Jodie Whittaker returns as everyone favorite kooky-yet-brilliant Time Lord in the first action-packed trailer for the upcoming 12th series of Doctor Who. And it just so happens the trailer’s debut coincides with BBC One’s airing of the very first Doctor Who episode, “An Unearthly Child,” 56 years ago.
(Some spoilers for series 11 below.)
There were lots of big changes to Doctor Who last season. In addition to Whittaker’s first female Time Lord (Time Lady? Eh, we’ll stick with the original), longtime showrunner Steven Moffat left the show. He was replaced by Chris Chibnall, who not only wrote for Who and its spinoff Torchwood but was also the creator of the successful Broadchurch series (which featured Whittaker and the 10th Doctor, David Tennant).
Here’s a brief recap for those who might have missed last season. Right after regenerating, the Doctor landed in Sheffield, sans TARDIS, just as an alien from the warrior Stenza race named T’zim-Sha (the Doctor calls him “Tim Shaw”) arrived to ritually hunt a human to advance his status. She teamed up with some locals to defeat the alien: Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh, Coronation Street) and his wife, Grace (Sharon D. Clarke, Holby City); her grown son Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole, Hollyoaks); and Ryan’s old school chum, Yasmin “Yaz” Khan (Mandip Gill, also from Hollyoaks), a rookie police officer eager to prove herself.
The resourceful Doctor had to make herself a new sonic screwdriver. And when she finally reunited with her TARDIS—”Come to daddy… um, mummy,” she crooned—it had a gorgeous new interior, courtesy of concept artist Darren Fereday. Among other perks, the revamped TARDIS boasts a biscuit dispenser.
Despite some unevenness overall, last season had several especially strong episodes, such as the fairy-tale flavored “It Takes You Away,” in which a young blind girl named Hanne in a cabin in the Norwegian woods has lost her father through a portal to a parallel universe—lured by what appears to be his dead wife. “The Witchfinders” brought a lighter touch, as the Doctor found herself in the midst of a witch hunt in 17th-century England. (Alan Cumming was a sheer delight as King James I.)
In “Demons of the Punjab,” Yaz convinces the Doctor to take them to her grandmother Umbreen’s past in the Punjab, on August 14, 1947, the eve of India’s partition—and learns way more about her family history than she bargained for. The finale, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos,” was a bit weaker, but at least we came full circle in the season arc. The team ran into T’zim-Sha again. Responding to nine different distress calls, the TARDIS deposited the crew on the mysterious titular world, rife with debris from long-ago battles. It had been 3,407 years since T’zim-Sha was blasted into the past by the Doctor, and he’d been plotting his revenge ever since. Fortunately, the Doctor and her companions prevailed yet again.
In my review of last season, I concluded, “Chibnall succeeded in making his Doctor Who fresh and memorable. Now I’m hoping he’ll up the stakes a bit and give us more of the classic Whovian tropes we’ve come to know and love.” For instance, last season, fan favorites like the Daleks and the Cybermen were nowhere to be found. There are still no Daleks, judging by this new trailer, but we do catch a glimpse of what looks like a Cyberman. And is that a brief shot of Racnoss, the giant arachnid/centaur like creature featured in the 2006 episode “The Runaway Bride”?
It definitely looks like Chibnall and his stable of writers are upping their game on the storytelling front. This is an exciting trailer, full of spaceship battles, black-tie hijinks, a stint in 1943 Paris under Nazi occupation, and the usual colorfully nefarious creatures threatening the universe. All in all, I have high hopes for the forthcoming season. Long may the Good Doctor travel through time.
Doctor Who‘s 12th series will air in early 2020.
Listing image by YouTube/BBC Studios