We got the briefest of teasers for the upcoming 13th season (or series) of Doctor Who during San Diego Comic-Con in July, hinting at the return of some of the show’s most classic villains. Now we finally have the full official trailer, and it’s a doozy, particularly for hardcore fans, with glimpses of the Ood, the Cybermen, the Sontarans, and the Weeping Angels—for my money the most frightening and disturbing creatures the series has yet invented. Just the brief shot of them in this trailer gave me chills. And apparently there will be alien creatures known as the Ravaegers. This will also, alas, be Jodie Whittaker’s last full season as the Doctor.
(Spoilers for the 2021 New Year’s Day special below.)
We last saw Whittaker’s Doctor on New Year’s Day earlier this year in the special episode “Revolution of the Daleks,” which found her being held in a Judoon prison. Her faithful companions—Yasmin (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Graham (Bradley Walsh)—were back in Sheffield, searching for her. Meanwhile, some corrupt politicians were building a defense drone squad by cloning the remains of the Reconnaissance Scout Dalek the Doctor and her compassions encountered in the 2019 New Year’s Day special, “Revolution.” Naturally, wacky, world-threatening highjacks ensued.
Ultimately, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) sprung the Doctor from her cell and reunited her with her TARDIS, and the gang defeated the Dalek threat. Ryan and Graham opted to stay on Earth rather than return to the TARDIS, leaving the Doctor and Yaz to continue on with their adventures alone. But not for long! John Bishop will be joining the series as new companion Dan Lewis. (We catch a few glimpses of his chiseled features in the new trailer.)
This 13th season was particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with only eight planned episodes, rather than the usual 13. Ultimately, showrunner Chris Chibnall decided to make the season just six episodes, with a complete narrative arc across them all, rather than the episodic structure that has been more typical of the series. (It’s not unprecedented, however. The Trial of the Time Lord in 1986 was also one complete narrative.)
“There were two ways you could go,” Chibnall said at SDCC of his decision. “You could go, ‘Let’s do lots of tiny little episodes in one room, with no monsters,’ or we could throw down the gauntlet and do the biggest story we’ve ever done.” According to Chibnall, this series will be “the most ambitious thing we’ve done.”
Collectively, the six-episode arc has been given the subtitle Flux. There will also be three special episodes that will air next year. Chibnall will step down as showrunner at the same time Whittaker concludes her run as the Doctor, presumably in the third special episode (which is traditionally when the Doctor’s current incarnation regenerates into a new form).
The BBC is bringing back Russell T. Davies—who revived the series in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor—as showrunner. It’s anyone’s guess who will fill Whittaker’s shoes. But she definitely put her unique stamp on the role (despite some less then stellar material to work with), and it’s going to be a tough act to follow.
Doctor Who: Flux premieres on October 31, 2021 on BBC and BBC America.
Listing image by YouTube/BBC