It’s fair to say that the casting of Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who was a fiercely kept secret ahead of her unveiling in summer 2017, with the BBC taking all sorts of unusual precautions to keep the new Doctor’s identity a mystery.
And it’s now been revealed that even the upcoming series’ writers weren’t let in on the secret, with most of their draft scripts written with the expectation that the new incarnation of the Time Lord would be played by a man.
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“No, they didn’t [know],” new showrunner Chris Chibnall told SFX magazine, explaining that new writers Malorie Blackman, Ed Hime, Pete McTigh, Joy Wilkinson and Vinay Patel were kept in the dark.
“A lot of drafts of scripts have got ‘he’ in. The writers didn’t know ‒ nobody knew ‒ until that reveal video went out.”
However, Chibnall said he doesn’t feel that the deception actually changed the content of the stories much, with the new Doctor’s gender (or rather, the Doctor’s new gender) rarely impacting on adventures any more than it did when she was played by male actors.
“It’s very hard for me to think of a decision that the Doctor has taken in 55 years that is a gender-based decision or action,” Chibnall explained.
“I’d really struggle to think of one.”
Except, of course, when the Doctor enters historical time periods which may have a slightly less advanced view of gender politics…
“I think particularly in the historicals – if we’re doing historicals, which I’m sure we are – obviously that then affects what happens to all these characters when you go to certain periods of history,” Chibnall allowed.
The screenwriter went on to pay tribute to his group of Doctor Who writers, who are all new to the series (well, more or less) and whose announcement brought great excitement earlier this summer.
“I was looking for…great writers!” Chibnall said.
“It was the next generation of writers for Doctor Who in terms of people who can come in and own the show, and having writers from diverse backgrounds was really important to me, as well.
“Ultimately with writers it’s like actors – you read their work and you respond to their work. All of them absolutely adore the show, all of them have been banging down the door to get an opportunity, so it’s just people who had stories to tell and understood what we wanted to do with this iteration of the show.”
Doctor Who series 11 begins on BBC1 on Sunday 7th October 2018