This is Jodie Whittaker’s last season as the Doctor, and this year it is something different for Thirteen. Series 13 is an overarching story told in six chapters starting this Sunday, 31st October, with The Halloween Apocalypse.
Flux, as this series’ story is named, spans the breadth of time and space as the Doctor embarks on a journey of self-discovery set amongst the backdrop of old familiar foes along with new creatures whose goal is unknown.
As part of the promotional information for the series, Jodie answered a few questions about the film of this series and what we can expect with this new long-form adventure for the Doctor and her companions, Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop).
How did it feel filming your last series during COVID?
We started filming late because of COVID, so starting was a tentative time because none of us had shot during the pandemic. So knowing it was my last, I knew it would be very different because we weren’t able to travel; we couldn’t be tactile in that way we were. But what was immediately reassuring is as soon as you got on set, no matter if the logistics or the face of the show seemed different because of masks and all of that, all of the heart and all the love was still there, and it was still great fun. We were able to be safe as we could be and as caring as we could be and not lose the atmosphere on the set. It was such a pleasure to be around people, so I was delighted! It was emotional to start with because you hadn’t seen anyone, and everyone has gone through so much to get to the first day, and you want to make sure you’re not the person to make a mistake as the domino effect can be so catastrophic on the set.
Also, it was the longest time I hadn’t seen Mandip!
Did you approach anything differently coming to a serialised story?
I don’t think so. As an actor, you’re so used to things changing, so the change between serialisation and episode arcs doesn’t change your approach in any way – I could not quote what happened in what episode as I can see the whole story in its entirety. I just know we all start on a journey, where we go and how it pans out. The thing that’s most different is that it’s been almost twelve months (of filming), and it requires another type of stamina than I’ve ever had to find before.
Are you excited about how it will be for audiences to see the story portrayed that way?
Definitely. Obviously, for Whovians (the story) has played out in many different ways over the years, and I think it was great to have had the experience of both. It was definitely the right decision for us to start series eleven, my first series, in a way that was a jumping-off point for anyone that hadn’t watched it before. And this series certainly doesn’t exclude people that haven’t seen it, but it gives reason to go back and rediscover. It also has those brilliant cliffhanger moments and that, as actors and for the characters, it gives lots of different layers you can bring to it. You don’t want to play the endnote in the first episode because you know you’ve got this journey to go with a particular beat or particular emotion. Even with the serialisation, it’s still very episodic, and each episode has its world that is different from the rest. There may be characters you see again, but you certainly feel like you are taken through many different worlds and times like you would in our previous seasons.
Were there any memorable moments that stood out for you filming series thirteen?
For us, getting to know John (Bishop) has been wonderful. He came in at one hundred and ten (per cent) with his energy and enthusiasm. He’s been so much fun to be around. He’s been a massive team player. For us, we were still grieving Brad (Walsh) and Tosin (Cole), and for him to come in and not to fill anybody’s shoes and be his own person…we found a new dynamic that felt brilliant and so comfortable. I think the way you meet Dan and that whole introduction are really fun scenes. I think all the early scenes with him and Karvanista has been really fun to shoot. I’ve been lucky enough to work with new people, but I’ve been lucky enough to work with people I’ve worked with before. This is the third time I’ve worked with Jacob. I’ve worked with Annabel, we’ve played sisters before, and this was so lovely just to spend time with her. Thaddea Graham, I’ve never worked with Thaddea, and she blew me away from the read-through – just from Zoom. I was like, “That girl is phenomenal.” And that’s the thing, it can be your first interaction with people, or it can be an old friend stepping onset but what you always get at the end is that it’s like you’ve all known each other for years. Like I was in Kevin McNally’s company for about ten minutes, and I felt like I’d known him for twenty years. We’ve had to put certain safety precautions in place, but it hasn’t in any way dampened that kind of camaraderie. Other highlights are we’ve so many ensemble scenes, we’ve had some brilliant scenes with the likes of Craige Els, Craig Parkinson – we can feel so many people in a scene, and it can feel really epic, it’s been great.
Have you gotten used to being spotted everywhere by the fans, three series on?
I’m really lucky, as whenever I have a reaction, it’s always really joyous, and everyone is really warm and welcoming. The fans are the show – there’s no way a show can last this many years without loyalty and a fan base, and you don’t have the show without them. To have those interactions when you have them is wonderful.
What journey does the Doctor have in this series?
From where we’ve left her, I think self-discovery is the biggest journey the Doctor goes on in this series.
Can you tell us about any stunts you have in this series?
We’ve done a lot of wires this year, particularly for certain scenes in episode one. It was mine and Mandip’s first few days (on set). We started at the energy of a hundred, and then after two days, I was bruised and hurt and realised that this is why there are stunt doubles, as I am pathetic! You do a lot of flips as if you’re falling through space and have to spin yourself backwards in a rotation and make sure you don’t get tangled. It’s all wonderful as you don’t think at the time that you’ll be able to do it. I also do sword fighting in this, or maybe it is best described as avoiding being got by a sword – I really loved that. Stunts wise there is lots of action, but rather than jumping through cranes, it feels like a lot of falling through space!
There are many exciting monsters in this series -can you tell us about any that stand out for you?
The thing that’s fun about working with monsters that have been in it before but are new for me is that it makes you feel like you are getting your moment of history…like Sontarans. For me, it’s my first (as The Doctor), so that was great.
The prosthetics are amazing – do you get used to working with actors that you can’t recognise?
You forget that the make-up is on them after ten minutes as you’re so used to seeing them having a cup of tea and talking to people.
Why should people tune into series thirteen?
It’s bigger and better than ever. It’s my final (full) series. There’ll be questions asked, there’ll be answers, there’ll be exclamation marks and huge exclamation marks, and I think that in itself will pique your interest and pique your curiosity.
How would you describe the series in three words?
A self-discovery rollercoaster!
Flux – Chapter One: The Halloween Apocalypse
A universe-spanning adventure in space and time starring Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill and John Bishop. On Halloween, all across the universe, terrifying forces are stirring. From the Arctic Circle to deep space, an ancient evil is breaking free. And in present-day Liverpool, the life of Dan Lewis is about to change forever. Why is the Doctor on the trail of the fearsome Karvanista? And what is the Flux?
Doctor Who returns to BBC One and BBC iPlayer at 6.25pm on 31st October
The episode is also available on BBC America and other territories around the world.