It’s been nearly a year since Doctor Who was last on our screens. For a show that has consistently delivered one season per year since its relaunch in 2005, it’s been quite a noticeable absence, and it remains to be seen whether the show (which has seen a steady decline in ratings) can pick all its viewers back up when it returns in spring, 2017. Traditionally, Doctor Who airs in Fall/ Winter, leading up to its annual Christmas special, but this time, the Christmas episode will precede season 10.
Ratings drop or not, Doctor Who is still a show that entertains, and one that is a viewing staple for many. Despite its prolonged absence, there is still much to look forward to for season 10. Here’s what we know so far:
The Christmas Special
December 25th means lots of things to lots of people, but it’s also the day the Doctor Who Christmas special will air. The last time we saw the Doctor he was still without a companion after the loss of Clara Oswald. River Song accompanied him in the TARDIS for last year’s festive outing, but she’s not due to appear this year. Instead, the Doctor will join forces with a superhero called Doctor Mysterio, to be played by Justin Chatwin.
As is the tradition, expect this Christmas themed episode to be more light-hearted than a regular episode, with plenty of humor. It’s also likely that this will be a standalone episode rather than being fully connected to the forthcoming season, but it’ll still be good to have Doctor Who back – if only for a one off. BBC Children in Need’s charity fundraiser gave the first look at “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, as is tradition (see above), and though it was only brief, we did learn a few new things about the superhero: he has superhuman strength, he can fly, and he’s seemingly bullet-proof.
The Doctor’s Got a New Companion
Okay, so this news isn’t exactly new, but it’s still intriguing to see how Pearl Mackie will fit into the show when she makes her debut as Bill in season 10. So far, Mackie’s only working credits of note have been on stage, and she’s enjoyed critical acclaim for her role in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. But theater is a very different medium to TV, requiring a whole new set of skills. Will Mackie be able to deliver the subtle nuances of emotion that always need to be so exaggerated on stage? Hopefully. Not an awful lot is known about her character other the fact that she knows nothing of the Doctor or his world (s), and Mackie describes her as “cool, strong, sharp, a little bit vulnerable with a bit of geekiness thrown in.”
Missy is Back
As Missy, Michelle Gomez has firmly made her mark on the Doctor Who universe as the villain we all love to hate, or hate to love. She’s feisty, funny, dark and dangerous, and a hugely popular character. Therefore, it’s little surprise that Gomez returns as her villainous alter-ego for season 10; Doctor Who needs to bump up its ratings after season 9, and one of the ways they could do that would be to focus on fan favorites. The news has been confirmed by Gomez herself, though she didn’t elaborate on what exactly Missy might be up to. It’s rumored that season 10 will return to single episode storylines instead of the double bills we had during season 9, so we might only see Missy for one episode… but she does have a habit of coming back to haunt the Doctor, so let’s hope she’s feeling particularly evil.
Nardole also returns!
Matt Lucas made quite the impression as the bumbling, eccentric, yet endearing Nardole. So much so, in fact, that he’s been asked back, and not just for a one off guest appearance, either. Lucas will feature heavily in the Christmas special, and will then play a recurring role throughout season 10. Great news for fans who enjoy the more comedic side of Doctor Who; something that was lacking somewhat during season 9. The last time we saw Nardole was in the 2015 Christmas special, “The Husbands of River Song,” when River asked him to find a surgeon to operate on King Hydroflax. Nardole proudly returned with the Doctor, which was probably not quite the doctor River wanted. What he’ll get up to this time is anyone’s guess, but it would certainly be fun if he were to cross paths with Missy.
New Writers Are On Board
Steven Moffat has teased this before, promising that at least two “brilliant, prominent and amazing writers” would be penning episodes for Doctor Who season 10. One of those has since been confirmed as Mike Bartlett, a playwright who has enjoyed great critical acclaim for his stage works. More recently, Bartlett has written British TV series Doctor Foster, for which he has been awarded several accolades. The second new writer is yet to be confirmed but there is also a third name in the mix.
Technically, Rona Munro is not a new Doctor Who writer; she wrote for the final season of the old Doctor Who, when Sylvester McCoy was in charge of the TARDIS. However, this will mark the first time that one of the old writing team have returned to pen an episode of the show since it was relaunched in 2005. Munro’s episode will be the ninth in the season, and is titled “The Eaters of the Light.” Returning writers for this season include Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Jaime Mathieson, Sarah Dollard, and one other….
Mark Gatiss Could Be Writing an Episode
Always a popular choice, Gatiss has written an episode for season 10, and it’s rumored to be a follow up to 2015’s “Sleep No More,” which was the only standalone episode of season 9. The episode featured the rather intimidating Sandmen, whom Gatiss wishes to revisit. He has previously stated that since the Doctor technically lost in that episode, it needs closure. Gatiss has also praised the Christmas episode, written by Moffat, saying it made him cry. Moffat has also penned the first episode of the season, as well as the final three.
Not all directors are confirmed as yet, but one name that sadly won’t be appearing, is Peter Jackson. The Lord of the Rings director has made it well known that he loves Doctor Who, and would be willing to direct an episode, but scheduling is proving impossible, not to mention the fact that Jackson is used to working with a larger budget than the BBC can possibly provide.
This Season is Moffat’s Last
Going forward, we can expect big changes (more on that in a moment). Moffat will officially step down from his showrunner role after the 2017 Christmas special, ready for incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall to take over from the start of season 11 in 2018. Moffat admits to feeling a sadness about leaving Doctor Who, but he’s also excited (as most are) about the prospect of Chibnall taking over. There’s really no denying that Doctor Who could do with some fresh energy right now. Since taking over from Russell T. Davies, Moffat has undeniably worked very hard to continue the show’s popularity, and to grow its appeal to a global market, but recent seasons have not held the same appeal or sense of excitement for many. Chibnall already has experience with writing for the show, which should help in his takeover. While Moffat has been working on season 10, Chibnall is overseeing his final season of U.K. drama Broadchurch, which he’s been helming since 2013.
Is Peter Capaldi leaving too?
The talk of whether Capaldi might exit the show at the same time as Moffat has been rumbling ever since the showrunner announced his departure. It made logical sense; by the end of season 10, Capaldi will have been the Doctor for three seasons, the same length of time as David Tennant and Matt Smith. The actor himself has said that he knows he can’t last forever, and hinted that the time might be coming where he had to say goodbye, so everything was pointing in that direction. Then came Capaldi’s revelation that he has been asked to stay on past season 10, and though he didn’t say whether he’d accepted or not, Moffat said he had no reason to assume he was writing out a Doctor at the end of season 10. So… he’s staying, then?
Well, maybe not. If recent reports are to be believed, the BBC want Chibnall to take over Doctor Who with an entirely clean slate, meaning a new Doctor and a new companion. Yes, that’s right, Mackie might only last for one season. In a show that has suffered badly from dwindling ratings, the arrival of Chibnall really could give the BBC the chance to make their show great again. While Capaldi’s acting has been praised, he’s not really ingratiated himself with an audience – perhaps in part because the writing has been considerably weaker in recent seasons. There’s a chance that Moffat will be pulling out all the stops for his final season, but a clean slate of new Doctor, companion, and showrunner would give Doctor Who a chance to shine once more.
While We’re Waiting for Season 10, There’s Always Class
If you’re missing the Doctor Who universe being on your screen, the BBC has a new spinoff arriving soon. Class is currently being shown online in the U.K., with a new episode dropping each week, and it will make its way over to BBC America in early 2017. Class focuses on a group of sixth form students (U.K. equivalent of High School Juniors and Seniors) at Coal Hill School; the same school as Clara Oswald taught at, and one which has often featured in Doctor Who over the years. Thanks to all the sci-fi activity taking place at the school, the atmosphere around it has thinned, leaving it as a hotspot for alien invasion. So far, Class has garnered strong reviews in the U.K., and it’s definitely worth watching. The first episode features a cameo from the Doctor, and he’s on fine form, too.
It might not be the show it once was, and there’s still a wait until April, when Doctor Who season 10 is expected to air, but there’s certainly still a lot to look forward to.
Doctor Who will return to the BBC and BBC America for a Christmas special, followed by season 10 in 2017.