The world’s longest running science-fiction show bursts back onto BBC1 this Autumn after a much-needed regeneration – pun intended – in more ways the one. Gone is the stagnant regime of Steven Moffat, which peaked with Matt Smith’s debut series at the turn of the decade and has frustrated the fanbase of ‘Whovians’ on a near-weekly basis since. It always seemed a case of one step forward, then two back – fantastic monsters and standalone stories from the Scot’s imagination were often overshadowed by a myriad of wasted opportunities – the less we say about the low-key return to Gallifrey, the better. Peter Capaldi enjoyed something of an Indian summer to his tenure as the Doctor, but now the attention shifts to Jodie Whittaker as the first female incarnation of the Time Lord. Anticipation? Warranted. Excitement? Plenty. Scepticism? Open your minds up a bit, folks.
Though we’ve yet to see much of the accomplished actress’ portrayal of the legendary Time Lord in trailers or TV spots as the air date continues to remain a vague mystery, a leaked clip from her debut episode shows a quirky, comically sound and charming take on the Gallifreyan, who looks set to be a hit with viewers. Fingers crossed, or it’ll only give the doubters a sense of validation. New showrunner Chris Chibnall brings with him a CV headlined by the BBC’s hit crime drama Broadchurch, but has previously penned for Who underneath Moffat and predecessor Russell T Davies on four occasions, the highlight being the return of the Silurians in 2010’s ‘The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood’. What should we expect from the first episode? Well, tradition would dictate Whittaker lies in bed for a while coughing up golden energy and then recovers at a convenient time to the plot to save the planet from near-certain doom. But then, nothing about this series seems the care much for tradition – and that’s what Who needs right now to clear away the lethargy.
When we last left Whittaker, the Time Lord was hurtling towards Earth after falling from a exploding TARDIS – okay, so some things don’t change – with the season opener also set to introduce new regular companions Ryan (Tosin Cole), Yasmin (Mandip Gill) and Graham (ITV’s ‘The Chase’ host Bradley Walsh). The series run looks to be shorter than recent years, with just ten episodes commissioned and the now-commonplace Christmas Special confirmed to be in production. Within that, though, fans can expect a refreshing balance between past, present and future settings as Who goes broader than ever before. It’s all change on the musical front, with long-term composer and generally fantastic human being Murray Gold handing over to Segun Akinola after a glorious 13-year stint. Are we in for another predictable Dalek return, or has the Monsters department also taken a face-lift? Good news if, like me, you’re a little bit sick of seeing the deadly pepper pots every three minutes since April 2005 – they’re out. In their place, a new set of villains that Chibnall expects viewers to ‘fall in love with’. Even the design has had an overhaul, with a brand new TARDIS set, sonic screwdriver and snazzy new logo just the tip of the iceberg – have you seen Whittaker’s fantastic costume yet?
Doctor Who has been crying for help for a little while now. Chibnall’s era could prove make or break for the beloved sci-fi serial, but the ingredients are there to produce an eleventh series that truly is out of this world – pun intended.