'My Doctor Who manifesto': Chris Chibnall reveals his 13 reasons to watch the new Jodie Whittaker series
The Doctor Who showrunner discusses new monsters, new companions — and the first ever female Doctor
What’s it like to land your dream job? Well for the past couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough to find out.
As I came to the end of Broadchurch, I was mulling over ideas for my next projects. All that changed when Steven Moffat, my predecessor as Doctor Who showrunner, ambushed me over dinner, saying, “I’m sorry but I’m about to derail your life. I’m leaving Doctor Who. We’ve all had a chat and agreed you’re the best person to take over.”
- Jodie Whittaker’s first Doctor Who series is influenced by Star Trek
- The scripts for Doctor Who series 11 were originally written for a male Doctor
- There’ll be no romance between Jodie Whittaker and her companions in the new Doctor Who series
I think my mouth opened and closed silently for a few moments, like a fish. My first childhood memories, my first memories of being alive, are of Doctor Who – a strange, hypnotic set of images and sounds, monsters emerging from the sea, drawing me towards the corner of the lounge. Seemingly aimed at me as a young child, but also slightly forbidden, a bit too grown up – a show happy to scare and thrill and entertain me and my parents. I vividly remember discussing the first cliffhanger sight of a Sontaran, in 1973, with my beloved great aunt Billie. She died young, nine years later. I wish she was here now to see Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor crash to Earth.
Doctor Who got hold of me early and never let go. My biggest hope is that the same will be true for a generation of children this year. Jodie Whittaker will be their first ever Doctor – and you never forget your first Doctor.
But I’m aware not everybody knows the show. Or maybe you’ve watched the show in the past but drifted away. As the 13th Doctor is about to arrive, I thought I’d reveal the 13 (see what I did there?) things you need to know about this series. Let’s start with number one...
1. You don’t need to know anything about Doctor Who
If you’ve never seen Doctor Who before, the first episode this year is the perfect place to start. You need to know absolutely nothing about the show’s past. There’s no barrier to entry for this series. Start here: we’ll take you by the hand. If you’re a lapsed viewer, come on back in and try Jodie Whittaker’s fizzing, funny, smart Doctor.
2. Each episode will be a new adventure…
The series is made up of ten standalone stories – every episode is a complete story. The settings range from the present day, through centuries past, alien worlds and spaceships. Each week is a new treat. Also, did I mention, monsters?
3. Bradley Walsh is a proper star
He’s playing Graham O’Brien, one of three new characters who will be joining the Doctor on her adventures. Everything Brad does, he excels at – from quizmaster, to singer, to being one of our best screen actors. He’s even managed to conquer Instagram this year with #braddersbangerz (look him up). I cast Brad as Detective Sergeant Ronnie Brooks in Law & Order: UK a few years back, and have wanted to work with him again ever since. Audiences quite rightly love him. Now he’s fighting aliens, and both of us couldn’t be happier.
4. But he’s not the only one...
Two of Britain’s brightest young stars, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole, appear, too. They play Yaz and Ryan. And across the series, they’ll encounter a host of amazing guest stars.
5. Here be monsters
The Doctor and her friends will be fighting monsters, solving mysteries and righting wrongs, just as they have done for five and a half decades now. You’ll laugh, gasp, and your kids (or you) might hide behind the sofa (so do move it away from the wall, as a precaution).
6. The Doctor’s a woman — and that’s OK!
The Doctor is one of television’s most brilliant and enduring creations. The Doctor will still be the same mercurial, funny, strange, contradictory character: an adventurer in space and time, gathering up friends along the way and solving problems by thought and wit rather than punches and violence. If you’re anything like the crew who work on the series, just a few seconds with Jodie Whittaker’s lively, warm, funny, super-smart Doctor will have you willing to follow this Doctor to the ends of the universe.
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7. The theme music is the same — almost!
Yes. The Doctor Who theme is one of the most iconic in TV history. I love it. It has been arranged this year by Segun Akinola, our new composer, taking the original recordings made by Delia Derbyshire and the Radiophonic Workshop in 1963, and refashioning them for today. (Just as we’ve done across the whole show: building a thrilling new version while honouring the past.)
8. The mystery of the missing Tardis continues
The Tardis – the Doctor’s unmistakeable space and time machine – exploded and disappeared just as the 13th Doctor slammed into life on Christmas Day last year. Who knows where it is now. Maybe we’ll find out!
9. New stars, new writers...
Former children’s laureate and acclaimed YA novelist Malorie Blackman is one member of our new writing team this year, along with Bafta winner Vinay Patel, Joy Wilkinson, Pete McTighe and Ed Hime.
10. You won’t find it on Saturday night
The show is moving to Sunday evenings. Look for it from Sunday 7 October on BBC1. Start building your Sunday-night plans around it – make sure everyone’s done their homework and got their Monday-morning clothes and stuff ready – before you all settle down on the sofa with some snacks in time for the first episode.
11. We’ve been keeping our secrets close to our chest
We’ve been working hard at staying quiet until now, in order that audiences aren’t spoilt, and also so that our stories make it onto television in the most exciting way possible. But now we’re getting excited about showing you Epzo, a life-changing bike ride, Robertson, the Ux, Umbreen, Rosa, Desolation, Kandoka’s moon and Ribbons. All of these things are on their way…
12. There’s a galaxy of stars
One of the great joys of Doctor Who is that there’s a new set of characters every episode – meaning we get to work with new, amazing guest stars every week. In the first two episodes alone you’ll see Sharon D Clarke, Shaun Dooley, Art Malik and Susan Lynch. And we’ve got lots more names to reveal across the series.
13. We can all live the dream...
Did I tell you this is my dream job? Yes, it’s more fun than I could possibly ever have imagined. I get to write adventures for a character I’ve loved since I was a child, and I get to work with some of the most talented craftspeople in television. And sometimes we blow stuff up. I hope you’ll have as much fun watching it as we’ve had making it. The 13th Doctor is on her way and it’s going to be a blast. Come and join us, all across space and time. It’s going to be a universe worth of fun.
Doctor Who airs Sunday 7th October on BBC1