Sheffield with Jodie! It was really brilliant – I’m blown away by it. I didn’t imagine it was going to be like that. I didn’t know what to imagine.”


5. Doctor Who will *probably* return to Sheffield for future episodes

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

Speaking of Sheffield, the South Yorkshire city is a central part of Whittaker’s first episode – and according to showrunner Chris Chibnall, this won’t be the last we see of it on screen.

“A sense of place was really important,” the screenwriter said. “That’s why we came to Sheffield to show you the episode, obviously. We wanted to screen it here, we brought some local kids in, it feels really important to connect Doctor Who to Sheffield.

“You’ll see it again during the series. With any new Doctor you want to ground it in home and Sheffield is the home for this series of Doctor Who. I’d lived in the city for a year, I knew how cinematic it was, and how awesome the people were too.”


6. There are “a couple of different worlds” filmed in South Africa

Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole in the new Doctor Who trailer (BBC, HF)
Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole in the Doctor Who trailer (BBC)

The production also shot a bit further afield this year, including some already-confirmed filming in South Africa that gave series actor Tosin Cole sunstroke.

During the Q&A, Chibnall revealed that South Africa actually ended up standing in for more than one intergalactic location.

“We went there because we wanted scale,” he said.

“We’ve got quite a lot of scale in Sheffield to be honest, but we got a different type of scale in South Africa. Different types of landscapes. A couple of different worlds that we’ve done in South Africa. Variety really. It looks stunning and was amazing.”

“The elements, nature and the epic landscape serving the story was great and made our job a lot easier,” added Jodie Whittaker.


7. Jodie Whittaker did her own stunts

Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC, HF)
Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC)

 When it came to bringing her new Doctor to the world, Jodie Whittaker wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty – even if it meant doing all her own stunts in the series’ first episode.

“In episode one that’s all me,” Whittaker told the crowd. “I’m really proud of that.”

“There are couple of moments in the series where it was deemed not appropriate that I chucked myself out of somewhere,” she continued.

“We have a really amazing stunt coordinator and my stunt double Belinda is amazing so there are moments where it needed a professional.”

She added, “The wonderful thing about the Doctor is that it’s all about self-belief in so many ways. You don’t have these outlandish or other-worldly skills. Physically you have a body like anyone else and you can or can’t do certain things.”


8. The Thirteenth Doctor isn’t from Yorkshire…technically

Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor in Doctor Who (BBC, HF)
Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor in Doctor Who (BBC)

When asked a question by the Yorkshire Post, Whittaker revealed an interesting quirk about her Doctor’s voice, who speaks with Whittaker’s own Yorkshire accent.

“So, the thing is, I came to the audition, and for things like Broadchurch I knew what accent was required, but for this I had no idea,” Whittaker recalled.

“So, I turned up and said, ‘Chris, you said it was OK for me to use my voice. Did you really mean it?’ And then we did the auditions and throughout the process – which was a very long process – it never felt wrong, but it’s certainly not a Yorkshire character.

“It’s a body with a voice, and that voice is mine. I think that if I was RP [received pronunciation] or came from London and had chosen to have a Yorkshire accent it would have a real meaning behind it in a way. But it doesn’t in this instance because it’s me.”

In other words, the Doctor doesn’t have a Yorkshire accent – she has the accent of Jodie Whittaker, who happens to be from Yorkshire. Simple, right?


9. Classic Doctor Who monsters won’t be gone forever

Daleks and Jodie Whittaker (with Bradley Walsh) in Doctor Who (BBC, HF)
Daleks and Jodie Whittaker (with Bradley Walsh) in Doctor Who (BBC)

Much has been written about the absence of classic foes like the Daleks or the Cybermen this year – but Chris Chibnall says he never intended to shelve them permanently.

“It’s not a rule forever on Doctor Who,” he said.

“It’s just that this year in the series we’ve got new monsters and new faces. As is relatively well known, I’m as big a fan of the show as anyone.

“There’s lots of things you’d like to bring back and we might do that in the future, but just not this year.”


10. One of the new Who companions has Dyspraxia

Tosin Cole in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC, HF)
Tosin Cole in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC)

In the series’ first episode we learn that Tosin Cole’s character Ryan suffers from dyspraxia, a co-ordination disorder, and Chibnall explained the influence behind this storytelling choice in the Q&A.

“We did a lot of research into that with the Dyspraxia Foundation,” he said.

“The script team have been working with those guys. It was important, because people live with these things. I have a nephew with dyspraxia – it’s a relatively common thing among kids.

“So it’s important to see that heroes come in all shapes and sizes. That’s the most important thing about Doctor Who and you’re going to see that a lot this year.”

“It’s important for people to know that anything is possible,” added Cole. “You can overcome anything by just cracking on. That’s my two pence on it.”


11. And finally – Jodie Whittaker’s first episode is worth the wait

Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC, SK)
Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who series 11 (BBC)

What, you didn’t think we’d write this whole piece without mentioning what we actually thought of the episode, did you?

You can read our full spoiler-free preview here, but in short The Woman Who Fell to Earth is incredibly entertaining, full of human drama and real pathos and serves as a brilliant introduction for Jodie Whittaker’s new Doctor.

Honestly, it’s like she’s been playing the role for years, and we can’t wait for you to see her in action yourselves.

This article was originally published on Friday 28th September

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Doctor Who returns to BBC1 on Sunday 7th October at 6.45pm