Today (Monday 26th March 2018) marks the 13 anniversary of modern Doctor Who, which began with Russell T Davies’ Rose in 2005 and is soon to have another exciting reinvention under new showrunner Chris Chibnall and first female Doctor Jodie Whittaker.
So with that past in mind, and given that Whittaker is playing the thirteenth incarnation of the character (not including the War Doctor) we thought it was the perfect time to look ahead at the future of Doctor Who in its new and exciting form.
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Specifically, here are a very anniversary-friendly 13 reasons we’re looking forward to seeing the Thirteenth Doctor’s first series.
1. The new Doctor sounds pretty exciting
While we still haven’t seen much of Jodie Whittaker’s new Time Lord, a few descriptions of her character have been released, with the BBC describing her as “a super-smart force of nature” and co-star Sharon D Clarke suggesting this is a fun and ass-kicking version of the Time Lord.
“Jodie is phenomenal. She’s just joy, absolutely joy. She’s gonna slay it,” Clarke said.
“And what’s lovely about Jodie […] because she always plays these kind of dour characters who are downtrodden, [is to play] someone who’s up and hopeful and fighting crime – she’s just bouncing around the set.
“She’s definitely earning those two hearts that the Doctor has,” Clarke concluded. “She’s wonderful, I absolutely adore her.”
In other words, this sounds like Whittaker’s Doctor is an upbeat woman of action, and just the sort of dynamic presence the series needs.
2. It’s a back-to-basics take on the series
Ever since new showrunner Chris Chibnall took over, it’s been emphasised that he will be bringing Doctor Who back to its roots, with sources within the series previously telling RadioTimes.com that the Broadchurch creator is looking to expand the sci-fi drama’s appeal.
“There is a feeling that the drama has been complicated by self-referential plotting at times and Chris wants his Doctor Who to be a show notable for its emotional intelligence,” a source said last month.
This account was backed up in an interview for Royal Television Society magazine Television, where Chibnall said he was looking for “risk and boldness” and his longtime collaborator James Strong agreed there had been a need for a change.
“It used to be – and I stress this is my personal opinion – at the heart of the schedule, an unmissable family show and, for some reason, it’s slipped a bit from the national consciousness,” said Strong.
“For me, when it goes towards storylines that are a little bit more for the fans, I think you can lose that general appeal. I think Chris is going to offer a slightly different take on what the show should be… I think Chris, essentially, writes emotional thrillers, and that’s perfect for that show.”
In other words, this could be a version of Who to bring the series back to the mainstream.
3. Intriguing new writers
Apart from Chibnall himself, we don’t know who’s writing for the new series, with various regular contributors like Sarah Dollard, Mark Gatiss and Jamie Mathieson ruling themselves out of contention.
However, thanks to various sources (including former series star David Tennant) we know that pretty much all the guest writers will be entirely new to the series, meaning we could be getting some interesting new takes on the half century-old series.
4. In fact, pretty much everything is new
When taking over Chibnall cleaned the slate even more than predecessor Steven Moffat did from the Russell T Davies years, with almost every part of production down to the writers, VFX artists and even composer Murray Gold replaced with new faces.
While it isn’t true that new is always better, it’s good to see that Chibnall is committed to refreshing the show behind-the-scenes as well as on screen.
5. A whole team of companions
One of the earliest details revealed about series 11 was that Jodie Whittaker would have a whole group of companions, with Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole playing Graham, Yasmin and Ryan respectively.
This is sure to create a rather different dynamic in the Tardis – in the modern series, the Doctor has tended to have no more than two regular companions – perhaps evidenced by the BBC’s insistence that the trio be referred to as the Doctor’s “Tardis team” rather than her companions. We’re intrigued to see how it plays out on screen.
6. A “family” feel
Speaking of the Tardis team, RadioTimes.com sources have previously suggested that there’s a “family” feel to the new series, with new crew supposed to evoke the vibe of First Doctor William Hartnell and his companions Susan, Ian and Barbara.
“The first Doctor played by William Hartnell was a grandfather to Susan and he had the companions Ian and Barbara in these early adventures,” said a source.
“Chris’s show will be very much its own thing but that is kind of the vibe.”
And rumours suggest the series will also have a “family” feel in appealing to all viewing generations, rather than just the die-hard fans who’d watch Doctor Who anyway.
7. Exciting guest stars
While the BBC have remained tight-lipped about details of the new series, a few guest actors have accidentally confirmed their involvement including actor Alan Cumming (who revealed he was set to play King James I in an upcoming episode) and comedian Lee Mack, who says he "harassed" Chris Chibnall into giving him a small role.
There are also rumours that Sex and the City/The Good Wife star Chris Noth could be popping in for a guest spot, but even if he’s not, the calibre of actors joining the series leave us intrigued to see who else is involved.
8. A different side to the UK
This might sound a little strange, but it's kind of great to see the series focusing on areas of the UK outside of London, with large swathes of the series set to take place in Chibnall's university town of Sheffield according to set reports.
This is sure to make the series feel more representative of its home country as a whole, while also expanding the scope of the storytelling to tell different tales of weird and wonderful alien attacks.
9. Tricky (and educational) historical periods
While Doctor Who has always visited weird and wonderful historical locales, one rumoured destination this year has a bit more bite to it than usual – segregation-era Alabama, supposedly featuring the story of Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks.
While the details of this episode are scarce and the BBC aren’t confirming or denying its inclusion, the story looks set to address race and racism more than Doctor Who has done before, while reports elsewhere suggest that the series is looking to have a more educational aspect.
This could be a good or a bad thing, as we’ve discussed elsewhere, but at the very least Chibnall seems to be trying to take the show in a direction that feels fresh while honouring the original concept created by Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert in the 1960s.
10. A spooky Halloween episode?
More unsubstantiated reports suggest that Doctor Who's late airing this year has allowed the BBC to include a Halloween-themed episode, possibly involving witchcraft and Alan Cumming's King James I and airing around the end of October.
If the rumours do turn out to be accurate it would be a nice addition to Doctor Who's scarier episodes.
11. A brand new Tardis
We can talk as much as we like about social issues, new writers and the changing world's influences on the new series, but we know that most fans are more excited about seeing things like the new Doctor’s costumes, sonic screwdriver and other paraphernalia that have constantly updated throughout the years.
Chief among these exciting new designs will be the Thirteenth Doctor’s Tardis interior, which seems set to be redecorated following the destruction of the Twelfth Doctor’s console room at the end of Christmas special Twice Upon a Time.
Frankly, we can’t wait to see what new look we have in store for the Doctor’s Tardis, and based on the striking cosmetic changes to the exterior that we've seen already (well, as striking as another blue box can be) we’re expecting great things.
12. The return of old foes
If it’s a Doctor Who series, you can pretty much always expect iconic villains the Daleks to turn up at some point, and according to rumours the new series will be no exception.
Sure, it’d be great to see Whittaker’s Doctor take on some brand-new monsters as well, but it’s become a traditional baptism of fire for new incarnations to come face-to-stalk with the tinpot terrors so we’re glad they’re apparently back in the new series.
And who knows? Maybe there’s another new design in the offing…
13. And finally – Doctor Who could be appointment TV once again
We kind of touched on this point earlier on, but it bears repeating – how good would it be if Doctor Who became PROPERLY popular again?
Obviously, “popular” is pretty subjective here – it’s a hugely successful show beloved by millions – but as James Strong noted above, in the 13 years that Doctor Who has been back on TV it has recently not quite matched the days of Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant’s Time Lords.
That is, until now – because since the announcement of Jodie Whittaker’s casting, the world has become interested in Doctor Who again. People who had drifted away may now be tempted back by the buzz around the series, while others who may have never considered watching might decide the new take on the series is finally one they can get involved with.
We won’t reach the viewing heights of the mid-noughties, of course – the way people consume TV has changed a lot in the past 13 years – but for at least a while, Doctor Who might become the TV event of the year once again.
And no matter what you think about any changes to the series, you have to agree that increased interest in a 13-year-old reboot of a 55-year-old TV series can only be a good thing. For Doctor Who to survive, it has to change – and so far, we’re liking what we’re seeing.
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 this autumn