New season of Doctor Who will get "darker," do things "differently"

The cast and crew of the new Doctor Who outline how new episodes will break the mold, attract younger viewers, and spotlight the fashions of British history.
The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) in Doctor Who.
The Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) in Doctor Who. /

On Christmas Day, Doctor Who officially kicked off a new era: Ncuti Gatwa is our Fifteenth Doctor and Millie Gibson our new companion, the whimsically named Ruby Sunday. Internally, their upcoming season was referred to as "season 1." Clearly, returning showrunner Russell T Davies is hoping to forge some new trails. You could tell that based on the Christmas special, which featured Gatwa splitting away from the body of former Doctor David Tennant in a phenomenon known as bi-generation, a first for the show. “I was like, ‘Things are going to be done differently from now on,'" Gatwa thought when he heard about that plot point. "'Russell, I can see the cogs turning in your mind, just thinking of all new places to take the show.’"

Speaking to IGN, Gatwa teased all kinds of new elements on the way: “There is a whole bunch of mythology that Russell is bringing in, there's a whole pantheon full of different villains and lore and mythology that he's bringing into the show,” he said. The bi-generation plot is “just very exciting and very indicative of the new adventures we'll be going on in Doctor Who.”

Gibson said much the same thing talking to The Independent. “There’s so many controversial elements to this season – the good sort of controversy – and it’s what we need to see on our tellies,” she said. “Some people might think, ‘This isn’t the Doctor Who I know.’ But I’m really excited to see it ... It’s really cool that they’re doing concepts like these and changing it up.”

Gibson couldn't get too specific -- the spoiler police are everywhere -- but did hint that the upcoming season “has an element of Black Mirror in it, not so much at the start, but it definitely grows darker.” She suspects that the new episodes “will attract a lot of Gen Z” viewers, as they “go with the times and represent a lot of faces and themes that are really important to see on television.”

“Some people might think, ‘This isn’t the Doctor Who I know.’"

But lest you think that Davies and company are redoing everything about the show, there will be some good old-fashioned Doctor Who storytelling in there too. The Christmas special raised the question of who Ruby's biological parents were but didn't answer it. It sounds like the new season will pull back the curtain on that mystery inch by inch. “Ruby has a relationship with the Doctor that I don’t think the audience has necessarily seen before ... She really humanises him and balances him to be more like her, really – more innocent and pure and human, which is so beautiful to watch,” Gibson said. “[T]here’s a hidden secret with [Ruby] that rolls throughout the whole series”.

And don't forget that the Christmas special ended with Mrs. Flood, seemingly just a random British woman, revealing that she knew what a TARDIS was. "Mrs. Flood is a mysterious character," Davies said on an episode of Doctor Who: Unleased. "You will eventually find out more about her. She’s a slow burn, Mrs. Flood. Who is Mrs. Flood? Come back and find out."

And based on the trailer, we'll get episodes that would fit right into any Doctor Who season, including one where the Doctor and Ruby time travel to the '60s and interact with the Beatles. The costumes alone make that one look worth the price of admission.

In fact, to hear Gatwa tell it, the new season is thoughtful about fashion; he had nothing but praise for costume designer Pam Downe. "I really like the fact that the show is such a quintessential British show... It's been around for 60 years… I want to explore all of Britain through fashion. I want to explore all the subcultures,” he said.

"[Pam Downe] is undeniably a genius. You THINK you've seen looks. You've not seen anything yet. Season 2 is… she's outdone herself."

Yes, Gatwa, Gibson and Davies have already begun work on a second season, and their first hasn't even begun airing. This team is in it for the long haul.

Doctor Who season 14 (or season 1, if you prefer) will premiere on Disney+ and the BBC sometime in 2024.

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