Warning: Minor SPOILERS for Doctor Who season 10 ahead
Doctor Who returns to our screens this coming weekend. It’s been nearly 18 months since the end of season 9, and season 10 is highly anticipated for a number of reasons - not least because it will be the last full season with Peter Capaldi as The Doctor. His imminent regeneration included, there’s a lot of high points to look forward to in the tenth season, which showrunner Steven Moffat has hailed as a return to basics. Here's everything we know so far about what to expect.
The first episode of the new season is written by Moffat, and titled ‘The Pilot.’ It introduces Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts, the new companion, and she will board the TARDIS with the Doctor and Nardole (Matt Lucas). Bill has no prior knowledge of the Doctor, or of space and time travel, so we will be seeing a lot of firsts for her. She is in awe of everything, but also up for adventure. Her relationship with the Doctor is described as teacher/ student to begin with, as Bill comes to terms with a Universe far bigger than she has ever imagined. It is heavily rumored (and also vehemently denied) that this will be Mackie’s only season as the companion since incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall wants to start with an entirely clean slate.
A Return to Origins
Moffat has described Doctor Who season 10 as “starting the show again.” In part, this stems from Bill experiencing everything for the first time, but Moffat also describes 'The Pilot’ as Doctor Who in its purest form: the Doctor, Nardole, and Bill, thrown into a universe that they know nothing about, and having to deal with whatever comes their way. The tagline “A Time for Heroes” has been used in a lot of promotional material for this season, and Moffat explains that the trio have to become heroes because there is no alternative. This first episode sees them coming up against “killer puddles” and an age-old favorite - the Daleks.
A More Alien Doctor
Capaldi has already teased that we’ll be seeing a lot of the Doctor’s more alien side this season, a facet of his character that is often easy to forget. It will be brought to light by the arrival of Bill, with her innocence and confusion serving as a sharp contrast to a weary Time Lord who has seen it all. The Doctor is undoubtedly changed by the events of season 9, specifically the death of Clara Oswald, and in turn this causes him to worry over dragging Bill off on his adventures. His compassionate side is so very human that it’s easy to see why his alien origins are forgotten. However, there’s also Nardole in the TARDIS, another person who is familiar with time and space travel, so the Doctor has someone similar to him by his side.
Nardole is More Devious
Nardole is one of the more popular characters of recent years; played with lovable charm by Lucas. He’s endearing, funny, and sweet, but there hasn't been an awful lot to the character… until now, that is. With Nardole set to feature as a season regular, Moffat has expanded upon the character, giving him greater depth and some quirks and eccentricities that we haven’t seen before. Yes, he’s still bumbling, hard to please, and of course he still wears a duffel coat, but he also shows a darker side.
“He’s more textured, more three-dimensional. You couldn’t go through a whole series with him being as cartoonish as he was in The Husbands Of River Song,” Lucas explains.
Now that the Doctor and Nardole are in each other’s company a lot more, they bicker a lot, with Nardole not afraid to say what he thinks. He doesn’t approve of Bill’s arrival, but it’s not a jealousy issue, it’s just that he doesn’t see the point to humans. Moffat teases Nardole thus:
“[He’s not] the bumbling oaf he likes people to think he is - he’s slyer, more devious, more useful and he has a very shady past.”
Okay, so we all knew that already, but what’s interesting is how - and also when - he departs. Officially, Capaldi and Moffat both leave Doctor Who after the 2017 Christmas special. Certainly Moffat is directing (and we assume writing) that episode. However, Capaldi’s regeneration has already been teased in the season 10 trailer, which isn’t connected to the Christmas special, since the season will finish airing in July. So, the question is, does Capaldi start to regenerate at the end of season 10, episode 12, thereby meaning he is only in the Christmas special for the first few minutes before a new Doctor takes over? That’s a distinct possibility, but Capaldi says this regeneration is different than before. He says he knows what happens, but not how it happens. We’ll all just have to wait and find out.
How Many Monsters Can We Expect?
In short; a lot. Moffat gets excited about the monsters in Doctor Who, and so do we. As with all seasons, there’s some new ones and some old familiars. This time, there’s also the return of arguably the greatest villain of them all.
New monsters include;
Emojibots: Set to appear in episode 2, ‘Smile,’ the emojibots are contemporary and cute, but they hide a deadly secret. To keep smiling is the only way to stay alive, otherwise they’ll turn you into a skeleton. As seen in previous trailers, Bill is delighted to meet these modern aliens. How long before she changes her mind?
A Giant Serpent: In the shape of the Thames, no less (the squiggly, London part of it, that is). The giant serpent is the Doctor’s nemesis in episode 3, ‘Thin Ice.’ The monster lives at the bottom of the river in Victorian London. In the episode, the river is frozen and the serpent lies in wait, ready for cracks to appear in the ice. Sounds chilling.
“Shiver-making Creatures”: To appear in episode 4, ‘Knock Knock.’ Moffat hasn’t named the new monster for this episode, but he describes it thus: “I guarantee there are moments that will make you go “URGH!” as I’ve been looking at some of the effects for episode four and you think “Oh my god are we putting that on television?!” It’s really properly gross and magnificent.”
There’s also some evil Monks, and a new “Scottish creature” set to appear at some point in the series.
The Ice Warriors: They first appeared in 1967, when Patrick Troughton was the second Doctor. Since then, these reptilian humanoids have appeared at various points throughout Doctor Who history, most recently in 2013, in ‘Cold War.’ Up until now, the Ice Warriors have always been male. This time around, Moffat teases that the Ice Warriors have a “new wrinkle,” and they appear in an episode titled “The Empress of Mars.” That could well hint toward us meeting the first Ice Warrior Empress.
The Mondasian Cybermen: The original and still the best. The Mondasian Cybermen are properly scary Doctor Who monsters, and their return is bound to bring back memories of hiding behind the couch in terror. Their cloth faces, and clunky walk, is truly terrifying. Capaldi has been longing to go up against them, and has often spoken about them. It’s possible their appearance is a farewell gift for Capalidi, since they appear in the last two episodes. Will they be the cause of the Doctor’s regeneration?
The Daleks: The most classic of all Doctor Who monsters, The Daleks will appear in episode one, immediately giving Bill an insight into what her time with the Doctor might entail. Poor Bill; imaginve coming up against a Dalek on your first time in outer space. For Capaldi, this means he’s opening and closing the season with some classic baddies, but there’s even more to come.
Missy: Of course! Michelle Gomez has consistently proven herself as an excellent Doctor’s nemesis, so it’s fitting that she returns for Capaldi’s final season. The great thing about Missy is that she is completely unhinged, making her hilarious as well as downright scary. This time, Missy is about to have her world turned upside down, when she meets another incarnation of herself.
The Master Returns: This is really worth getting excited about. Arguably the greatest Doctor Who villain ever, John Simm was last seen on our screens as The Master, opposite David Tennant. Since then, Gomez has been the Master. So now, the past and the present join forces against the Doctor. Who knows how it will all play out? Simm has, apparently, spent a good deal of time filming in Cardiff, Wales, and on set, so it sounds as though his appearance is more than just a fleeting moment, and we can’t wait to see Gomez, Simm, and Capaldi face off against each other.
Episode 1 – ‘The Pilot’: The debut of Bill Potts, where she meets The Doctor, Nardole, Daleks, and killer puddles. Hopefully, a strong opener to the season.
Episode 2 – ‘Smile’: Featuring the aforementioned emojibots, who are not as cute and endearing as they seem
Episode 3 – ‘Thin Ice’: Set in 1814, Bill and The Doctor are enjoying themselves at a carnival in London, but there are strange lights swarming underneath the frozen River Thames, and something lurks deep beneath the surface of the lake.
Episode 4 – ‘Knock Knock’: Bill finds the perfect house to move into, ignoring the fact that the Landlord is a bit creepy and everything creaks. As described above, this episode features “shiver-making” creatures.
Episode 5 – ‘Oxygen’: The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole travel to deepest space, where oxygen is sold by the breath, and where the dead still walk.
Episode 6 – ‘Extremis’: Episodes 6, 7, 8 serve as a three-part episode, and this is the first part, where Missy returns. In the the Vatican’s secret library, there is an ancient book known The Veritas. Throughout history, anyone who has ever read it has immediately taken their own life. When a new translation appears online, the Doctor is called in to help. This episode hails the fist appearance of the Monks.
Episode 7 – ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’: Described as the Doctor taking a trip to a year when most of life is extinct on earth. Aliens wish to start an invasion, but they need the consent of The Doctor and his companions, first.
Episode 8 – ‘The Lie of the Land’: A Bill-centric episode; when the Doctor begins fighting on the wrong side, Bill realizes the world is gripped by delusion. It’s up to her to make the Doctor see the error of his ways.
Episode 9 – ‘The Empress of Mars’- An Ice Warrior hive on Mars, which is strongly suspected to introduce female Ice Warriors. Victorian soldiers also feature. In fact, this time it’s the humans, not the Ice Warriors, that are the invaders.
Episode 10 – ‘The Eaters of Light’: Bill and the Doctor travel to ancient Scotland, where they discover a doorway to the end of the world.
Episode 11- ‘World Enough and Time’: Time becomes the Doctor’s enemy in this double-bill, when he witnesses the death of someone he has sworn to protect. Friendship causes the Doctor to make a rash decision.
Episode 12- ‘The Doctor Falls’: The title says it all, really. Will this episode, following on from the events of episode 11, see the regeneration of the Doctor after his encounter with the Cybermen?
Doctor Who season 10 will air on BBC 1 and BBC America from April 15th, 2017.