Jodie Whittaker returns as the 12th Doctor, for Doctor Who Series 12 together with her companions Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair) and Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan).
Jodie, Chris Chibnall (Head Writer and Executive Producer) and Matt Strevens (Executive Producer) talk about what fans can expect from Doctor Who Series 12.
What do audiences have to look forward to in Series 12?
Chris Chibnall: Quite a lot. I think what you have is the familiar Doctor Who blend of contemporary stories on Earth now. You’ve got some historical parts, going into periods that we’ve never been to before, historical figures we haven’t seen before. Some new planets, some new places in space and some very familiar faces from the doctor’s past.
Jodie Whittaker: I think, well, what’s exciting about shooting this series is, for those guys, particularly the fam, the relationships are pre-established. It’s not necessarily a “getting to know you” for the audience but what this season is about is the individual characters going on their own journey and particularly for the doctor it’s a series about self-discovery.
What was your first impression of the scripts?
Matt Strevens: The thing at the back of your mind is always, how do we take it one better or how do we keep upping our game as much as we can because we really tried to pull out all the stops in the first series with Jodie. So, when I read episode one, I thought “oh that’s how we do it is it. Oh my god.”
Cause now I better go back to the budget, better look at the schedule because it really was epic and exciting. It was proper, and we use this term when we’re doing the movie of the week each week which is kind of what we do. But this is a proper movie. I looked at it going “oh my god we’re doing a spy thriller.”
Jodie Whittaker: Reading episode one before we all came back, I knew it was going to be very exciting because we were going to be filming in South Africa, which is always a winner as well as Cardiff which we love. It was really exciting to revisit certain relationships but also to have new ones as well with new and old foes.
What were the challenges of bringing the scripts to life?
Chris Chibnall: I think, matching the ambition of series 11 and going up a gear. So, when we come back, with Spyfall, we knew that we had to come back with something big, fun and energetic, and action-packed so we talked a lot about the woman who fell to earth. Spyfall has got about four of those sequences. So how do we do this?
We wanted to come back with our gang on top form, having a great time. Big guest characters, good locations. To set a marker for the series is like, we’re back, we’re bigger than ever. We got more explosions, we got more crashes, more monsters, lots of surprises and it’s the most fun you can possibly have on television.
Matt Strevens: There isn’t one big challenge. It’s when you add all the challenges together, shooting over a relatively limited period of time. It’s how you manage all of that. But the big challenge, one of them was that you have to breathe life into those locations. And if you wanted to realistically do California and wanted to realistically be in the Australian Outback, we needed to think about where we would go.
As lovely as South Wales and Cardiff are, you kind of realize that you have to go abroad, so where do we go, how do we do that, how much time do we need abroad, what can we do on location, what do we bring back to build sets for and can we be certain that there’s an invisible join when we do that so that people can’t tell the difference.
What is going to surprise people in this series?
Chris Chibnall: There’s a lot of things we have that possibly leave big surprises and there are small surprises. There are lines here and there for people who have been watching the show for 50 years. Just little gifts to long term fans as well as big gifts to long term fans.
There will be surprises about the doctor and her friends and it’s a big surprising journey.
Matt Strevens: I think ambition is going to surprise people this year. I think the fact that we took it up a notch. So, the thrills and spills, the different kind of genres that we inhabit. We are more monstered up so I’m really excited about their reaction to some of our monsters.
We have a couple like the Judoon are coming back, but there might be some other surprises packed in there which is really exciting. As a whole, it feels that we are now very at home with this group of characters. It’s a really propulsive and exciting series with a number of questions for the doctor at the heart of it and there’s whole energy and ark that runs through the series which extends to be really exciting.
We’ve also got some great guest stars, really lovely guest stars. Every episode, all our guest actors are fantastic, there are some treats in there, yeah, lovely performances.
Has three been one moment in filming that has stood out for you?
Chris Chibnall: There’s so many. I’m lucky to get to see the rushers every day. I’m not on set an awful lot because I deliberately try not to be, so I can be the first few so that I can see the rushers the next day. So many days the rushers come in and you think, wow, you’ve really done that amazingly.
Jodie Whittaker: I think the memorable moments for me are always the fact that we are spoilt with really extraordinary guest artists coming in. I think in our first episode, there was a particular national treasure that I got to sit next to in-between scenes and fully stalk for the whole three days they were in.
The fact that we get to work with people who are really established actors who you know their reputation goes beyond and you are so excited to meet them, but also be part of people who are maybe at the start of their journey for their career as well. Andy Pryor is a fantastic casting director because continuously he introduces us to a really exciting bunch of creatives.
What has been your favourite episode so far?
Matt Strevens: It’s a really hard question. No is the final answer but you have momentary favorites and you have things that shift. You have episodes that you like but maybe initially you’re like, “How are we going to work that one out? How are we going to do that?” and that creeps out on you.
There are also episodes that you suddenly go, “oh my god this is fantastic” and the scripts are always great, but it’s what happens during productions and you start to go, “oh I knew this was a good episode but this has become really special and I really like that but it’s terrible”.
Sometimes it depends on who’s company you’re in at that time like friends isn’t it. You often have your episode of the month where at any given point you have fallen in love particularly with one episode but it’s liable to changes as the process goes on and then, it keeps changing as you go through the post-production process and suddenly you put the score on and you go, oh my god, this is just incredible!
Then you put more CG in it then you got oh that might win actually. So, they keep changing, I don’t think I have one yet. It’s too early to in the series to tell if I have a favorite episode yet, but I don’t have a least favorite which is always good.
Jodie Whittaker: I think there’ll be a lot of exciting things to come. I think for Whovians, there’s some real gems in there. But I think for people who may be starting Doctor Who with this series, or our previous season, you’re going to be in for a treat with being exposed all the new baddies.
What has been the biggest challenge in this series so far?
Matt Strevens: The biggest challenge is relentless ambition of the show. The biggest challenge is the length of the shoot in that, you have to keep at the same level for 10 months. Every episode, every block of episodes – we’re shooting blocks of two, will throw multiple challenges at you. It’s not like you could go, “oh we did that in the last block.” You’re always finding out something new about making Doctor Who.
Every episode is different. Every episode provides you with something you haven’t had to do before. So, you can never rest in your lows. So, the challenge really, is that you have to keep everybody motivated and positive and at their A game and also keep their energy going for months.
What is universally appealing about the program?
Chris Chibnall: I think the fact that anybody can be a hero, I think that there are lots of stories that are still untold, about history, about people. I think what’s so great about Doctor Who, and hopefully what’s so great about this series is, anybody can feel that the 13th doctor and her friends are going to turn up in their front room or garden or street or office and say, do you want to come inside? Do you want to come on this journey with us?
I think that’s what’s always appealing about this show and I think, for the viewers, the variety of places that the show goes, the range of people that these characters meet and the range of monsters that they are going to have to battle with this year. It’s got a bit of everything. It’s got actions, scares, humor, warmth, amazing characters, brilliant actors and, it’s got a TARDIS. Nobody else has got a TARDIS.
Matt Strevens: I think it’s because it gets a bit of a shape-shifting program, it could be many different things. What we tried to do is that impossible thing, which is to appeal to everybody from 8 to 88. How do you do that sometimes? To keep everybody engaged?
I think it is that thing where it is very relatable to the human condition that you try to create real characters at the core of it, who you can believe, and you can care about. It’s fun, exciting, escapist, it’s positive in a time where we’re continually getting difficult and sometimes negative messages from what’s going on around the world.
You have somebody who’s a force for good and a team that believes that the basic human condition is to make things better and to strive. It’s full of hope and optimism. So, I think that makes it evidently sort of appealing, but I think it’s very DNA, it’s fun. Good fun show and its action-packed. You love the characters, hopefully and there’s always a sense of resolution at the end of it, so I think that it’s very fulfilling in that way.
How would you summarize the series?
Chris Chibnall: Action-packed, entertaining, hopefully surprising, emotional and the most fun you can have on television.
Matt Strevens: Funny, action-packed, scary, monsters, questions, hope, despair, love, laughter, a roller coaster ride.
Doctor Who Series 12 will premiere in Singapore on BBC First (StarHub Channel 502) from 10th January 2020, with episodes released weekly at 8am.