Doctor Who series 13 is finally filming with Jodie Whittaker returning as the enigmatic Time Lord following a COVID-19 enforced delay.
New guidelines and safety measures have been implemented to minimise the risk of spreading the virus, but thawing BBC One’s sci-fi drama from its freeze has been no small feat.
While news that series 13 of Doctor Who will be shorter than usual is not what fans want to hear, new details are beginning to emerge that suggest quality will prevail, even if the quantity doesn’t quite match previous seasons.
Series boss Chris Chibnell spoke to Radio Times magazine about the challenges faced filming Doctor Who during the COVID-19 lockdown and also confirmed some exciting new details on the Doctor Who monsters that will be faced by Whittaker & Co. in the upcoming 13th season.
The show will still film across a 10-month period, meaning we have some time to go until we can expect it to premiere, but in the meantime, fans do have Doctor Who Christmas special to look forward to.
Titled Revolution of the Daleks, the episode was filmed before the coronavirus pandemic and sees The Doctor incarcerated in an eternal prison, while her companions attempt to save Earth without her guidance – but with the help of John Barrowman’s returning Captain Jack Harkness.
“I think it was great that they got ahead and did this festive special – and it’s turned out to be extremely fortuitous actually, a lot more than they had probably intended.
“So I think it will be a great gift to Doctor Who fans and a lovely, lovely bit of Doctor Who at Christmastime, or round about whenever it’s going to be.”
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’s no official premiere date for Doctor Who series 13 just yet, we do know that the show has finally started filming after facing a significant delay caused by coronavirus.
Piers Wenger, Controller BBC Drama, said: “We are thrilled that filming series 13 of Doctor Who is now underway. The team have gone to great lengths to safely bring the TARDIS back to BBC One. We are all looking forward to seeing what adventures are in store for the Doctor but whilst we await her return, we can all look forward to the festive special.”
Following from this latest update, the series could conceivably return in late 2021 (possibly in an autumn or winter time slot). There will be only eight episodes in series 13, three less than usual, in a move that allows the show to stick to its usual production cycle despite complicated new health and safety guidelines.
“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.
Which Doctor Who monsters will return for season 13?
The range of iconic villains in Doctor Who sprawls across time and space, with all manner of sentient beings rising up to contend with the Doctor over the course of the show.
Season 13 looks set to bring back some of the most high profiles baddies to challenge the current crop of companions, and the show’s bosses have teased some of the big returnees.
“Yes, more monsters are coming back,” Chibnall tells the new Doctor Who preview issue of Radio Times, on sale now.
“There are ones who’ve appeared over the past 15 years that are deserving of another visit in the next series. In fact, they’re probably formulating their plans as we speak…”
Now, that leaves the door more than a little wide open for interpretation and debates.
Fans will speculate across the whole spectrum from Sontarans to Ice Warriors to Silurians and back again, while the traumatising Weeping Angels are yet to feature in the Whittaker era and must be a prime candidate for a haunting return.
Unfortunately, some of the lesser-known classic series villains are unlikely to make a comeback if they haven’t already appeared in the modern era.
Is there a Doctor Who Christmas special in 2020?
Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, John Barrowman and Daleks in Doctor Who (BBC)The next Doctor Who episode is set to be festive special Revolution of the Daleks, which it’s now been announced will see the return of John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness.
“Putting on Jack’s coat and setting foot back on the set of Doctor Who was just like going back home,” Barrowman said of the return in a separate announcement. “It’s always thrilling to play Captain Jack.”
“He’s a character very close to my heart who changed my life, and to know the fans love him as much as I do makes his return even sweeter. I hope everyone enjoys Jack’s heroic adventure with Thirteen.”
Previously first-look pictures – and a new synopsis – revealed 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.”
What will happen in the Doctor Who Christmas special?
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.
Chibnall recently confirmed in Radio Times magazine that the episode will be a sequel to previous Dalek-themed episode Resolution.
“This story is essentially both a standalone episode and also a sequel to Resolution,” Chibnall told us, revealing that the events of the 2019 New Year’s special are key to this year’s follow-up.
“I kept to using just one Dalek in Resolution because they’re powerful things singly anyway, so that’s fun just to be able to give one that space. But also I was planning to bring them back in greater numbers for this episode.”
The “Revolution” of the Daleks title could suggest 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 opposite title. It fits perfectly – but not in the way that you’d think. I can see why they’ve called it that.”
Will John Barrowman return to Doctor Who?
Yes! It’s been confirmed that Barrowman will return for Revolution of the Daleks, though it’s less clear if he’ll be a part of season 13.
“A Doctor Who Festive Special means treats galore, and there’s no bigger treat than the return of John Barrowman to Doctor Who, for an epic and emotional feature-length episode,” said Showrunner Chris Chibnall.
“If anyone can blast away the sheer rubbishness of 2020, it’s Captain Jack. Daleks beware!”
“I mean if they ever ask Jack back, like I said I’ll come back at the drop of a hat,” Barrowman previously 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!”
Will coronavirus affect Doctor Who series 13?
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down all sorts of TV productions and Doctor Who is among those affected.
It appears that filming on season 13 was delayed by several weeks, but still kicked off at roughly the same time of year as was always intended.
However, due to more complex filming practices necessitated by the health crisis, the upcoming season has had to shorten its run by three episodes to ensure production won’t run over.
Conversely, festive special Revolution of the Daleks was filmed prior to the pandemic and so has faced fewer issues.
“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.”
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.
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.”
Rumour has it that the season 13 filming currently underway involves iconic Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole, in keeping with the series’ trend for emotional historical episodes in recent episodes, though this storyline has yet to be confirmed officially.
Meanwhile, 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.
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