Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker to meet Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla in new series

Exclusive: Showrunner Chris Chibnall reveals how he cast this electrifying pair of historical figures - and what to expect from their episode

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Jodie Whittaker’s Time Lord is about to meet a couple of truly electrifying figures in the new series of Doctor Who, with an upcoming episode of the BBC sci-fi drama (not the opening two-parter) set to introduce the Doctor to famed scientists (and fathers of electricity) Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.

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These historical icons will be played by already-announced guest stars Robert Glenister and (as many fans had theorised) Goran Višnjić respectively, and according to showrunner Chris Chibnall their story was too intriguing to resist turning into a new adventure for the TARDIS team.

“Nikola Tesla, we are going to meet, played by Goran Višnjić ,” Chibnall exclusively told RadioTimes.com. “When the script came in we thought ‘There’s sort of only one person who could play this.’ And we sent it to him and within 48 hours he said yes.

“Tesla I think is absolutely one of those characters you think the Doctor would be fascinated by. People say he’s the man who invented the 20th century. But of course he wasn’t given his due for it, really.

“He had a lot of ideas, but also, the thing about Tesla is… he’s an extraordinary inventor, very interesting in that he’s a European who goes to live in America. But also, he claims he made contact with aliens.

Electrifying
Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva Edison (Getty)

“There is a night in Tesla’s life where there are huge electrical storms, rumours of flying saucers, he talks about how he’s received contact by aliens. We’re just really interpreting the facts.

“He’s an extraordinary character. So the combination of the two was absolutely irresistible. And it is a really irresistible episode with some really great monsters.”

And of course a story about Tesla wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from his real-life rival Thomas Edison, with the pair’s fractious relationship previously playing out in the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring movie The Current War.

Goran Višnjić and Robert Glenister (Getty)
Goran Višnjić and Robert Glenister (Getty)

“Robert Glenister is playing Thomas Edison in our Tesla story,” Chibnall said.

“He’s just great. I’ve worked with him, he was in the Great Train Robbery drama that I wrote [which aired on BBC One in 2013]. And I just think he’s one of the greatest actors, I just love him.

“There’s some actors that you think might have been in the show since it came back, and I was surprised that he hadn’t been. He’s just magnificent. He’s so precise and he’s so subtle, and he’s such a brilliant actor.”

Just how the Doctor reacts to meeting two such mighty figures remains a mystery – “you’ll have to wait and see how that plays out,” Chibnall said cryptically – but one thing’s for sure…

In this episode, sparks really will fly.

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Doctor Who returns to BBC One on New Year’s Day at 6:55pm