2015 in Doctor Who saw a brand new series in which Clara Oswald departed, the Doctor found himself trapped in a castle for millions of years and Gallifrey finally returned. We left the Doctor in 2015 for the year on the planet Darillium, set to share one final night (of 24 years) with River Song before her death…
2016 was a much, much quieter year for Doctor Who in which just one episode aired a year after the 2015 Special, marking the longest period between episodes since the show’s return in 2005. Still, while just one Special hit our screens, 2016 saw some major shifts behind the scenes as the long-term future of the show was laid out, and several episodes of the upcoming season were filmed as Doctor Who gears up for a spring return next year.
In this review of the year, we’ll look at everything that happened in the world of Doctor Who on the show’s long break, from the major announcement of January to the return of the Doctor in December.
As 2016 dawned, the show settled in for the long hiatus after The Husbands of River Song. With filming of new episodes still a few months away, and the fandom uncertain about just when those episodes would hit screens, the majority of January was a sleepy one, free of any significant news. Until…
On 23 January, the BBC broke their silence and revealed everything there was to know about the short-term future of the show. Steven Moffat’s departure after a tenth series, to be aired in Spring 2017 was announced, confirming that all 2016 would offer in terms of episodes would be the traditional Christmas Special. Moffat would be replaced by Chris Chibnall, familiar to fans both from his numerous episodes such as 42 and The Power of Three, and from his showrunning work on Broadchurch, one of David Tennant’s biggest post-Who projects, for Series 11 in 2018. Some fans were delighted, while some were aghast, as per usual.
After the bombshell news of Moffat’s departure and Chibnall’s hiring, February didn’t have an awful lot to offer to follow that up. Steven Moffat, in recognition for his services to drama, was awarded an OBE in the Royal Honours, while filming for Series 10 was pencilled in for May. And really, that was about it. Not a very eventful month, this.
As Class neared the start of production, some major news from the spin-off marked the beginning of March as Peter Capaldi was announced to guest star as the Twelfth Doctor (unofficially). On the other side of the month, some rare mainstream awards attention came the show’s way, as Michelle Gomez was nominated for a Supporting Actress BAFTA for her work as Missy. She unfortunately lost out when the awards themselves rolled around, but it was certainly the thought that counted here. That, and the fact that it was finally some noteworthy news counted too.
Four months into the year, and things began to hot up a little. The month began with the thrilling news that Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley would be the new companion – news that was only made slightly less exciting by the fact that the news came on April 1, and that we made it up. Sorry.
A few days later, however, real news arrived – not for Doctor Who, but for Class, as the full cast of Greg Austin, Sophie Hopkins, Fady Elsayed, Vivian Oparah and Katherine Kelly was announced, with showrunner Patrick Ness teasing a dark storyline as filming got underway on the spin-off in Cardiff.
A couple of weeks later, and the quiet hiatus received a jolt of energy as an announcement was announced. The announcement in question was that the new companion would be revealed that Saturday during, of all things, a Manchester United match on the BBC. A couple of days, some teasing images and furious betting on the identity of the companion later, and actress Pearl Mackie was confirmed as the companion, Bill, in a fun little short titled Friend from the Future in which the Doctor and a very confused Bill faced off against the Daleks. The short clip was acclaimed by fandom, with rave reviews from fans on Facebook such as “Am I the only one who absolutely hated that character?”.
After a few quiet months, the heartwarming enthusiasm for the show was back.
Throughout May, a new era of Doctor Who was underway in Cardiff as Series 10 began pre-production. This was hard to tell from a fan standpoint, however, as May proved to be another ness vacuum of a month. Doctor Who Magazine reached their milestone of 500 issues, while the new Torchwood audios from Big Finish were announced to include Captain Jack, Gwen and Ianto once more.
That was all that happened month of May 2016 in Doctor Who.
Finally, in June, Series 10’s production kicked into tangible action. In the middle of the month, Matt Lucas was confirmed to return as a regular fixture as Nardole, with Lucas stating that he was “chuffed to bits” to return (for American readers, this translates as “stoked as hell”, or something), while the writers for the first four episodes were confirmed as (shock) Steven Moffat, Frank Cottrell Boyce, returning after In the Forest of the Night, Sarah Dollard, returning after Face the Raven, and newbie Mike Bartlett.
A week later, on Monday 20 June, cameras began rolling on Series 10, as scenes were filmed with Pearl Mackie at Cardiff University, revealing that Bill would be attending a university when the Doctor meets her in the premiere episode. Matt Lucas began filming soon after as Nardole, confirming that the Doctor’s valet would be appearing in Series 10 right from the get-go. After a long wait, the Doctor’s newest adventures were finally beginning their path to screens in 2017…
Filming continued throughout July on Block One of Series 10, comprising the first two episodes of the season, which involved the season’s first trip overseas for filming as production moved for a couple of days to Valencia’s Science Museum for scenes involving creepy robots. Meanwhile, in the strangest and most convoluted guest star saga yet, The Royle Family star Ralf Little was announced to guest star in the second episode, before the official account released a video of Little dismissing the rumours from the TARDIS set. This was all very, very confusing.
Right at the end of the month, production reached its first milestone, with Block One completing its filming and Block Two gearing up to film in the next month. Slowly but surely, news was coming back.
In short order, the beginning of August saw the beginning of filming for episodes three and four of the season, with location filming for episode three confirming a wintery Edwardian setting constructed right in the middle of blazing summer. As for Mike Bartlett’s episode four, Series 10 received its first high profile guest star as Poirot himself, David Suchet was confirmed to play an enigmatic character called the Landlord. August, much like the other months, was mostly quiet, but with reminders that bigger things were coming very soon indeed.
September was a month for Class on many ways, as the spin-off took centre stage throughout September’s news. Filming wrapped up at the very beginning of the month, with the official social media accounts booting up soon after. This all presaged the announcement at the end of the month, where Class was announced for a 22nd October airdate, and Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor was confirmed for an appearance in the first of the two-episode premiere on BBC Three.
In Doctor Who news, things were quieter, but not eventless. A ‘major announcement’ teased by the BBC turned out to be the imminent release of missing Second Doctor serial The Power of the Daleks using animation and the original audio from the recording, giving fans their first slice of ‘new’ Who all year. More was soon to come, however…
October began with a trip for the casts and crew of both Doctor Who and Class to New York for Comic Con, and the panels proved to be enlightening for both series. For Doctor Who, the Christmas Special was announced to be titled The Return of Doctor Mysterio, starring Justin Chatwin as a superhero, which was swiftly followed up by the release of a sneak peek behind the scenes of the episode. And for Class, the news in question was the first full trailer for the show, featuring glimpses at Peter Capaldi’s guest appearance and the monsters that the Coal Hill students would be facing.
Class itself premiered on Saturday 22nd October with two episodes dropping on BBC Three at once, and followed that up with episode three the following week. While the spin-off didn’t quite catch fire in the way that the pre-release hype suggested, it proved to be a likeable and intriguing addition to the Doctor Who universe anyway – one that carved out a small but enthusiastic fandom.
November saw Class reach and then surpass the midway points, releasing four episodes that went from alien planets to (literally) the middle of nowhere to metaphysical worlds, while Doctor Who geared up for the following month’s Christmas Special as the BBC’s festive promotional push got underway. An extended glimpse at The Return of Doctor Mysterio was released on Children in Need night featuring the Ghost’s heroic entrance (rave reviews from enthusiastic fans included “what happened to my favourite show :(“), while the episode was confirmed for an early Christmas Day slot.
And looking beyond the immediate future, Series 10’s production continued to tick over with the announcement of the return of Rona Munro, who penned Seventh Doctor story Survival to Doctor Who with an episode titled The Eaters of Light, while Twelfth Doctor stalwart Jamie Mathieson was confirmed for his fourth round in the TARDIS, filming concurrently with Munro’s episode.
And finally, we catch up to the present day. December was the only month in 2016 in which we saw new Doctor Who, and fittingly most of the news emerging came from The Return of Doctor Mysterio in the run up to its Christmas Day air date. It wasn’t all Christmassy, however – Series 10 filming continued as production briefly moved to Tenerife and Michelle Gomez’ Missy was spotted back on set.
A full 366 days after his last appearance, the Doctor returned on Christmas Day with The Return of Doctor Mysterio, a Christmas Special paying homage to the old-fashioned heroics of comic-book movies like Superman and Spider-Man (fan raves included “RIP Doctor Who 1963-2016″). After a long wait, Doctor Who was back – and, from the looks of the exciting Series 10 trailer that followed the Special, there’s a hell of a lot to look forward to on the horizon.
So, that’s 2016 in Doctor Who. In a year that was, if nothing else, relentlessly eventful and dramatic everywhere else, Doctor Who had its quietest year in over a decade, even if there was plenty to enjoy and look forward to in these twelve months. With the long wait over, though, where do we go from here?
2017 will see a full new series with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, Pearl Mackie as Bill and Matt Lucas as Nardole, plus a Christmas Special that will mark the final episode written by Steven Moffat as showrunner. As mentioned throughout this post, filming has been underway since June with at least seven of the twelve episodes in the can already, and with the final two filming blocks set to have completed filming by the end of March. Series 10 will mark a return to the spring air dates of the first five seasons, and comments from cast and crew indicate that it’ll specifically arrive in April. As spring premieres for Doctor Who almost always line up with Easter dates, our educated guess for the premiere of Series 10 is Saturday 15th April, Easter Saturday, although that’s yet to be confirmed.
Series 10 will be 12 episodes like the previous two seasons, and the trailer shown at the end of the Christmas Special plus filming have indicated that the Doctor and Bill will visit a futuristic planet populated by smiling robots, a frozen Edwardian London, a creepy haunted house and a planet in which they’ll come into contact with other explorers. The Daleks will definitely be back, in a sequence that seems to recreate the Friend from the Future short used to introduce Pearl Mackie as Bill, but no other returning villains have been confirmed yet.
2016 saw a long, long wait – but 2017 holds surprises that might just make it all worth it…