Companion Millie Gibson has teased “many controversial elements” for the upcoming Doctor Who Series 1. But just how controversial will the new season be?
Speaking to The Independent, Millie Gibson said: “There’s so many controversial elements to [Doctor Who Series 1] – the good sort of controversy – and it’s what we need to see on our tellies.
“Some people might think, ‘This isn’t the Doctor Who I know.’ But I’m really excited to see it… It’s really cool that they’re doing concepts like these and changing it up.”
Now, obviously, there is nothing that we Doctor Who fans like more than change. But how do you feel about watching a show that might not be “the Doctor Who that [you] know”?
Certainly, in recent years it feels as if the fandom has been hit with a number of new elements. Surely the most famous of these is the introduction of the Timeless Child which, for the uninitiated, was the revelation that William Hartnell was no longer the First Doctor, and that he had started life as an abandoned girl standing outside the gateway to another dimension. In fact, she wasn’t even a Time Lord; she was an unknown species, and the Time Lords gained their ability to regenerate from the Doctor, who may have lived hundreds – if not thousands – of forgotten lives.
This was certainly controversial, and divided fandom. But will Doctor Who Series 1 delve any further into this new piece of lore? It’s possible. Russell T Davies has previously stated that he has no plans to undo the work of Chris Chibnall (who invented the concept of the Timeless Child) although he did provide an ‘out’ for unhappy fans in the 2023 episode ‘The Giggle.’ This was in a throwaway line from the Celestial Toymaker, who told the Doctor that he “made a jigsaw out of [his] history” and implied that he may have invented the story of the Timeless Child just to confuse him.
At the same time, there is more that Doctor Who Series 1 could do with the idea. If there are indeed many hundreds of forgotten Doctors roaming the cosmos, it’s conceivable that the Time Lord could encounter one or more of them. Although, at this stage, such a revelation probably wouldn’t shake the foundations of Whodom. But Doctor Who Series 1 could take the concept one step further and reveal a past incarnation of the Doctor who took the form of a talking cat, or a lizard, or any species for that matter. It would certainly lead to some interesting hashtags.
After all, even in his first three specials, Russell T Davies played around with the concept of regeneration. For a start, the Thirteenth Doctor’s regeneration saw the Time Lord’s clothes change along with her body, and the Fourteenth Doctor’s regeneration resulted in a complete body split, or ‘bi-generation’ if you will. Perhaps the next one will see the Time Lord grow a pair of whiskers, or a tail. Perhaps he’ll be a penguin.
Of course, the series is no stranger to change and there have been many controversial moments in the past, long before Doctor Who Series 1. In fact, in 1969, the BBC made the decision to completely change Doctor Who‘s format. They exiled the Doctor to Earth without a working TARDIS, meaning that the series became entirely Earth-bound, and every story was set in the present day. The Time Lord, having been imprisoned by his own people, suddenly became the scientific advisor to a military outfit.
Today, this development is an accepted part of Doctor Who history, but at the time it was a very radical departure. Is it possible that Doctor Who Series 1 could do something similar? As in, could the show alter the format to such an extent that it splits the forums in two?
It’s certainly possible, although an Earth exile probably wouldn’t be that world-shattering. Maybe the Time Lord will settle down and get married, and have children, and open up a shop in a quiet English town. Maybe each episode will be about the strange alien visitors who come to his establishment with unusual requests, sending him on small missions in space and time. Maybe the Doctor will employ past incarnations to keep the shop covered while he’s roaming the cosmos. Maybe that’s when Sooty will be revealed as the original Doctor, predating the girl at the gateway. Maybe Basil Brush will be his companion.
This would certainly fulfil Millie Gibson’s prophecy of an unrecognisable Doctor Who. Indeed, Russell T Davies previously promised to take Doctor Who Series 1 into “strange and new territory.” Perhaps this new territory will be on the corner of Coronation Street.
At the same time, Gibson did say that Doctor Who Series 1 would feature the “good” kind of controversy, if that’s not an oxymoron. Certainly, there is an old aphorism which says that “no publicity is bad publicity,” and in the present age many film and TV production companies seem happy to simply have their content trending on social media. The important thing is that a conversation is happening, and that opinions are being expressed. This, surely, is better than indifference and apathy.
Plus, it depends on how we define “controversy.” For some, the revelation that the TARDIS can willingly produce Custard Creams is enough to spark furious debate on the webosphere (particularly when we all know that the Chocolate Hobnob is the superior biscuit.)
But the controversy in Doctor Who Series 1 might not have anything to do with the series’ lore at all. Maybe it will take a stance on a particular piece of history. Maybe Queen Elizabeth the First will be unmasked as a man. Or maybe the TARDIS will finally land at Dealey Plaza and reveal that President Kennedy was, in fact, killed by a specially-trained monkey. Or maybe the People’s Front of Judea will gather to establish, once and for all, what the Romans really did for us.
Tell us your theories in the comments below. In the meantime, how do you feel about the approaching controversy of Doctor Who Series 1? Does it excite you or terrify you? And would Sooty make a good Time Lord?