Doctor Who has a long history of hiding its secrets behind codenames, whether that was labelling footage as ‘Torchwood’ (an anagram of Doctor Who that eventually spawned a spin-off) during production of the 2005 revival or having would-be companions audition for a TV show that didn’t really exist.
And now, it’s been revealed that Jodie Whittaker’s current Doctor Who series was also hidden behind a very strange codename when casting its lead actors – Plane Hitters.
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“Was it paper planes or something like that?” Tosin Cole, who plays Ryan in the BBC sci-fi series, told Radio Times as part of a new interview in the latest edition of the magazine.
“Paper planes! No, it was Plane Hitters,” corrected co-star Mandip Gill, who plays fellow Tardis teammate Yaz.
“I thought I was gonna be a pilot or something!”
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Now, in the past such codenames have had hidden meanings – Karen Gillan famously auditioned for something called Panic Moon, which unscrambles to reveal the word Companion, while Pearl Mackie’s callsheet for Mean Town was an anagram for Woman Ten (referencing the number of companions in the revived series thus far) – but according to Gill, that wasn’t the case this time.
“I've asked somebody in passing if it was an anagram, and they said 'no actually,'” Gill explained.
“It wasn’t for the first time. Because normally they've given codenames to other series before, and it worked out that it meant something when you unscrambled the words.
“I tried to work it out,” she added, “but I couldn't see ‘number one companion’ hidden in the words, so...”
Still, we’re sure Doctor Who fans won’t give up so easily. Is there in fact a hidden message in Plane Hitters? Is it an anagram, or something else? Or did showrunner Chris Chibnall intentionally just smash two random words together to throw us all off the scent?
If you can work it out, please let us know. Answers on a time-travelling postcard.
To read the full interviews with Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill, alongside an exclusive look forward to the New Year’s special, pick up the new issue of the Radio Times now
Doctor Who continues on BBC1 on Sundays