In part one of our look back at 2017 in Doctor Who, we looked at the announcement of Peter Capaldi’s departure as the Twelfth Doctor and subsequently his final season in the role. Capaldi remained the Doctor for almost the enterity of the year, but the second half of 2017 arguably belonged to his surprising succesor.
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 2018.
July was perhaps the busiest month of the year for Doctor Who, and that manic pace began on the very first day of the month with the broadcast of the season finale, The Doctor Falls, as the Twelfth Doctor made his last stand and David Bradley was revealed as the first Doctor in a cliffhanger to tide the audience over until Christmas. With that, Series 10 was wrapped and the countdown clock to a new series reset, but fans didn’t have to wait long for the next big event.
14 July brought with it the sudden announcement that, following half a year of speculation, the identity of the Thirteenth Doctor would be confirmed during the Wimbledon final on BBC One two days later. And so began a frenzied 48 hours of betting and speculation, in which Jodie Whittaker quickly rose to the top, forcing fans to ponder whether the Doctor could become female for the first time. On 16 July, that speculation was confirmed as Whittaker was unveiled as the new Doctor to a viewing audience of millions. Predictably, social media exploded with competing sentiments of excitement and anger, but it would be excitement for the show’s leap forward that quickly became the prevailing response to the castign.
To cap off a relentless month, San Diego Comic Con saw a Doctor Who panel attended by cast and crew in which the title and trailer for Peter Capaldi’s final adventure, Twice Upon a Time, were confirmed, with new glimpses at David Bradley as the First Doctor and Mark Gatiss as the Captain, and definitely not a relative of the Brigadier. July really was a month with something for everyone to argue about.
With Series 10 wrapped, the new Doctor unveiled and months to wait until production began on Series 11, August was a predictably quiet follow-up to the excitement of July. Off-season news include speculation that Bradley Walsh would be a companion to the Thirteenth Doctor, which would soon be proved correct, and…
Well, that was roughly it. Things had to quieten down some time.
It didn’t get a lot more exciting in September, sadly. Months after every viewer had figured it out, spin-off Class was officially axed by BBC Three, while David Bradley was announced to be participating in new audio adventures for Big Finish as the First Doctor and a synopsis for Twice Upon a Time was released. Little enough happened that it could be summed up in one sentence.
October looked set to be another deathly quiet month in the world of Doctor Who, but the sleepy hiatus was interrupted on 23 October with the announcement of not one, not two, but three companions for the Thirteenth Doctor in Series 11 in the form of Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill. With production about to begin, Chris Chibnall’s first series was confirmed for an autumn 2018 release date, and the traditional run of twelve 45-minute episodes was changed to ten 50-minute instalments. Doctor Who‘s brand new era was finally beginning.
With the beginning of November, filming finally commenced on Series 11. Chris Chibnall’s famously guarded approach to spoilers ensured that glimpses into production were far more limited than normal, but some intrepid set-watchers captured images of Whittaker in the Twelfth Doctor’s tattered clothes as production centred on Sheffield – suggesting that the new Doctor would be spending her first days in a familiarly Northern environment.
On November 9, the BBC unveiled Jodie Whittaker’s colourful costume as the Doctor including unusual trousers and rainbow belts. Twitter’s fashion police were soon on the case. Keen observers also spotted a new-look TARDIS in the background of the image, foreshadowing the blue box’s explosive response to the regeneration in the Christmas Special.
Shifting focus back to the Twelfth Doctor, 17 November was Children in Need night, which meant the traditional preview clip for the Christmas Special – this time around, featuring a baffled First Doctor’s reaction to a new TARDIS look and his stunned response to the news that he wouldn’t be getting much younger. Preview screenings in the North of England for Twice Upon a Time were confirmed, and the beginning of the BBC’s promo campaign for their Christmas programming brought with it a new synopsis at the end of the month.
November was finally a month that you could write over a paragraph about.
It’s been a journey, but we’re almost at the present day. December was dominated by Twice Upon a Time and anticipation for the new Doctor who would reveal her face at the end of the Special, while Series 11 production continued so quietly that almost nobody noticed.
In non-Christmas news, surprising but heartening news came with the announcement that Series 9 would be receiving a four-disc soundtrack release in 2018 following incessent fan demands, with a whole glorious disc for the soundtrack of Heaven Sent, containing the ‘Breaking the Wall’ theme that would soon dominate Peter Capaldi’s very last scene as the Twelfth Doctor in the Christmas Special.
Finally, Christmas Day rolled around, with Twice Upon a Time seeing the final appearance of Peter Capaldi and the final writing credit for showrunner Steven Moffat. Appropriately, it was an episode filled with returns, from Bill Potts, to Nardole, to Clara, to the First Doctor, and, bafflingly, even to Rusty the Dalek from Into the Dalek. And with a typically explosive regeneration, a delighted grin and a subsequent fall out of the TARDIS, Twelve became Thirteen, and Jodie Whittaker stepped into the role of the Doctor.
To be continued…
2017 may have seen its fair share of silent months for Doctor Who, but it was certainly eventful and exciting where it counted. It also marked the beginning of, as ever, a long and arduous hiatus until the show returns.
2018 will see a new series of ten episodes with Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor, Tosin Cole as Ryan, Mandip Gill as Yasmin and Bradley Walsh as Graham. It’s not clear yet whether that run will see a Christmas Special, but considering that Twice Upon a Time was created, in part, to maintain Doctor Who‘s festive slot as an annual tradition, it’s likely that there will be one. The actual air date of the series is pretty unclear as of now – it’ll definitely be in autumn, and there have been whispers that it will be later in the season rather than sooner, suggesting a late September/mid October release. If we were to guess when Series 11 will begin, Saturday 13th October with a finale leading into Christmas would seem to be a plausible date, but it’s hard to tell exactly at this point in time.