With 2020 being considered a year many would rather forget, there’s little doubt that most of us would jump at the chance to join the Doctor on an adventure through time and space.
It’s a call the BBC have clearly heeded, as Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill are set to return for a Doctor Who Christmas special, alongside a host of familiar faces.
The annual festive instalment, entitled, will see viewers pick up where the 12th series left off, as the Doctor finds herself in outer-space prison after being captured by the Judoon police.
“Some time has passed, she has been in prison for a very long time and she’s struggling there,” says Doctor Who head writer and executive producer, Chris Chibnall, 50, of the forthcoming episode.
“Back on Earth, Yaz and Graham and Ryan – who were dumped back on Earth at the end of last series – are struggling to figure out their lives without the Doctor.
“It’s been 10 months for them since they’ve seen the Doctor, and at the beginning of this, they discover the presence of a Dalek.”
Despite being a standalone episode, as the name would suggest, the new festive offering follows in the footsteps of the previous festive episode. In the New Year’s Day special in 2019, Resolution, the Tardis team battled a special Reconnaissance Dalek on Earth.
“I’d say it was a sequel,” remarks Chibnall. “While it’s a standalone episode for this festive season, it follows on from events that happened in our last festive Dalek special.”
This is a view echoed by actress Jodie Whittaker, 38, who plays the 13th Doctor, and is quick to explain that “the journeys that we all go on aren’t necessarily Doctor-led”.
“That’s what makes it really exciting as well, because it’s definitely a team effort throughout,” says Whittaker, who hails from Skelmanthorpe.
But as Yaz, played by Mandip Gill, struggles back on Earth, it becomes clear that she is putting in far more effort than her male companions when it comes to tracking the Doctor down.
“Yaz has a really complex and, I suppose, different connection to the Doctor than the two boys, for loads of personal reasons,” says Gill, 32.
“She loves being in Sheffield, but there’s just something about space and the Doctor that’s just not being fulfilled yet.
“She’s definitely grown, but I also think me as a person has also grown in this journey, so I was talking to Chris (Chibnall) before how it’s very reflective of my personal life.
“I’m getting used to the sci-fi world and the words and stuff just the way Yaz is, so it feels kinda like an easy thing to portray.”
No festive episode would be complete without the return of some familiar faces. And with the speculation surrounding Captain Jack reaching fever pitch, it was really a case of when, rather than if, for the Doctor Who showrunners.
“That’s been cooked up for a long time,” smirks Chibnall. “We knew he’d be coming back for this special… that was cooked up over lots of phone calls and secret meetings, and not-so-secret meetings at John Barrowman concerts and things like that.
“He smuggled me backstage and we had a secret conversation. Early 2019. So yeah, I put in a call to John, I really wanted Captain Jack to meet the 13th Doctor and it had been a long time since he’d been on screen in Doctor Who, so well overdue.”
Since that time, Barrowman appeared as Captain Jack for the finale of the previous series, though his character has yet to meet the 13th Doctor in person.
“With festive specials, you want them to feel like a treat, so there’s no bigger treat than John Barrowman’s Captain Jack.”
Bridging the gap between the quartet back on Earth and the Doctor trapped in the confines of a space cell, Barrowman is no stranger to the screeching cries of “Exterminate!”
His precise role in the festive episode, though, is one that Chibnall continues to keep largely under wraps.
“Obviously he has some past history with Daleks being as they killed him, a small detail in his life,” Chibnall quips. “So, he’s going to be up against those, but he’s going to be really important to Yaz, and to Graham and Ryan as well.”
As for whether Captain Jack will finally meet the Doctor in this latest instalment – it’s safe to say that both Chibnall and Whittaker keep conversation in thoroughly hypothetical territory.
“The moment he finally meets the Doctor, that would be great, if it were to happen – which I’m sure it will – don’t you think Jodie?” smirks Chibnall.
“I’m not saying anything!” exclaims Whittaker, who remains characteristically cryptic about the majority of the forthcoming festive instalment.
“I think if I was to ever have met him, the things I would maybe take from maybe meeting him, if I imagined that scenario, would be that he’s incredibly energetic, as a person and as Captain Jack.
“I think those are the things that have really bonded us as a family,” she says in an altogether more serious tone.
“We are going at things a million miles an hour and to have a character that can keep up is also really exciting and kind of keeps everyone going. But I can only say that from rushes of other people’s scenes, because who knows?”
Yet, despite their best attempts to keep the episode under wraps, there is one very vital piece of information that Whittaker does let slip.
“As the Doctor, I will say that the fam as a four is no more,” she says, almost recoiling in horror. “On a personal note – absolutely devastated!”
The storyline Whittaker is alluding to will see two of the show’s best loved characters – Graham O’Brien played by Walsh and Ryan Sinclair played by Cole – part ways with the doctor.
“It is very, very dramatic. It is very sad. It is quite sad, and poignant is the word. You can expect a lot of poignancy from the episode,” says Walsh of the Christmas special.
“There are some very moving movements in the show, and working with Jodie, Mandip and Tosin is a dream come true,” he continues. “They are all so, so talented people and all the crew too. For me it was very emotional.”
It’s a view backed up by Whittaker, who feels just as emotional as her co-stars about the unexpected twist in the storyline.
“Just purely when knowing it was the last scenes for myself with those actors, both of them had to carry me to my trailer; I’ve not cried like that for such a long time,” says Whittaker.
“Brad couldn’t cope with it all, could he? Tosin was like: ‘I really can’t cope with you getting so upset.’ So I think that sums up how I feel – there was not a sense of relief in any way.”
Walsh sad to say goodbye
Bradley Walsh has described his last episode on the show as “very, very dramatic”.
Walsh has been in the show since 2017, when Jodie Whittaker took over the lead role.
“It is quite sad and poignant is the word. You can expect a lot of poignancy from the episode.”
He says working “in Wales with everyone on the crew” was his highlight of being in the programme.
“I have absolutely loved it, loved it,” Walsh adds.
Tosin Cole, who is also leaving the show after joining the cast at the same time, says: “It’s been an honour to work on such a cultural institution with fans across
Doctor Who: Revolution Of The Daleks airs on BBC One on New Year’s Day
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