Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is in her own lockdown in the New Year’s Day Doctor Who special, trapped in prison while the Daleks unleash their latest deadly plan.
So it’s up to her friends — alongside Captain Jack Harkness — to save the day. And there are changes afoot in the Tardis.
While Jodie Whittaker and Mandip Gill (Yaz) have no plans to leave the series, we’ll be waving goodbye to fellow travellers Bradley Walsh (Graham) and Tosin Cole (Ryan).
In other words, there’s going to be a lot to process when Revolution of the Daleks finally airs – and to mark the occasion we caught up with the Thirteenth Doctor herself, Jodie Whittaker, to see what to expect from the latest festive adventure.
Talking lockdown, the Daleks, filming season 13 without Cole and Walsh and much more, here’s what she had to say.
Hi Jodie! You filmed this Doctor Who episode in late 2019, before lockdown – has it been strange to wait this long to release it?
Well it was very much before – we wrapped on Halloween, I think? The week of Halloween. So it was a good year ago we wrapped. You just can’t predict what a year it’s been. You’re like “God, I can’t believe we had no idea what was to come!”
And with Brad and Tosin leaving, that’s a long time to know that.
Was it difficult to keep their departures secret?
I’m probably going to throw myself under the bus here, but I feel as if I’m usually quite good at not saying anything.
But it’s really weird… because we’re back filming my family were like “Give my love to Mandip, Tosin and Brad.’ I said “Yeah yeah OK…” and then just started sobbing!
It makes you feel like it’s a long time ago for that. But then it’s no time as well, that’s what’s so interesting when you do come back to work, having not seen the crew, having not seen everybody for a year. It’s home in so many ways.
You’re back filming season 13 with strict restrictions – what’s that been like?
We’re in the studio at the moment with all the crew and that in itself is strange. And it feels like it’s been such an emotional and sad time, and is continuing on, and we can’t take it for granted and we can’t, you know, not be vigilant.
But more than that…I think we’ve always known that our lives were precious, and we’ve always known that our careers are very precious, and things like that.
But I think filming now, and knowing what this festive episode is…they’re worlds apart but then also it’s such a comfort. I adore the show. Thank God I had this to come back to.
The episode sees the Doctor locked up and away from her friends, which is oddly prescient – will viewers be able to relate?
Yes, I think so – though hopefully they were in more comfort that the Doctor is! I think the fact that we meet the Doctor in this way is really interesting, and obviously very different for my Doctor, and the episodes and the specials that I’ve been involved in.
Usually we kind of come at things as a team. And it is very much not that, at the start. And that brings its challenges, it brings its revelations as well as people’s strengths and weaknesses. I think there’s no end of exploration with the Doctor if you start in such a vulnerable position.
What’s been your experience of lockdown?
People always ask me what I’d do with a real time machine, and now I know – I’d go back and watch 17 gigs!
I was really lucky because I and my nearest and dearest weren’t poorly, but I’ve missed being in a crowd.
My head was noisier than ever. Being stuck with just one or two people, I realised I’m quite high-maintenance. I had to tell myself, “Jodie, some things can be an inner monologue.”
You’re back filming with the Daleks for this episode – what’s it like to act with them?
Aw, brilliant. For a start, obviously there are bits where CGI is used but they’re there. We’re in the spaces, and we are facing off, and we have the “actor” present. We have everything given to us, and so it’s like you’re thrown back to the past, and you’re thrown forward with our own version of the Daleks as well.
And it’s a really exciting thing. And I think for the Doctor it never fails to be the ultimate challenge. Full stop!
John Barrowman has his own Dalek at home in LA – ever been tempted to take one home yourself, as a souvenir?
…yeah. But there’s a very big resounding “No, you’re not allowed.” But I’m quite sneaky – I’ve got something really cool that I’m like “Aw, I’m treasuring that forever” from one of my episodes.
Readers, please don’t burgle me!
This interview is for our Christmas issue so I should ask: in an ideal world without restrictions, do you prefer big or small Christmasses?
My Christmasses are very extreme. My English family does a really small one, but every other year my American Christmas with my husband’s family is massive.
I also do a “Lifers’ Christmas” with my best girlfriends, which has got bigger over the years as we added our other halves and kids. It’s the most precious thing in the world to me – it’s really tough that we can’t all do that this year.
So what have you got planned?
Just as long as there’s some Christmas tunes and ET on TV, I’m like a pig in a sty. Cinema, music and TV are a real comfort.
I do feel like most things on at Christmas are going to be a repeat though, there’s very few things that I could be watching for the first time.
So I’m so excited about Doctor Who because I’m like “Ooh, people won’t have seen that! Something on!”
A condensed and shorter version of this interview appeared in the Radio Times Christmas Double Issue in early December.
Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks comes to BBC One at 6.45pm on New Year’s Day. Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.