Doctor Who: Series Eleven – five things we can expect

With a new series just a matter of months away, what can we expect from Jodie Whittaker’s first series as the Thirteenth Doctor?
Image credit: Doctor Who/BBC.
Image obtained from: BBC Press.

With everything we know about Jodie Whittaker’s first series as the Thirteenth Doctor, we take a look at five things we can expect from Series Eleven.

After months of silence, (not counting a few naughty leaks,) the iron grip of new Doctor Who show runner Chris Chibnall was relaxed, albeit slightly at San Diego Comic Con. The first footage of Series Eleven was shown, new promotional art was presented, and the new sonic screwdriver was officially unveiled to a frenzied Comic Con crowd.

The Doctor Who cast even met the cast of popular US sitcom, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. This last point is simply bizarre, but in the most fabulous of ways.

What information can be gleaned from the panel that recently took place? News has been slow, vague even. The tactic, so far, seems to be working. Any new information, however scant, is awaited with hype and baited breath.

It is very clear that Chris Chibnall aims to surprise audiences as much as possible. Indeed, at the Comic Con panel Chibnall preached the virtues of a “communal” Doctor Who experience every week, with everyone discovering twists and turns simultaneously.

So what do we know now about the upcoming Series Eleven? Here are five things to watch out for.

Will a new Doctor, new team and new showrunner bring a freshness to the series?
(Image credit: Doctor Who/BBC.
Image obtained from: official Doctor Who page.)

Freshness

A new actor – or in this case, actress – playing the part of the Doctor is naturally considered to be a jumping on point for new viewers or,  perhaps, those that may have fallen out of favour with the show.  This isn’t surprising. The very concept of regeneration is an embedded part of Doctor Who’s identity that has allowed the property to prosper for over fifty years.

However, Series Eleven sees a mass changing of the guard both on screen and off it. Not only does Series Eleven usher in Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor. There will also be an entirely new TARDIS team to accompany her.

Behind the scenes, Chris Chibnall takes over the reins of show runner from Steven Moffat’s eight year stint in the role. Chibnall will be joined by new Executive Producer Matt Stevens also. Both of whom have altered the style of writing management by adopting a US Writers Room model.

Expect a fresh vision and tonal shift for Doctor Who. This leads back to the original idea of a fresh jumping on point for audiences. It is clear that the new writing and production team have constructed Series Eleven to be a pseudo re-launch akin to 2010’s The Eleventh Hour or 2005’s Rose.

Potentially this upcoming series is the biggest re-launch to the show since it came back over a decade ago. The cast and crew have emphasized repeatedly that this is the perfect opportunity to get started with Doctor Who if you have never seen it before. As such we can expect continuity and references to be fleeting.

Chibnall has also reached out to Doctor Who fans to spread the word. Much like a recruitment drive, Chibnall has tasked the Who community with a mission to get the message out: this is new Doctor Who. Make sure you get your friends and family to watch.

What kind of new foes will the Doctor’s friends be facing this series?
(Image credit: Doctor Who/BBC.
Image obtained from: BBC Press.)

New monsters

Linked and leading on from the freshness angle comes the subject of villains. The Doctor has a vast and diverse rogues gallery already established, but it seems the plan for Whittaker’s first series is to freeze the old favourites out in favour of brand new creatures to face off against.

This is a welcome move in my opinion. Infamous enemies the Daleks and the Cybermen both need a rest as they have largely become both stale and predictable.

Chibnall has mentioned that we should expect “loads” of new creations to haunt the newly assembled TARDIS crew. I am expecting Chibnall to deliver on this promise with no returning creatures, save for maybe a surprise finale appearance.

Beyond the idea of old foes stagnating, it would be a clever choice to create new monsters. It goes without saying it would be fun to see new aliens on screen, but it would add intrigue not knowing what’s coming next.

I also think a new monster becoming an iconic foil for Jodie Whittaker’s incarnation would be a great move. I want a New Who creature to once again become a part of the iconic pantheon, one that captures the imaginations and fears of the nation.

Much like the success of the Weeping Angels, and to a lesser extent, the Silence. Both are New Who creations that are intrinsically linked as foils for Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor.  I want Whittaker’s run to cultivate the same level of iconography.

The announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor seemed like a major choice in 2017. But will her gender affect the Doctor’s character?
(Image credit: Doctor Who/BBC.
Image obtained from: BBC Press.)

Gender irrelevant

Unless you’ve been living under a rather enormous rock, you will have noticed that our favourite Time Lord, for the first time in over five decades, has changed genders.  The casting of Jodie Whittaker was a landmark and historic decision that has made waves around pop-culture circles and even beyond.

What ramifications does this casting choice have for Doctor Who in a narrative sense though? Well, not much.

When an adorable young girl asked Jodie Whittaker at Comic Con if the Doctor will now have/do “girl things”, Jodie responded by largely establishing that whilst interesting, gender is largely “irrelevant”. This was echoed by the rest of the cast and crew too.

Expect a few little things to alter with the gender change, but overall, it seems to be unimportant plot-wise. Those hoping for an in-universe explanation or a story arc behind why, after 2000 years, the Doctor only now becomes a woman will be left disappointed.

Expect reaction and mention to the Doctor as female to be mainly brought up in historical situations where attitudes to women were radically different. The rumoured witch-hunting story may prove to be one such case, where of course, women with knowledge and intellect were demonised as witches.

Can we expect bigger, “blockbuster” stories for Series Eleven?
(Image credit: Doctor Who/BBC.
Image obtained from: BBC Press.)

Blockbuster format

In terms of format, we know that Series Eleven will consist of ten episodes with a run time of fifty minutes. Is there anything else to it? It seems so.

At the Comic Con panel words such as ‘blockbuster’, ‘cinematic’ and ‘epic’ were all flirted with. This may sound like typical studio PR that ultimately doesn’t really mean much. This time I believe otherwise. I expect we will see a shift to ten standalone episodes that feel and look like mini movies.

We know there will be no two-parters – combine that with the increased run time and new VFX studio and it seems like a bombastic recipe harkening back to the days of Series 7A, which were heavily pushed as mini-movies.

Chris Chibnall is very selective with releasing information and what words he chooses for the fans and the press. I believe it’s a very deliberate, conscious policy to advertise Series Eleven as a collection of sci-fi blockbusters. The episode count being reduced to ten also lends credence to the notion that more money is being ploughed into each individual episode.

Doctor Who is in need of reinvigoration and I believe Chibnall is going for ‘shock and awe’ to put Doctor Who firmly back on the television map.

Can we expect a more exciting and adventurous universe with this series?
(Image credit: Doctor Who/BBC.
Image obtained from: www.cbr.com.)

A swashbuckling universe

We gleaned that the direction of the series pertaining to the new characters is a synergy of awe and wonder. With a universe that feels like a multidimensional playground of joy and exploration, this seems to be the message.

I expect a return to the swashbuckling adventure type of Doctor Who that we saw in David Tennant’s era. Jodie has gone on record to establish that her Doctor will be playful and fizzing with a love for the universe. The addition of three companions will add a sense of unity and further embolden the wonderment and love for creation.

During Matt Smith’s tenure we had many stories that centred on the legacy of the Doctor, most notably with the multi-series arc of the Silence. An organisation, in one way or another, based on the importance of the Doctor.

Peter Capaldi’s tenure was marked with a distinct sense of introspection and internal moral battles within the Doctor.

Now, with Jodie Whittaker, expect to see a departure from this type of storytelling. It will of course still focus on the character, but Series Eleven will lean away from legacy and introspection and return to a simpler adventurous affair.

So what are you looking forward to most about the New Series? What are you personally hoping to see? Let us know in the comments below.