Referred to as a “six-hour movie,” by Whittaker herself on the Graham Norton show, series 13 looks set to be an exciting departure from the ‘Monster of the week’ format most Whovians are used to. When Chibnall took over as showrunner, following Steven Moffat’s departure, he dropped the episode count from 13 to 10, so an alteration in the show’s formatting is nothing new from the divisive head writer.
In theory, less episodes means a larger budget per episode, and the trailer seems to support this. The trailer is filled with hints at large action set-pieces and impressive visual effects. Various monsters, both new and returning, look great as well. The trailer treats us to a look at a Sontaran – complete with Classic Who design – and a fleet of Sontaran battleships. Two more Russell T. Davies era monsters also return in the Ood and the Weeping Angels. That's not all as the Cybermen from the series 12 finale appear to be making a comeback too. Accompanying them are various new monsters who are yet to be revealed. In fact, very little of this new series of Doctor Who is known.
What we do know, however, is that Mandip Gill is returning as the Doctor’s companion Yaz. According to Gill, series 13 will explore Yaz’s struggles with mental health, something that was briefly touched upon in the series 12 episode “Can You Hear Me?” If true, I hope Chibnall handles it with a little more care and nuance than he did with previous companion Ryan’s dyspraxia, in which he just persisted to shout about it at every opportunity he got. Joining the Tardis team this time around is John Bishop’s Dan; from his inclusion, as well as a recent twitter post, at least some of Flux will take place in Liverpool. Plus, as a Liverpudlian myself, I was fortunate enough to see them filming in the Albert Dock back in February.
Many questions hang over series 13. Will John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness return? Will we see the Master again? And the most prominent question on fans’ minds is- what will happen with the Timeless Child reveal?
The most controversial element Chibnall has introduced to the Whoniverse, many fans – myself included – have pondered whether the showrunner will retcon the much-maligned reveal, or double-down on it. I suspect the latter. Given that it was largely ignored in the 2020 New Year’s Special 'Revolution of the Daleks' the Timeless Child revelation will undoubtedly play a much larger role in Flux, if that’s a good thing or not is yet to be seen.
As is typical for all modern Doctors, it was to be expected that Jodie Whittaker’s third series in the role would be her last. She is presumed to regenerate in next year’s ‘Centenary Special’ following two additional specials towards the start of 2022. What was unexpected however, was the departure of Chris Chibnall as Doctor Who’s head writer. While never popular during his tenure, it was thought that the BBC were sticking by him in spite of fan backlash. But with the BBC rehiring Russell T. Davies – the man who successfully relaunched Doctor Who back in 2005 – it’s clear that they are seeking an immediate course correct before the show suffers the same fate it did back in 1989. Nevertheless, I, for one, won’t be sad to see Chibnall go.
Whilst I’m glad that the 60th Anniversary Special, being the milestone episode that it is, is in incredibly capable hands, I do feel as though the BBC are playing it a little too safe by rehiring Russell T. Davies. Indisputably, he is one of the best writers currently working in British television, but he’s already done Doctor Who. I would love to see a young, up-and-coming writer take the reins of the sci-fi behemoth and show us their interpretation of the Doctor and their universe, much like how Russel T. Davies did himself back in 2005.
Much to my surprise, I’m actually looking forward to Flux. Whilst series 12 was fairly dreadful, there were a handful of redeeming elements that I hope Chibnall explores in this new series. As showrunner for the first two series of Torchwood (Doctor Who’s edgy BBC 3 spin-off), Chibnall is capable of telling truly excellent stories set in the Whoniverse. However, he’s yet to translate that over to his writing on the main show. I hope the different style of storytelling Chibnall’s adopting for Flux will allow him to give Jodie Whittaker the final series her Doctor deserves.
Doctor Who: Flux premieres on Sunday, 31st October on BBC 1.