The premiere of Doctor Who – The Woman Who Fell To Earth, was held on Monday 24th September 2018 in front of a select audience of journalists, school children, cast members and the production crew. It was quite a thrilling experience for most of the audience since, like the invited guests, this was the first time that a number of the cast and crew had seen the episode. There was a sense of excitement all around.
After the screening, a Q&A, hosted by BBC’s Steph McGovern was held with the panel consisting of the new showrunner, Chris Chibnall; the new Doctor, Jodie Whittaker; and her companions, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill. And while everyone was still very tight-lipped about the whole series, we were able to gain a bit more insight into the new Doctor and Series 11.
In this first of our three-part series, we learned a bit more from the new showrunner – Chris Chibnall. The second and third parts will be focused on the Doctor and her companions. After The Woman Who Fell To Earth airs, we’ll post just a bit more info that was deemed a bit too spoilery for now.
Chris Chibnall – A Life Long Fan
From the onset of the Q&A, it was clear that Chris Chibnall dearly loves Doctor Who. It was also quite apparent that the life-long fan found making this series a very moving experience. There was a tear or two hiding in his eye as he spoke about Doctor Who, his pride in his production team and the cast. Clearly series 11 has been a labour of love for this man whose work has received numerous comments and criticisms by fans, even before the first episode airs.
“It’s very emotional. I first saw Doctor Who when I was four. To sit here and see that and to hear…” the music “…at the end. It’s really emotional,” stated Chibnall. He went on to add how proud he was of his team and the finished product. “It exceeds what I hoped we could achieve. That’s because of a lot of people in this room. You hope you’re going to get brilliant people and we did. I’m so thrilled to introduce them to everyone. We all feel really, really, excited to show this to people. And yes, it’s exceeded what we hoped we could do.”
It’s a Team Effort
Throughout the evening, Chibnall was gracious to his production team and his cast. He frequently praised his crew and cast, particularly Jodie Whittaker, the new Doctor.
“You need lots of producers, brilliant directors, great assistant directors,” Chibnall gushed about the creative team. He went on to complement his star. “And Jodie, she’s an incredible ensemble member, but she’s also a great leader. She sets the tone. People can laugh and have an amazing time, but then they do brilliant work. So, when the cameras roll, the work is serious, everybody’s really prepared.“
Chibnall included the importance of the guest stars and setting an environment that everyone appreciates. Jodie, Bradley, Mandip and Tosin, you all “have made such strong friendships with the guest cast through the year. Only some of whom we can talk about.” He continued to discuss the fun atmosphere on set that made it a comfortable for everyone. “It was essential for us coming in because obviously there are new guest actors coming in every week, it’s got to be a great place for actors to come and do amazing things they’re never going to be able to do anywhere else on television or probably, half the time, in a film. They have a great time. They do great parts and they have a real laugh.”
The panel joked and kidded around with each other and frequently pulled in some of the production team in the audience. Evidently, it was a fun and happy place to work for nine months.
Something New and Scary
There seems to be a tradition that each regeneration episode features a new monster. Indeed, that has been true for series since the reboot. Tennant’s Doctor faced the Sycorax, Smith battled a crack in the wall and Prisoner Zero, and Peter Capaldi encountered the Half-faced man and a dinosaur. Perhaps the need for something new in the regeneration episode is caused by the demand to introduce the new Doctor, and in this case the new companions, to the audience. Regardless, once again we had a creature to battle. And while we aren’t going to discuss it until after the 7th, we are confident that a few children will be hiding behind their sofas this next Sunday.
So, the question is, where does the idea for these new species come from? Chibnall wasn’t too sure himself. “I don’t know where that came from. I’ve thought about that, but I was like ‘Oh yeah, but can we do that? Are we allowed to do that?’ Often in conversation, myself and Sam (Hoyle), the co-executive producer as the storyline comes together. It’s conversations like that where it comes out and just wandering around late at night going ‘well you could put that in Doctor Who. Oh, that would be good.'”
One of the children in the audience wanted to know how do you make an alien monster? And Chibnall was more than pleased to answer. “Oh, that’s a really good question. There’s a number of people involved in this process. So obviously they start off in the script as a description. A company called Millennium make the prosthetics join in. The CG is created by Double Negative who are our special effects company. A lot of people do drawings of what they imagine it’s going to look like. Jamie Childs, the director, had a lot of input too. He had a lot of input into how the monsters would look. There’s a lot of conversations between lots of people. Not forgetting the design department and the makeup department as well. It involves a lot of people being brilliant and questioning ‘What do we want it to be’ and ‘How scary can we make it?'”
What to look Forward to in Series 11
Chibnall loves the big reveal – the surprise of not knowing what is going to happen in a television programme and the sense that the entire viewing audience will be discussing it the next day with their friends, family and colleagues. Given this age of spoilers and box sets on Netflix, a nation captivated by a series all at the same time is rare, but Chibnall is definitely attempting to recreate this. He followed that path with Broadchurch, and he is trying once again with Series 11.
The showrunner also pleaded with the audience not to reveal any details for Episode 1 to give everyone a chance at seeing Doctor Who with fresh eyes. “I hope you all felt the special feeling in the room of not knowing. I felt that watching Bodyguard (the BBC One series that starred Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes). I felt that when Broadchurch (the ITV series starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman) was going out.” Chibnall stressed once again to keep the secrets and promised that the silence would pay off. “It’s really important, but I promise you, we’ve got episodes that live up to and do different things to that. What we’ve tried to do is just show the range of what Doctor Who can do, visually, emotionally, geographically, time and space. The whole range of everything.”
But he was prepared to describe a small portion of what was in store for the audience. “I hope The Woman Who Fell To Earth demonstrates everything that you’ve come to love about Doctor Who. There’s fun, there are monsters, there’s action-adventure, there are characters, and there’s an amazing new Doctor. I think just turning up every Sunday night for a new adventure is the big thing, but also these guys go on big emotional journeys across the series, as well.”
And while he couldn’t be drawn into discussion much about Episode 2, he did confirm that we’ll be off-world on alien planets in the past and the future. “I’m not going to say anything about episode two. A lot more action, adventure, alien planets, loads of monsters, historical periods…”
And finally, what about the fans’ fears that all the aliens, villains and monsters that they know and love would be gone forever? He did give fans hope for the future with plans for the Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels, and more.
“It’s not like a ‘forever’ rule in Doctor Who. It’s just in this year’s series, we’ve got new monsters and new faces. It is relatively well-known, I’m as big a fan of the show as anyone. There’s a lot of creatures we would like to bring back. We might do that in the future, but just not this year.” So don’t panic. They’ll be back.
There are a few more tidbits from Chris Chibnall, but you’ll just have to wait until after The Woman Who Fell To Earth airs. In the meantime, our next post about the new Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, will be out next week.
Don’t Miss – Doctor Who Premiere
Doctor Who returns to BBC One with ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’ on Sunday 7th October at 18:45pm, starring Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor, Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan, Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair, and Bradley Walsh as Graham O’Brien. The episode will be simulcast on BBC America airing 13:45 pm EDT. For other countries around the world, check your local listings.