The longest running science-fiction show on TV is reimagining itself again this fall as Jodie Whittaker becomes the latest actor and first woman to play its virtually immortal, time-traveling, humanity-protecting alien hero. Every “regeneration” of the Doctor has excited viewers, but the incoming Thirteenth Doctor has already electrified fandom by being the Time Lord’s first female face.
But Whittaker isn’t the only new arrival. The Doctor will have not one, but three new companions: Ryan Sinclair (played by Toslin Cole), Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), and Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh).
We don’t know much about these characters yet, but we do know their adventures with the Doctor will feature special effects from a new company (Double Negative, which provided effects for such movies as Interstellar and Blade Runner 2049) and will be scored by a different composer, Segun Akinola.
And new head writer and showrunner Chris Chibnall is shepherding it all. “This year is the perfect jumping-on point for that person in your life who has never seen Doctor Who,” he said in San Diego. “There’s no barrier to entry.”
San Diego Comic-Con 2018 gave Doctor Who fans plenty to enjoy until the new season debuts this fall. Here are a few of the highlights:
New Cast and Teaser Trailer Light Up Hall H Panel
The con’s Whovian highpoint came early. BBC America hosted a panel in hallowed Hall H on Thursday, giving Doctor Who fans their first official look at Series 11, a run of 10 standalone episodes. The panel included most of the cast – Whittaker, Cole, and Gill – making their first public appearance together, as well as Chibnall and new executive producer Matt Strevens.
The short, fast-moving teaser trailer unveiled during the panel makes no major revelations, but it does promise lots of things will be new – “new faces, new worlds, new times” – and that everything will be fun.
In response to fan questions about which companions or creatures from Doctor Who’s past may or may not be coming back, Chibnall said that while longtime viewers will notice small nods to the past, the new creative team has been answering the questions, “Where does the show go next? What are the surprises for us, as well as for you?”
Many of those surprises will involve bad guys. “There are a lot of new monsters this year,” Chiball pledged, and his TARDIS team has “a lot of new villains ahead.” He noted that two weeks after the end of filming, “we haven’t seen a Dalek yet!”
Panelists discussed the Thirteenth Doctor’s personality. Whittaker said her Doctor “requires a lot of energy, a lot of childish wonder… I’m quite fidgety – not a lot of stillness, I’m afraid.” Cole agreed, calling this Doctor “bubbly,” but stern when needed. “This Doctor is in love with life,” said Chibnall. He praised Whittaker’s “joyous performance.”
For her part, Whittaker expressed gratitude for her castmates’ work. She called the new series an ensemble piece: “Everyone’s dynamic brings something new to the scene, every time.” All the panelists frequently referred to the group of characters as “friends” (a warmer term than traditional talk of “companions”), and the camaraderie among cast members seemed genuine.
Though short on specifics, the panel assured viewers that this “reinvention” of Doctor Who for a new generation remains true to the title character’s fundamentals. “The Doctor is a pillar of hope, striving for brightness and inclusion,” said Whittaker, to applause.
“It’s the Doctor you’ve known and loved,” said Chibnall, “with just a fresh take.”
A New Sonic Screwdriver for the New Doctor
One new part of that “fresh take” the panel did unveil was the Doctor’s new sonic screwdriver. Whittaker held up a collectible replica of the Doctor’s hyper-versatile, miracle-working machine for attendees to admire, while Chibnall said there’s quite a story behind how the Doctor acquires it.
Couldn’t go to the con to acquire your collectible sonic? As the Fifth Doctor would say, “Braveheart!” Seven20’s Thirteenth Doctor Sonic Screwdriver Fan Collectible meticulously reproduces the Doctor’s new device.
Designed by Arwel Wyn Jones (production designer for the BBC’s Sherlock and Torchwood, among others), this sonic looks less high-tech and more organic than previous versions. The dark grain in its silver-colored surface suggests wood – a material past sonics couldn’t affect (hmm… a plot point revealed?) – and its curved form evokes a finger or talon. The crystalline tip illuminates and spins at the press of a button, and at the press of another, the sonic’s interior glows orange and red.
For all its differences, this sonic screwdriver still makes the same high-pitched warble fans have come to love. You’ll want this replica for your Doctor Who cosplay… or simply for facing down the threat of boredom around your home or office!
The More Thirteenth Doctor Merch, the Merrier
During SDDC, The BBC Shop pulled back the curtain on its new line of Thirteenth Doctor apparel, accessories, and collectibles.
Many of the items feature the show’s streamlined new logo and Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor in her beige trenchcoat, rainbow-striped shirt, yellow braces (suspenders, on the U.S. side of the pond), and sturdy brown boots.
Several items – including the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut in the popular Funko Pop! vinyl figure line and her rendition in SuperBITZ plush (complete with a TARDIS coaster for your mug or tumbler) – were designed exclusively for San Diego Comic-Con 2018. So, even if you couldn’t be at the show, you can own or wear a piece of its Doctor Who-themed excitement!
Are you looking forward to watching the new era of Doctor Who begin? Leave a comment below to let us know!