In part one of our look back at 2015 in Doctor Who, we looked at the start of filming for Series 9, the steady release of official news and the thrilling saga of the JNT bus – but the real events came in the second half of the year.
The second half of 2015 saw thirteen brand new episodes which saw the Doctor and Clara travel to Skaro, a Viking village, a crashing space station and Gallifrey itself before Clara finally flew off in her own TARDIS. In part two, we’ll look at what happened between July and December, as well as a peek into the future of the show in 2016:
The very first day of July brought news that Rachel Talalay would return to direct the two-part finale of Series 9 after having helmed Dark Water and Death in Heaven – and the day after, the build-up to Comic Con began with the release of the first official image from Series 9, in which, according to Peter Capaldi, the Doctor was about to make a mistake with ‘cataclysmic repercussions’ (spoiler alert: it was leaving child Davros on the battlefield).
A week later, it was the San Diego Comic Con panel, where cast members gathered to tease the upcoming series… and reveal the very first trailer from Series 9, which included mysterious ghosts, new robot enemies and the appearance of a character played by Maisie Williams who appeared to know the Doctor well (despite frenzied speculation, she wasn’t Susan). The next week brought the reassuring news that Series 10 was on the way at some point, along Peter Capaldi’s teasing comments on the Doctor returning to Gallifrey…
Best July moment: “It’s impossible, I hate it, it’s evil, it’s astonishing.” The tantalising first trailer from Series 9 hits the internet, confirming the 19th September air date.
With just a month to go until Series 9, news came in thick and fast throughout August. Reece Shearsmith was confirmed to guest star in an episode penned by Mark Gatiss as Sleep No More began filming, and a few days later the official promo image for Series 9 was released, showing the Doctor and Clara sprinting away from a slightly hazardous-looking explosion. What happened the week after, you ask?
It was only the second trailer for Series 9 – another exciting minute of intriguing snippets including more Maisie Williams, a fire-breathing monster, Daleks and… some sunglasses, which we thought were just sunglasses at that point. Pre-series interviews began to ramp up with the reveal that Series 9 would be something of an experimental series, featuring both a found-footage episode and a ‘single-hander’ episode starring only Peter Capaldi. A fresh new batch of photos from The Magician’s Apprentice hit the internet a few days later, with the first preview screening of the series opener taking place at the Edinburgh Television Festival on 26th August…
Best August moment: “Oh, same old, same old, just the Doctor and Clara Oswald in the TARDIS.” Another trailer for Series 9 hits, this time featuring exciting footage from just about every Series 9 episode.
September was the month the show returned with Series 9, but publicity was already looking forward to what came after, with the commencement of filming for the Christmas Special and the exciting/infuriating (delete as applicable) announcement that River Song would be returning in the festive episode. Just a few days later, the BBC began the countdown to Series 9 with a trailer for The Magician’s Apprentice on 5th September, showcasing a whole host of time periods and locations but still hiding Davros from view.
11th September saw the release of the ‘prologue’ to Series 9 – an ominous minute and a half of teasing that the Doctor was off to face an old enemy (still not revealed as Davros), with a public screening of both The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar taking place the same day in Cardiff. The week of Series 9 itself was certainly an eventful one, with all the episode titles for the series and teasing synopses/major spoilers (delete as applicable) released in one big rush of news on the 14th.
On the 16th, a rumour hit that Jenna Coleman would be leaving Doctor Who to star in a Queen Victoria biopic show by ITV, which about half the internet dismissed as nonsense. Just two days later, she appeared on Nick Grimshaw’s BBC Radio 1 show… and confirmed that she was indeed leaving in Series 9 and had already left the TARDIS, but wouldn’t reveal exactly when she would leave. On the same day, a more substantial prequel titled The Doctor’s Meditation was released, seeing the Doctor making his home in the medieval castle we found him partying in with a tank in the following episode.
As 19th September dawned, Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman were spotted recreating the iconic Beatles pose at Abbey Road in order to promote Series 9, which premiered that evening with the expansive The Magician’s Apprentice, which saw the shock (well, it was accidentally revealed earlier that day by a leaked episode 2 trailer, but the point still stands) return of Davros. And the following week saw that story conclude with The Witch’s Familiar, kickstarting the series…
Best September moment: The Doctor and Davros square off on Skaro in a surprisingly revealing extended villainous dialogue.
October saw a whopping five new episodes, and it’s safe to say they were eventful ones. October, in many ways, was the month of the cliffhanger – the reveal of the Doctor’s ghost in Under the Lake, Ashildr’s immortality in The Girl Who Died and the Zygon Clara shooting down the Doctor’s plane in The Zygon Invasion. There were indeed other episodes without cliffhangers, with the fourth-wall breaking Before the Flood and the return of Ashildr in The Woman Who Lived, so October was a month with something for everyone.
Outside the flurry of new episodes, there was the heavily hyped announcement of a new spin-off set at Coal Hill School to air in 2016, titled Class and the separate announcements from Big Finish of two new audio series – one starring John Hurt as the War Doctor, and one starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate as the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble. It’s safe to say that October was a pretty good month for Big Finish.
Best October moment: “I know why I chose this face, and I know what it’s for!” – The mystery behind the Twelfth Doctor’s familiar face is revealed in The Girl Who Died.
Another month, another batch of four brand new episodes. If October was the month of the cliffhanger, November was almost certainly the month of Capaldi and Coleman, featuring Capaldi’s extended anti-war speech in The Zygon Inversion, his heartbroken reaction to Clara’s death in Face the Raven… and, well, Heaven Sent, which just about only featured Capaldi. For Jenna Coleman, the month saw her turn as the Zygon Bonnie in The Zygon Inversion, her tragic death in Face the Raven and her inspiring pep talk in Heaven Sent, so November was a pretty great month for the duo. There was also Sleep No More, but we’ll leave it at that.
Other things, aside from new episodes, did happen in November. In mid-November, the official Doctor Who Festival took place at the ExCel in London, as thousands off fans congregated to watch cast and crew explain the making of the show. And despite the fact that Series 9 was a couple of episodes off its conclusion, publicity for the Christmas Special began to ramp up with the release of an extended synopsis, first picture and the announcement of comedians Matt Lucas and Greg Davies as guest stars.
Best November moment: “It’s always the same, when you fire that first shot!” – In a month of impressive performances, Peter Capaldi gives a scintillating ten minute speech to talk both humans and Zygons away from starting a war.
And we’re just about up to the present day! December began with news that the Christmas Special would have the unusual title of The Husbands of River Song, and that announcement was followed by a flurry of new promotional pictures throughout the week. With so much Christmas news, it was kind of easy to forget that Series 9 still had one episode left – and sure enough, the series concluded on the 5th with Hell Bent, seeing the sort-of-revival of Clara, the return of Gallifrey and a new sonic screwdriver, finally ending the sonic sunglasses shenanigans.
And on Christmas Day, River Song reunited with the Doctor for a surprising final night at the Singing Towers of Darillium in The Husbands of River Song, finally filling in that notable gap in her timeline…
Best December moment: The Doctor and Clara say farewell to each other in the emotional finale, Hell Bent.
So that’s 2015 – a year that’s brought us plenty of excitement, surprises and of course, controversy. With yet another big year for the show over, where do we go from here?