Series 12 once again sees new writers and directors join the Doctor Who team. Over the past couple of months Blogtor Who has been finding out more about these new faces and just why we should be excited to have them on board.
Emma Sullivan is the last of the new directors to debut this year, helming two episodes – Can You Hear Me? and The Haunting of Villa Diodati. She’s also one of the freshest faces to step behind the camera this season, while also being one of the most celebrated. She may, on the one hand, have fewer television directing credits than some of her fellow Doctor Who directors. But she’s nearly unique in being nominated for awards at both the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals.
Sullivan began her career in 2004 with a number of short films including Nut?, Walking to Nairobi, and After Tomorrow. And like many young directors she took pro-active steps to make things happen for herself by writing and developing her own scripts with which to hone her craft. She was rewarded with a prestigious Palm d’Or nomination for Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival for After Tomorrow. While the same film also won at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. That would be an impressive enough highlight on any CV. But Sullivan hit such highs again when her documentary, Into the Deep, was nominated at the 2020 Sundance Festival. Sullivan’s meticulous exploration of the murder of journalist Kim Wall by inventor Peter Madsen aboard his mini-submarine cast an unsensationalist light on one of the most disturbing cases of recent times.
Sullivan’s capacity for both tension and human understanding makes her a natural addition to the Doctor Who team
But Sullivan has also paid her dues on television before winning her place with the Doctor Who production team. Between 2012 and 2013 she directed fifteen episodes of evergreen BBC daytime soap Doctors. More recently, she moved to directing prime time material with runs on Holby City and Silent Witness. Her episodes of the latter, incidentally, including the familiar face of Ingrid Oliver (Osgood) as DI Briggs.
Considering the claustrophobic tension she’s demonstrated herself a master of in After Tomorrow, teamed with her instinct for the human heart, it’s perhaps no wonder she’s been selected for two of the darkest, most mysterious episodes this season. After all, tonight’s Can You Hear Me? featuring the TARDIS team haunted by their greatest fears. While The Haunting of Villa Diodati revisits the dark and stormy night of Frankenstein’s creation. And Emma Sullivan appears to be the woman with the perfect spark to bring them to life. If she returns for Series 13, she may well get to embrace her scatalogical sense of humour (The Stick centres on the creation of a story so boring it can kill, and The Hole on a man who wakes up one morning with no anus.)
Sullivan’s short films are available to stream for free on her official website and are a perfect illustration of just how much she brings to the world of Doctor Who.
Next up for Sullivan, post-Doctor Who, is the upcoming BBC series based on Terry Pratchett’s beloved series about The Watch.
Doctor Who continues at 7.10pm next Sunday on with Can You Hear Me?
From ancient Syria to present day Sheffield, and out into the wilds of space, something is stalking the Doctor and her friends. As Graham, Yaz and Ryan return home to see friends and family, they find themselves haunted by very different experiences. Who is the figure calling from beyond the stars for help, and why? And what are the fearsome Chagaskas terrorising Aleppo in 1380? To find the answers, Team Tardis embark on a mission that forces them to face their darkest fears.
Series 12 stars Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham), Mandip Gill (Yaz) and Tosin Cole (Ryan), with Chris Chibnall as Showrunner and Matt Strevens Executive Producing. Can You Hear Me? guest stars Clare-Hope Ashitey (Rakaya), Buorn Tihngang (Tibo) and Ian Gelder. It’s written by Charlene James and Chris Chibnall, and directed by Emma Sullivan.