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The Gallifrey Times Review of the Year 2015 (Part 1)

2014 in Doctor Who saw the Twelfth Doctor’s era begin in explosive fashion with Series 8, which began a whole new partnership between the Doctor and Clara – by the end of 2014, the two were racing back off into the TARDIS for more adventures in 2015…

A typically crazy year for the show, 2015 saw thirteen brand new episodes featuring the tragic departure of Clara Oswald, the return of River Song, the birth of an immortal and much more – so, as Peter Capaldi’s second year in the TARDIS comes to the close and we stand on the cusp of a new era for the show in 2016, we’ll be posting our annual two-part retrospective of the year in Doctor Who. In part one, we’ll look at the first half of the year – from the start of filming to just before publicity kicked in for Series 9.

As the traditional, long hiatus kicked in just after the airing of Last Christmas, things were getting going once again over in Cardiff, as filming of Series 9 began on 5th January. The week after the start of filming, the first piece of proper information trickled through – that a two-part episode penned by Toby Whithouse was currently filming, with actors Paul Kaye and Sophie Stone signing up to the two-parter, which would become Under the Lake/Before the Flood.

As a sleepy month came to its end, news of the second block was released – that Blink director Hettie McDonald would be filming upcoming episodes, partially in Spain, and that the episodes in question would be penned by none other than Steven Moffat. Guessed what those episodes were yet?

Best January moment: Filming begins once more as the cameras start rolling on the ninth series since the revival.

As February began, filming on Under the Lake and Before the Flood was still ongoing – but midway through the month, filming segued into Block Two, with a mysterious picture of a world map covered by red dots released by the BBC to tease the episodes. And for the first proper time, the crew were spotted filming, with a brief return to Coal Hill School for Clara and a mysterious situation in the sky revealed by the filming.

Just a day after that, we got our first major news of the month, as Michelle Gomez was confirmed to return as the nefarious Missy in an opening two-parter bearing the titles The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar (which we all kind of knew about anyway beforehand, but it was still pretty exciting). Moffat teased that Missy’s return would be ‘the last thing the Doctor and Clara would expect’, with Michelle Gomez commenting that she was ‘delighted to be putting the lippie back on’ – pick your favourite comment out of the two.

And just before February became March, filming shifted to the Spanish island of Tenerife (the first of many excursions to Spanish islands for filming), with Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman both spotted filming scenes on what would turn out to be the Dalek planet, Skaro…

Best February moment: It was a short death, as it turned out – Michelle Gomez was officially confirmed to return just after she ‘died’ as Missy.

With the rush of news that we got at the end of February, 2015 finally began to rub the sleep dust out of its eyes as the flow of news continued to pick up. As Steven Moffat teased that there would be more two-parters in Series 9 (as it turned out, almost the whole series), a new writer was confirmed for Series 9 – writing regular Mark Gatiss, who would go on to pen Sleep No More.

And as filming for the opening two-parter came to the close, the BBC released a whole host of behind the scenes images teasing locales from sandy Tenerife/Skaro to a studio/underneath the Tower of London. In potentially our most exciting news of the year thus far, the chance to name a Brighton bus after late producer John Nathan-Turner emerged – and just a few days later, it was revealed that JNT had won the poll and there would indeed be a bus named after him (this was an exciting time, as you can tell). More on the bus in part two.

In other, non-bus-related news, the last days of March proved to be surprisingly frenetic. Fans and crew alike celebrated the tenth anniversary of the revived series on 26 March, with members of cast and crew from throughout the ten years sending in their messages – even Christopher Eccleston! Just four days later, another wave of major Series 9 news came through for the next two episodes to be filmed. We had writers (Jamie Mathieson and Catherine Treganna), enigmatic episode titles (The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived), and a famous guest star, Game of Thrones‘ Maisie Williams, who would definitely be starring in just two episodes. Definitely.

Best March moment: Series 9 added a notorious guest star in the form of Maisie Williams, whose character was not revealed.

We kicked off April with our traditional April Fool’s stunt – a slightly cruel one stating that Series 9 had been postponed to 2017 – but for real Doctor Who news, April was a quiet month, as filming for The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived trundled on throughout the month. From the set of those episodes, news of a character called Odin and pictures of a mysterious new robotic monster in a Viking village came through, while Peter Capaldi, David Tennant, Jenna Coleman Peter Davison all celebrated their birthdays.

And, erm… that’s about it for April, which was hardly a vintage month for Doctor Who.

Best April moment: The Mire are brought out into daylight as the BBC release photos of these intriguing new monsters.

Right at the start of May, Jemma Redgrave was confirmed to return as Kate Stewart in episodes seven and eight, and a few days later the BBC released their customary wave of news for a new filming block. In this case, marking the beginning of filming for a two-parter penned by Peter Harness, the return of the Zygons and the mysterious re-appearance of Osgood were both confirmed, though Ingrid Oliver remained quiet on just how the dead UNIT scientist could come back.

Meanwhile, Steven Moffat confirmed that he would be staying about for Series 10, angering/pleasing (delete as applicable) fandom. And speaking of head writers, former showrunner Russell T Davies came out of the woodwork to campaign for a return for River Song, stating that Capaldi and Kingston would be a ‘sex storm’ together. As it turned out, Moffat pretty much followed RTD’s instructions, so we’ll be keeping an eye on anything RTD asks of Moffat in the future.

Other, smaller bits of news included confirmation of a panel at San Diego Comic Con, announcement of a new director for Series 9, Justin Molotnikov, and the ramping up of production for episode ten as the read-through took place just at the end of the month. Ah, episode ten…

Best May moment: Osgood returns! Ingrid Oliver’s character is confirmed to reprise her role in Series 9, although the details of how are kept under wraps until broadcast.

June began with the exciting announcement of the Doctor Who Festival – a major event at the London ExCel attended by Peter Capaldi, Michelle Gomez and Ingrid Oliver. Tickets remained on sale for a good while, although photos with Peter Capaldi sold out in about the time it takes to blink. Meanwhile, as filming for The Zygon Invasion & Inversion wrapped up, a The Thick of It reunion was confirmed with the announcement of Rebecca Front as a guest star in the Zygon two-parter.

As one block wrapped, another began with the commencement of filming on episode ten (ah, episode ten). Newcomer Sarah Dollard was confirmed as the writer, and Joivan Wade was confirmed to return as Rigsy from Flatline, with Wade spotted out and about filming in Cardiff alongside Peter Capaldi (wearing a neat new red coat) and Jenna Coleman. Murmurs about ‘glitches in reality’ were heard, sparking theories that this could be a spiritual successor of sorts to Flatline (mainly from this writer, who was very wrong).

Later in the month, it was announced that Steven Moffat would be receiving an OBE from the Queen, angering/pleasing fandom (delete as applicable). Oh, and in the most exciting news of the month, the thrilling bus saga concluded as the John Nathan Turner bus arrived in Brighton, sporting a surprisingly varied range of features. Whoever said off-season was boring?

Best June moment: In one of the very few pieces of public location filming of Series 9, the Doctor, Rigsy and Clara are spotted poring over a mysterious map in the centre of Cardiff in filming for Face the Raven.

Next time: In the second and final part, we take a look at the second half of the year, which saw thirteen episodes and plenty of excitement, from San Diego Comic Con to the return of River Song.