Good news, Doctor Who fans – after a long wait the TARDIS is set to land on our TV screen once again, with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor set to return for a festive episode followed (some time later) by a whole new series of time-and-space adventures.
Before she can get back into her TARDIS travels, though, the Doctor will need to escape from a grim prison sentence, while her friends back on Earth have to take on a deadly Dalek in first-look festive special pictures.
So what can we expect from Revolution of the Daleks and Doctor Who season 13 as a whole? Will John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness return, and could Tosin Cole and Bradley Walsh be on their way out?
Check out everything we know about Doctor Who season 13, including the likely release date, cast and storylines, below.
When is Doctor Who series 13’s BBC release date?
While there hasn’t been an official announcement, RadioTimes.com understands that Doctor Who season 13 is is set to start filming in either October or November 2020.
“We’re certainly in prep, what we’re all hoping for is for us to be filming before the close of 2020,” Jodie Whittaker said in a recent online panel to promote the series.
Following from this, the series may return in late 2021 (possibly in an autumn or winter timeslot). While the usual 10-month shoot (with potential additional delays caused by the need to social distance on set) might suggest this is a bit of a tight timeframe, it could be that the new series will include a more limited episode count to make production more feasible.
“It will be next year sometime, hopefully, unless my holiday goes on for a really long time, which is always tempting,” series boss Chris Chibnall previously told EW about the airdate.
And before that, of course, there’s always the festive special…
Is there a Doctor Who Christmas special in 2020?
The next Doctor Who episode is set to be festive special Revolution of the Daleks, with first-look pictures – and a new synopsis – revealing the basic story of the upcoming episode ahead of its unconfirmed “festive period” airdate.
“The upcoming festive special will see the return of one of the Doctor’s biggest and most feared enemies – the Daleks,” the synopsis reads.
“The Doctor is locked away in a high-security alien prison. Isolated, alone, with no hope of escape. Far away, on Earth, her best friends, Yaz, Ryan and Graham have to pick up their lives without her. But it’s not easy. Old habits die hard. Especially when they discover a disturbing plan forming. A plan which involves a Dalek. How can you fight a Dalek, without the Doctor?”
“This explores in a way for one of the first times, [what happens] when the Doctor is away from the gang, and from the Doctor’s point of view has no idea about what’s going on on Earth,” Whittaker said of the episode’s storyline.
“We’re back in Sheffield, trying to get on with our own lives, Yaz is struggling a little bit,” added co-star Mandip Gill. “We do then come across a plot to do with a Dalek, and we go ‘OK, she’s taught us lots of things…but how are we going to fight a Dalek without the Doctor?'”
“How do we, as a three save mankind? Talk about being thrown in at the deep end,” agreed Bradley Walsh.
Along with the synopsis, the BBC has released two images showing Whittaker’s Doctor in her prison (above) after what appears to have been a lengthy sentence. And apparently, given a Time Lord’s lifespan and ability to regenerate, that sentence could go on a while…
“We may discover [what a life sentence means to a Time Lord]” Whittaker said. “Or maybe we won’t.”
“Clue’s in the photograph that I may have been there a while.”
Another photo, meanwhile, shows the Doctor’s friends poring over documents in her absence, hoping to find out the truth about a sinister plot.
“The picture that you see is Ryan, Graham and Yaz trying to figure out if they’ve come across a plot involving a Dalek,” Gill explained.
“What you’ll find happens next is extraordinary,” added Walsh. “It’s fantastic. And it was one of my favourite things to film.”
Exactly when the episode will air remains something of a mystery, however. Chris Chibnall previously confirmed that Revolution of the Daleks is coming either in late 2020 or early 2021, though at the moment the scheduling apparently hasn’t been finalised.
“I don’t know when they’re going to put it on yet, otherwise we’d tell you!” he said.
“But rest assured, the Doctor and her friends will be back for a one-off extended Special around Christmas and New Year.
“There will be Daleks. There will be exterminations. Thrills, laughter, tears. You know. The usual. See you at the end of the year.”
Given that the last festive special aired on New Year’s Day 2019 (and series 12 began the same day a year later) it seems likely that Revolution of the Daleks will be released on January 1st also, but who knows – maybe a shift back to a Christmas special is planned instead, especially given production challenges now faced by other dramas thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
But whenever the episode does turn up, one thing’s for sure – it’s sure to involve a LOT of Dalek action, at least according to the man behind the tinpot terrors…
“It’s already been filmed and I was on set for it,” Dalek voice actor Briggs told RadioTimes.com. “It certainly wasn’t a single Dalek. And there were quite a few interesting challenges, and some interesting location work as well.”
“[Working with the Daleks] was brilliant!” added series star Mandip Gill. “They never get old. And it seems so long ago we did it the first time [in 2019 special Resolution]!
“Working with iconic monsters and whatnot, that people associate with Doctor Who, makes you feel more cemented in the series.”
One clue for what to expect from the special could come from mysterious Dalek scenes shot in late 2019 in Bristol, which saw the Doctor’s greatest enemies apparently attacking each other on Clifton Suspension Bridge.
This could tie into the “Revolution” of the Daleks title (one group of Daleks rising up against another), so perhaps we’ll see a Dalek Civil War when who returns at the end of the year.
“All I can tell you is when the caption came up at the end of the last episode saying it was Revolution of the Daleks that was news to me, because when I read it it just had a code number on it so I didn’t know what it was called,” Briggs told us.
“But it is a very apposite title. It fits perfectly – but not in the way that you’d think. I can see why they’ve called it that.”
Will coronavirus affect Doctor Who series 13?
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down all sorts of TV productions, but at time of writing there’s been no official word on what this means for Doctor Who.
It appears that filming on season 13 (which was rumoured to be planned for September 2020) may have been delayed by a few weeks, but will still kick off at roughly the same time as was always intended.
Meanwhile, festive special Revolution of the Daleks has already been shot ahead of its late 2020/early 2021 airdate.
“I think I’m allowed to say it has been filmed!” Mandip Gill told RadioTimes.com. “Just absolutely by pure luck. I guess it’s the way it always films – they film the special with the series.”
Of course, the lengthy postproduction work required in making the special – including additional dialogue recording (ADR), editing and VFX work – is still being completed, as Chris Chibnall revealed in a recent Doctor Who column.
“Post-production continues on Revolution of the Daleks,” he wrote. “Our brilliant teams are working remotely on the visual effects shots and sending them in.
“Nothing brightens a day like a new FX shot in your inbox, no matter how early the stage it’s at.”
Still, overall Doctor Who is in better shape than many other TV shows at the moment with the next special already in the can and the upcoming filming schedule yet to be disrupted. So keep hopeful!
“Writing and planning for the next series continues apace,” Chibnall added.
“Stories are forming, writers are writing, conversations keep going, plans continue to be hatched.”
Who will star in Doctor Who series 13? Are Jodie Whittaker or Bradley Walsh leaving?
Incumbent Doctor Jodie Whittaker has confirmed she’ll be back for the next series, reuniting alongside Chris Chibnall for a new series of adventures.
“I’m doing another season,” she said.
“That might be a massive exclusive that I’m not supposed to say, but it’s unhelpful for me to say [I don’t know] because it would be a massive lie!”
However, it’s less clear whether companions Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill will join her, with rumours swirling of one or all of the TARDIS team jumping ship before series 13 airs (though all three are confirmed to appear in the upcoming festive special).
Cole and Walsh’s involvements are particularly in doubt, with the pair rumoured to be leaving after the special having booked big new roles in US legal drama 61st Street and a remake of The Darling Buds of May respectively.
According to the rumours, the series would continue with Mandip Gill’s Yaz and possibly one or more other new companions travelling alongside the Doctor, with occasional guest appearances from Cole and Walsh.
“I’d love to [come back]” Gill previously told RadioTimes.com. “But again, because of the secrecy no-one ever knows what’s going on.”
“I’m just happy to have been part of two [series],” she said, “and to have been able to explore Yaz. But I would love to be part of it,” she emphasised.
Meanwhile, Sacha Dhawan has said he’s open to returning again as the Doctor’s nemesis The Master, assuming the fans are keen to have him back.
“There’s been no talk about me coming back,” he told RadioTimes.com. “I know they are planning another series and I’m waiting for that phone call.
“I would really love to come back. I’m just really excited to see, if I do come back, where they’d take the character. Y’know, the Master’s so unpredictable, he can get out of anything! I’m sure he’ll be inclined to make another visit. I hope!”
Towards the end of the series 12 finale there was also a hint that the Master may have escaped another certain death.
“All of you, through here, now!” he can be heard shouting as the Death Particle activates, suggesting that he may have shepherded his new Cyber-Army into a waiting TARDIS and escaped from Gallifrey.
“The thing is… what I love about the Master is that you can put him in the darkest, dangerous, most impossible situations… and he’ll always find a way of getting out of them. How, I don’t know!” Dhawan told RadioTimes.com.
Will John Barrowman return to Doctor Who?
The surprise comeback for John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness was a fan-favourite moment of series 12 – but could Barrowman return again for his long-awaited reunion with the Doctor?
“I mean if they ever ask Jack back, like I said I’ll come back at the drop of a hat,” Barrowman told RadioTimes.com.
“Hopefully I’ll get to work with Jodie, yeah. That would be incredible,” he continued.
“But again, I don’t want to say too much about what the plotline is, because who knows? Who knows what’ll happen?
“He says ‘I’ll be watching – if she needs me, I’ll be there,’” Barrowman added. “So it’s kind of left on a cliffhanger to see what happens.
“You can read into it all you want, but I’m not saying a thing!”
Later, Chibnall noted that we “categorically” wouldn’t see Jack again in series 12.
“But who knows when he might pop up again?” he continued. “We love Captain Jack, we love John Barrowman.
“I hope that won’t be his last appearance and that at some point he gets to meet the 13th Doctor.”
But could this be a hint from Chibnall that Jack will appear in the Doctor Who festive special? Fans have noted that in 2018, the screenwriter used similarly evasive language to say that no classic monsters would encounter Whittaker’s TARDIS team in series 11.
Later, when a Dalek appeared in the 2019 New Year’s special, Chibnall could claim he hadn’t technically lied given that the special was separate from series 11.
And if he’s using the same tricks again, fans might do well to expect a visit from Captain Jack this Yuletide season. And that’s not the only clue that he could be back…
What will happen in Doctor Who series 13?
Plot details of the yet-to-be-filmed series 13 remain unknown, though Chibnall has revealed that clues about what to expect are present in the series 12 finale if you know where to find them – and apparently the plan for the next series is “big” and “ambitious.”
“We are already planning the stories,” Chibnall said. “You’ll realize there are some stories we’re already setting in train for next series. We have very big, ambitious plans for our third series together.”
“Listen, this is going to be an unbelievable series,” added Bradley Walsh. “An unbelievable year of Titanic proportions.”
Certain revelations in the season 12 finale episode The Timeless Children – namely that the Doctor was a being from another dimension who was harvested by the Time Lords for regeneration, and subsequently lived countless lifetimes that were later removed from her mind – are likely to be picked up in season 13 itself.
Perhaps we’ll see the Doctor investigate her past self and work out what missions she completed for the Division, or where she came from in the first place.
It also seems likely that we’ll see more from the “new” incarnation of the Doctor (Jo Martin) introduced in series 12 episode Fugitive of the Judoon, alongside Barrowman’s Captain Jack if he makes another comeback.
And on a smaller note, Mandip Gill has suggested the series will also see Yaz continuing to deal with her former mental health issues.
“It’s part of Yaz’s journey now,” she said. “It will affect, basically, her choices in the future.”
Who will write Doctor Who series 13?
Series showrunner Chris Chibnall has confirmed he’ll be back in charge for Jodie Whittaker’s third series, following earlier rumours that he might leave the sci-fi drama behind.
“I do know I’m coming back for a third season,” Chibnall said. “Yeah, absolutely.”
It’s currently unknown whether other series 12 writers like Vinay Patel, Pete McTighe, Ed Hime, Maxine Alderton, Charlene James or Nina Metivier will also return, or whether series 11’s Malorie Blackman and Joy Wilkinson could make a comeback.