Doctor Who Series 14 may be some time away, but the production team has already dropped some tantalising hints as to what we can expect from Ncuti Gatwa’s first season.
First, the showrunner Russell T Davies has confirmed that Doctor Who Series 14 will be quite different from the series that have come before. Speaking to the Radio Times, the writer said: “I like looking at a new set of challenges every time and a blank page – but Doctor Who is always a blank page.
“There are things coming up that are brand new ways of telling the stories that have never been done before, so it just feels new. I wouldn’t go back if it wasn’t feeling new. But that’s the thing about Doctor Who – every episode is new. Every single episode. I’m sitting here now, 10 pages away from a climax thinking, ‘God, I’ve never written in this territory before – this is strange and new’ – so it’s always new. It’s a self-renewing show.”
Since then, a huge amount of filming has been done, and now the production team has complete cuts of some of Doctor Who Series 14’s episodes. Speaking of episode four, Russell T Davies remarked that it was “one of the greatest things I’ve ever made in my life,” with the director Dylan Holmes Williams adding, “As the lucky man who got to direct this incredible script, I’ve got to say I’m very excited about what we created.”
Executive producer Julie Gardner echoed these comments in Doctor Who Magazine, saying: “There’s only one worry on Doctor Who: that production delivers on the extraordinary quality of Russell’s writing. He’s writing amongst his best-ever work. The scripts are big and extremely ambitious. The only worry I ever have is that we get it right for him. We run to keep up.”
Certainly, it sounds like Doctor Who Series 14 will be epic in scale, backed up by the recent comments from the directors about the “church-like” TARDIS interior, and an interesting revelation from the VFX Coordinator Siân Reynish who said: “We’re using top-of-the-range technology, the kind that Marvel films use, to make Doctor Who in Wales, which I think is pretty spectacular. It means Doctor Who is at the forefront of pushing the boundaries.
“And in the Christmas Special, we’re shooting with drones on the set, which no one’s done before. Because of the way the Doctor races erratically around the TARDIS, it’s amazing to have those sorts of shots.”
Simply put, Doctor Who Series 14 will be vastly different from anything the Whoniverse has seen before. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a few nods to the past.
Indeed, it’s worth remembering that Russell T Davies is also overseeing Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary, which will precede Doctor Who Series 14 and see the return of the Tenth Doctor David Tennant and his former companion Donna Noble played by Catherine Tate. And whilst it’s not “strange and new” for former characters from the Whoniverse to re-appear, the return of these particular characters is interesting. Donna Noble shouldn’t be able to meet the Doctor again, otherwise her head will explode! And the Tenth Doctor is long gone.
And when the announcement regarding Tennant and Tate was made, Russell T Davies acknowledged its unusual nature. “What on earth is happening?” he said. “Maybe this is a missing story. Or a parallel world. Or a dream, or a trick, or a flashback. The only thing I can confirm is that it’s going to be spectacular, as two of our greatest stars reunite for the battle of a lifetime.”
Since then, Davies has confirmed that David Tennant will be playing the Fourteenth incarnation of the Doctor. And in his specials, he will be fighting a villain played by Neil Patrick Harris, whom Davis dubbed as “the greatest enemy the Doctor has ever faced.”
But who could he be? Well, the Doctor once said that no one hates him as much as he does, so it could be an alternate, dark version of the Doctor like the Dream Lord or the Valeyard. But then there is the possibility of the Master, or some other renegade Time Lord, or even the Celestial Toymaker. What we do know is that the villainous Mavic Chen from ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan‘ will at least be name-checked in Doctor Who Series 14, so it’s always possible that his character could make a return appearance, in some form, even if it’s not the role Harris is playing.
And speaking of returning villains, the release of the trailer for the 2023 specials has fuelled speculation that one of the Whonivere’s more obscure monsters – Beep the Meep – could be making a return appearance, but as yet there has been no official confirmation.
And then there is the new Doctor Ncuti Gatwa, who we know will be appearing in Doctor Who Series 14, and in the specials before. As well as being the first black actor to be cast as the Doctor (apart from Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor, of course) Gatwa was certainly put through his paces in preparation for Doctor Who Series 14, with an audition script that spanned some eight pages.
“I wrote a special audition speech,” Davies confirmed. “It was an eight-page scene, a big scene, you had to learn it and come in. “Top, proper audition, not just standing there and giving Shakespeare. Really hard work. Me and Phil Collinson, the producer, were there. It was taped and it gets passed on. It’s tough, properly tough. And we do many versions of it, we do it lighter, funnier, harder.”
This revelation brings to mind a kind of ‘Heaven Sent’ scenario – a 2015 Doctor Who episode that stands out for the fact that it was driven almost single-handedly by Peter Capaldi. Could Russell T Davies have similar plans for Ncuti Gatwa in Doctor Who Series 14? It seems unlikely, given that Davies dubs it a “special audition speech,” but it’s not impossible.
Writing-wise, one thing we can be sure of is that former Doctor Who scriptwriter Paul Cornell will not be returning for Doctor Who Series 14. In a recent interview with comicbook.com, Cornell (who previously penned ‘Father’s Day’ and ‘Human Nature,’ as well as creating the iconic Bernice Summerfield) was asked if he would be writing for Doctor Who Series 14, and his answer was clear.
“I am not,” he said. “I’ve retired from Doctor Who many years ago [sic] because I’ve done everything, in order to give somebody else a chance. I’m delighted by what Russell’s doing. I think we are going to get an even more radical, even more progressive Doctor Who. I think this is always Russell’s way. He is nothing if not confrontational with the audience, and he manages to confront the audience and have them love him for it. I thought his PR dance in announcing each of these beats of the new stuff was amazing. So far he has not put a foot wrong.
“I think we are lucky to have RTD, or give him his full name, “Retweeted,” on the show. He’s always going to be somebody who is both a great artistic TV writer and also somebody with a great grasp of popular drama. My goodness, that’s the combo you need on Doctor Who.”
Of course these are just Cornell’s opinions, and his predictions that Doctor Who Series 14 will be “radical,” “progressive” and “confrontational” are purely speculative.
But interestingly, Russell T Davies previously discussed his vision for Doctor Who before he returned as its showrunner. In a 2021 interview with the journalist Paul Kirkley, Davies said that Doctor Who should a vast shared universe much like the Marvel and Star Wars franchises.
“There should be a Doctor Who channel now,” he said. “You look at those Disney announcements, of all those new Star Wars and Marvel shows, you think, we should be sitting here announcing The Nyssa Adventures or The Return of Donna Noble, and you should have the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors together in a 10-part series. Genuinely. And I think that will happen one day. If we can just shift Doctor Who up a gear…
“The whole science fiction world is so creative and so money-making now, I think your wildest dreams can come true… It’s mad. Let’s not take that for granted, that’s mad. So if you want The Nyssa Adventures, it’ll happen one day.”
Since then, Russell T Davies has confirmed that a number of Doctor Who spin-offs are indeed in the works, with production presumably taking place alongside Doctor Who Series 14.
Certainly, the concept of a ‘connected universe’ is one that has worked well for the likes of the audio company Big Finish, which does indeed operate a vast Doctor Who universe with multiple, overlapping spin-offs. But could such an idea work for Doctor Who Series 14 and beyond? Time will tell. Naturally, such an enterprise would require funding, but the Whoniverse as a whole does lend itself to an almost infinite number of storytelling possibilities, as previous spin-offs Torchwood and Class have demonstrated.
But one thing we do know is that there won’t be a Doctor Who spin-off which is solely geared towards children any time soon (as was the case with The Sarah Jane Adventures.) Russell T Davies said: “…we’re coming back to a world in which money in children’s [TV] is in even shorter supply. Even with all the good will in the world, we’d find it very hard to do now, unfortunately. There are fantasy shows – they do do stuff. But our stuff is expensive.
“There is no plan at the moment for children’s, and I’m sad about that, but just affording it would be hard.”
Alas, Doctor Who Series 14 is still a long way off, so we will have to sit tight as we wait for answers. But we do have Doctor Who‘s 60th anniversary specials to look forward to in November, followed by a Christmas special which will feed into the rest of Doctor Who Series 14 next year.
What are your biggest hopes for Doctor Who Series 14? And how would you feel about a Marvel-like universe for the franchise? Let us know in the comments below.
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