Doctor Who is changing things up when it returns later this year. As opposed to single-episode adventures with some thematic ties to one another, Season 13 will be one big story, Head Writer Chris Chibnall revealed during the show’s Comic-Con@Home virtual panel. It is a new approach for the new series, which began in 2004, but the classic Doctor Who attempted a season-long arc twice. 1978’s “The Key to Time” saw the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companions hunting down segments of the titular object — which could be used to restore cosmic balance or through the universe into absolute chaos. 1986’s “The Trial of the Time Lord” saw Sixth Doctor Colin Baker put on trial by his own people on charges which, in the end, were false and part of a cover-up for something other malfeasance on the Time Lords’ part.
In the 1990s, Tom Baker expressed misgivings about a season-long story as it “fatigues the players,” but considering the changes to Doctor Who‘s format since the ’80s, an eight-part adventure may work out. Or, it may up like “The Trial of the Time Lord,” which ended up seeing both the star and de factor head writer replaced. Either way Chibnall said the story is the “most ambitious” thing he’s tried since taking over as head writer.
Joining The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) on this bold storytelling journey is John Bishop as Dan Lewis, the latest human to step aboard the TARDIS. “It’s an absolute dream come true to be joining Doctor Who, and I couldn’t wish for better company than Jodie and Mandip.,” he said. “It’s different than anything I’ve ever done before.” His early scenes were all set inside the TARDIS set, which made him feel more a part of the show. He was also welcomed on location when he found fans in costume waiting to see filming.
Thanks to the unusual format, the season will feature guest stars who recur across several episodes. Although Chibnall was reticent to name the guest cast, he did reveal, eventually, that Game of Thrones‘ Jacob Anderson will play someone called Vinder. “It’s a real dream to be part of Doctor Who,” Anderson said in a pre-taped clip. Few details were revealed about the character — beyond the fact he will have a ship of his own — but a photo released by BBC America gives us a real big mid-80s Doctor Who vibe:
“I’d written for him before on Broadchurch,” Chibnall said of casting Anderson. “He’s a gorgeous actor … so I was thinking about this character and he was the first person who came to mind. He has that humanity, that warmth, but he can also play action hero. He makes you root for him and he breaks you hear.” Gill noted that because his character recurs in the season, she had more of a chance to get to know Anderson, which Whittaker claimed led to some of the production staff intimating their animated discussions.
Asked about the advice Whittaker may have given to the guest cast, she said it was important to make actors comfortable with the scale and tone of Doctor Who. “We play pretend for a living,” Whittaker said. “And this is the floor to live out all the bold and creative and, I suppose, exciting and nerve-wracking decisions you can’t make [on other shows].”
During a short fan Q&A, Whittaker said she is excited to see fans respond to “interaction with old monsters” — the answer Gill was going to use. Of course, no monsters were revealed, but one can safely assume some Daleks will appear.
“There’s one in particular that I’m so excited [for],” Gill teased.
Doctor Who returns later this year.