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After a year away from our screens, 2017 will see the return of Doctor Who – and recent Christmas special The Return of Doctor Mysterio concluded with an exciting glimpse of what’s to come…
The main focus of this trailer is, of course, Bill, the new companion for this series. Seen here portrayed by Pearl Mackie, Bill seems to be a return to the style of companion we saw before Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner; a similar background to Rose or Ace, a similar irreverence to that of Donna, and so on and so forth. What’s most exciting, of course, is the fact that we’re seeing a new companion – one of the best aspects of Doctor Who is the continual process of change and renewal, and the ability to become a new show entirely every few years. Like the tagline for this season boasts, it lets us “see the universe anew” – and there’s something very exciting about that.
Bill is set to be accompanied – in at least “most episodes”, according to Steven Moffat, but possibly “all of them” – by Nardole, as played by Matt Lucas. Nardole has appeared twice already, in the Christmas specials The Husbands of River Song and The Return of Doctor Mysterio. Neither time, to be honest, has been a ringing endorsement for his continued presence in the series – his first appearance was a fairly small part, and the second a largely superfluous one (perhaps understandable, given he was added to the script at a late stage in development). At the minute, it seems to be the case that Nardole has been included largely because Matt Lucas is a talented comedian, a big name, and presumably a lot of fun to work with.
There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but I’m concerned about him taking the focus away from Bill – as the revived show’s first non-human companion, as well as being a comedic character played by a big-name star, Nardole commands a certain narrative weight that a new character wouldn’t. Hopefully the writers are able to ensure this ensemble cast functions properly, without side-lining anyone.
Most immediately obvious are the Daleks; the Doctor’s perennial foes, back once more. It seems that this is footage from the minisode that was released to announce Pearl Mackie’s casting in April of this year; it’ll be interesting to see whether or not the scene is lifted directly or has been adapted somewhat, particularly given the somewhat divisive reaction it prompted.
In any case, though, the return of the Daleks is almost a yearly tradition at this point – one which, I must admit, I’m starting to find a little tired. People have been talking about being tired of the Daleks for a while (even Steven Moffat himself had referred to them as the Doctor’s most reliably defeatable enemies), but the zenith of it for me personally was when I realised that I’d come to see the Daleks as an almost comforting source of familiarity and nostalgia, particularly as they’ve maintained the same design for over ten years now. It’s a bit of a shame that the choice wasn’t made (or couldn’t be made) to rest the Daleks for a year, allowing them to come back with a bang in a shiny new look under Chris Chibnall for series 11 in 2018.
Perhaps more interesting though is the apparent return of the Movellans – androids from the 1970s Tom Baker serial Destiny of the Daleks, which is typically regarded as a largely average story (it was ranked 154th out of 241 stories in the Doctor Who Magazine 50 year poll). I can’t imagine they would be particularly high on anyone’s list of fond memories, so presumably this is a return motivated by a genuine story reason rather than nostalgia. This is one to approach with healthy intrigue, I’d say.
Outside of the trailer, we’ve also had some news about the writers who’ll be contributing for this series. Some I’m not so excited about; Toby Whithouse in particular, whose two-part story last year left me feeling a little cold, is a choice I’m slightly wary of – although, of course, I’ve loved his previous efforts, so that might be a bit of a premature judgement. Similarly, Frank Cottrell Boyce, who’s previous story In the Forest of the Night was a bit lacking, is a pick that could go either way – but my fondness for his books means I’ve still got high hopes for this episode.
Rather wonderfully, much of the new talent that Doctor Who hired over the past few years has stuck around – Jamie Mathieson and Sarah Dollard in particular, both of whom have written some of the best episodes of Capaldi’s tenure. Also exciting is the fact that Rona Munro will be writing an episode; an acclaimed playwright in her own right, an interesting fact about Munro is that she’s the first writer from the classic series of Doctor Who to return to write for the revived show, having previously contributed Survival in 1989. It’s clear from this creative team that we’re in for a particularly strong set of episodes this year.
As much as I’m looking forward to “seeing the universe anew”, it seems like one thing is going to be consistent – Doctor Who is going to be fantastic in 2017.
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