With new Cybermen, plenty of mystery and secrets to be revealed in the Series 12 finale, showrunner Chris Chibnall talks all about Series 12 so far, and beyond…
Cybermen - lots of Cybermen. And more than one variant of Cyberman. It’s an epic space-opera story set in the far future on a distant planet where the last human refugees are being hunted down by a particularly zealous Cyberman and his soldiers. It’s set in the aftermath of the great Cyber War, so there’s a lot at stake for humanity in their quest to survive. As they’re being hunted down by the Cybermen, enter the Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan.
The story comes first really. Because Cybermen are built out of humans, what I was interested in was a story far, far, far into the future where they come to hate the very thing that has made them and they’ve been at war with humanity. Out of that comes the design of the Cyberman who’s hunting them down and then also you begin to think ‘what else can we do with them?’. It wasn’t a re-design for the sake of it, we’ve got some classic Cybermen in there, but you always want to have more than one Cyberman in a big, epic Cyberman two-parter. We’ve had a lot of fun with it and the new versions are particularly relentless and ruthless and in true Cyberman fashion, they will stop at nothing. Obviously for our gang, who are made up of at least three humans, they’re in particular jeopardy.
I always feel that the Doctor and the Cybermen, and this is what I’ve brought to the story and Jodie’s Doctor’s reaction to meeting them, is that there is quite a lot of baggage there. The Doctor has experienced casualties at the hands of the Cybermen - Bill Potts was turned into a Cyberman. Also, as a kid who was 12 in 1982 when the character of Adric died at the hands of the Cybermen under Peter Davison’s Doctor, I’m not sure I’ve ever fully recovered from the trauma of that and I’m not sure the Doctor has either! So I think she’s worried and she realises as the story goes on how much risk and danger she’s put her friends into and she’s brought them into harm's way. You always feel with these returning monsters, you always want to dig into the Doctor’s emotional relationship - they’re not just arch enemies that don’t feel anything about one another. This Doctor feels things deeply, so just like her relationship with Sacha Dawan’s Master is complex, so is her relationship with the Cybermen. She knows what they’re capable of, she’s seen it, she’s felt it. I wanted to bring that out. It’s personal.
The mystery of the ‘Timeless Child’ along with the questions around Jo’s Doctor from episode five… you would hope that we would be getting some answers in the finale. I think viewers would be right to hope for that. Obviously it goes back to episodes one and two with Sacha Dhawan’s Master telling the Doctor that everything she knows is a lie. As we come into the final two parter we will learn much more about what that means for the Doctor.
Her character is called Ravio and she is one of the human refugees. She’s part of the group that’s on the run from the Cybermen. The brilliant thing about Julie is, if you are a human on the run from the Cybermen, Julie Graham is one of the people you would want alongside you to try and keep you alive! She’s completely brilliant. Ravio is a no-nonsense action hero, but this group is also very ordinary - they’re teachers and mechanics, they’re not soldiers. They’re the last vestiges of humanity. The thing about Julie is she has the ability to make you love a character and make you understand their toughness, their warmth, their pain, their humour.
Probably the big moments for the viewers. Bringing back the Master and the reveal and cliffhanger with the plane going down, that felt exciting. Sacha’s performance as the Master is extraordinary and putting him together with Jodie’s Doctor is a real acting tour-de-force.
Bringing Captain Jack back and the Judoon and the reveal that there is another Doctor - to see that go out and the explosion of response around that was incredible. The way Jo Martin has been welcomed into the Doctor Who family by viewers, fans and audiences around the world has been thrilling.
Then on another level, some of the themes this year like the environmental one and also the emotional response to ‘Can You Hear Me?’ in terms of mental health issues and brilliant performances by Mandip, Bradley and Tosin were amazing.
But, to be honest, I’m really looking forward to watching the final two parts go out because we’ve still got something up our sleeves!
I felt that what John Barrowman’s Captain Jack brings is an incredible energy, he brings an incredible sense of fun. If you’re thinking who you can bring back who can just burst onto the screen and claim the narrative in just three or four scenes, he’s your guy. And I’ve missed him from Doctor Who, he hasn’t been in the show for a decade so I felt it was time to check in with Jack. We can only hope that he meets the Thirteenth Doctor one day…
I would really love to bring back Sarah-Jane. People working on the show now worked with Lis Sladen and everybody still remembers her so fondly and talks about her a lot. I would love to see her with the Thirteenth Doctor.
I would love to have brought back Harry Sullivan too, played by the wonderful Ian Marter from Tom Baker’s first season. I would have loved to see Sarah and Harry nowadays to check in with them. It’s a credit to those actors, they are indelible in my life and memories and those of many others. It’s so sad that they’re not with us anymore.
To be honest, the canon of Doctor Who is filled with amazing characters: I’d love to see Ace back, I’d love to see Tegan back, I’d love to see Amy and Rory… the list goes on.
As I’m writing they creep into the dialogue. With the Master as I was writing the reveal on the plane, I thought ‘Oh, he could have a tissue compression eliminator and have little dolls in his pocket of the people he’s killed’. So it’s a call back for people who know what it is but also for people who don’t know then it’ll feel like a new thing. If you don’t know it, it shouldn’t spoil anything and if you do know it, it should feel like a lovely golden thread throughout the decades. And also a tribute to all the people who’ve put their creativity into Doctor Who. There’s some really deep-dive easter eggs for fans as we head into the finale as well as big emotional moments for audiences!
The two episodes we’ve got to go, I’m really excited about. The adrenaline levels they will take you to… and I don’t say that lightly! I’m so fascinated to see how they go out into the world.
Tune into the first part of the epic series finale, Ascension of the Cybermen, coming this Sunday 23rd February at 7:10pm on BBC One.
The Doctor comes face-to-face with one of her most dangerous and relentless enemies once more: the Cybermen, in the Series 12 two-part finale!
Entitled Ascension of the Cybermen (Part One) and The Timeless Children (Part Two), the two-part finale sees the Doctor and her friends face one of their biggest and most dangerous challenges yet, but will they be able to defeat one of the Doctor’s deadliest foes?
Ian McElhinney and Steve Toussaint are set to appear in the explosive two part finale of Doctor Who as the Doctor comes face-to-face with one of her most dangerous and relentless enemies once more: the Cybermen.
Entitled “Ascension of the Cybermen” (part one) and “The Timeless Children” (part two), the two-part finale sees the Doctor and her friends face one of their biggest and most dangerous challenges yet, but will they be able to defeat one of the Doctor’s deadliest foes?
Ian McElhinney, best known for his roles in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Fall, and Game of Thrones, said:
“I very much enjoyed my time on Doctor Who. The team were a delight to work with and everyone was very supportive and welcoming. All in all it was a blast.”
Steve Toussaint, who is best known for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Judge Dredd, and Mutant Chronicles, added:
“It was an honour to play a part in the giant of British (and World) TV that is Doctor Who. What’s not to like? I had such a great time working with Jodie and 'the Fam'; another one off the bucket list!”
Matt Strevens (Executive Producer, Doctor Who) said:
“We were delighted to have Ian and Steve on board the TARDIS for the drama filled two-part finale. Their wide-ranging talent and versatility as actors help bring series 12 to a dramatic conclusion. They were an absolute joy to work with and we can’t wait for viewers to see them in action.”
Jack is back! John Barrowman is back as Captain Jack Harkness in Episode 5 - Fugitive of the Judoon!
Here he tells us what was it like to return to the world of Doctor Who...
It all came about when I was actually going to see Bill Pullman who was ironically in Torchwood when we did it in the States, and I was seeing him at a theatre in London where he was performing. I got a phone call from my manager saying “Chris Chibnall wants to talk to you”. I said okay, took the phone call and Chris said “how would you feel about Captain Jack returning?” and I just started jumping around on the street and said “this is the most brilliant news I have heard.” I told him I had just seen Bill so everything feels like it’s aligning right now. When I finished the call with Chris, I immediately called Russell T Davies because Russell was partial to Captain Jack’s creation so I called him and he said “that’s awesome”, we had a big scream and he said “hurrah! Captain Jack is back”.
I did have to keep it a secret for quite a while! This is what’s funny, when I came back to Cardiff to do the filming I had to find an excuse in order to throw people off. So I started doing videos online about renovating my flat in Cardiff, and funnily enough, I actually did do the renovations but it was all to throw off why I was really there. I was being driven into Bristol, where we were filming at a Cathedral, I was covered in black cloth in the car, when I got to set I was taken out of the car with umbrellas around me so nobody could see. Apparently there were paps trying to find out what was going on. I feel bad that I had to lie to my fan family and all the Whovians out there, however I’ve always said to the Doctor Who fan base worldwide, because I’ve seen them and I know they love Captain Jack, I’ve said “Sometimes I can’t tell you what’s happening”. Like in the reveal when Captain Jack said about being the ‘Face of Boe’, I didn’t tell anyone about that, and I didn’t tell anybody about this because I want to feel the excitement myself when it airs and everybody is watching it – their jaws are going to drop when Jack returns to the screen.
It was in the hotel in Bristol, people just kept asking me “what are you doing in Bristol?” and luckily enough I have family in Bristol so I said I was visiting family. So I was able to throw people off the scent. Nobody actually cottoned on to it as I was very committed to the decoys that I was putting out there. So yeah, to be honest with you, nobody has guessed to this day that I was back doing it. Even the people on set, everybody is obviously sworn to secrecy, but everybody was excited to see Jack back.
I’ve always said when I put the coat back on - a point of phrase, it sounds tripe - but it’s like wearing an old coat. I have no problem getting back into Jack and it was brilliant being back on set. It was great to bring the enthusiasm I have for Jack and Doctor Who back to the set. It brought back a lot of memories and I just had a blast. I had a great time doing it. In this episode Jack had his own ship again, so he took over a ship and he’s flying around the Universe trying to find the Doctor, so it’s great.
Working with everybody was incredible. We had a good laugh! I think it was a bit of a shock to their system when I came in because I’m a big character on set and it was interesting to try and give them the history of Captain Jack. It may be a new production team but Jack is a staple of the Doctor Who Universe and I get to see that worldwide when I travel. People continually say to me, and we’re what about eight years since his last appearance, they keep saying bring him back, we love him, and it’s happened. So working with the cast was amazing.
My favourite thing about being part of Doctor Who is playing a character that changed the face of television. Also, because I was the first openly gay man to play an omnisexual hero on television and nobody cared – in a good way, no one made an issue out of it. Some of the young people who watched Doctor Who and are now in their twenties said “because of Captain Jack, I was able to be honest with myself and truthful to my family about who I was” and that to me is the biggest gift that we can give as people who are in the industry. And just for me, selfishly, it was a lifelong dream to be part of the TARDIS team and I never thought as a little boy, what I watched Jon Pertwee and Colin Baker as the Doctor that I would ever be a part of that. To be part of that and to be in the TARDIS and one of the companions was just amazing.
I don’t know. If they ask me to come back, I always say this; I will be back at the drop of a hat.
Two of the stars of this week’s Doctor Who episode, Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror, Goran Višnjic and Anjli Mohindra talk about starring in Series 12 and reveal what it was like to be a part of Doctor Who!
How does it feel to be part of Doctor Who?
ANJLI: It’s a real dream come true! I've been a huge fan of the show ever since being a part of the Sarah Jane Adventures and being absorbed into that world. I was totally thrilled when the call came.
GORAN: It was very interesting and exciting to even be considered to be a part of Doctor Who because I never thought we were going to cross paths – it’s kind of two different worlds. I’m a big fan of the show so when the question came, and especially with the character, I was like… “Okay, this is a yes and yes situation”. So it was this level of coolness before even getting to Cardiff. It was already like “oh my god this is really exciting!”
How was it working with Jodie and the other cast?
ANJLI: I've been a huge fan of Jodie’s work since Broadchurch and actually since her role in ‘Tess of The D'urbervilles’, quite a few years ago. She sort of glows a little bit as a person, so it's just a real treat getting to work with her. Tosin is so lovely and Mandip is hilarious. Brad? Well we’ll come to him a second!
GORAN: It was really pleasant, they’re really nice. They made me feel at home. It’s always a little weird when you’re a guest star, you walk in amongst people that really know each other, they’re full of stories and things they’ve done in the past and you can sometimes feel a little like an outsider. But from day one, they were really kind and welcoming. I felt like part of the gang and it was a really great shoot. It was a very nice gang to work with.
Have you worked with any of the cast before?
ANJLI: I've worked with Bradley Walsh because he played Odbobb the Clown, an alien in my first ever episode of Sarah Jane years ago. So yeah, getting to work with him again was brilliant and he didn’t actually recognise me as I was under 3 hours of prosthetics (laughs). It was hilarious because he sort of introduced himself to me and I thought he was joking. Cause I was like ‘Oh he’s probably seen my name on the call sheet’ and is pretending, was just taking the mick. I think an entire day had passed before he said: “You’re going to have to show me a picture of what you look like because I'll probably pass you in the street at some point and have no idea”. And it was at that point that I was like, oh, he really doesn’t, he really hasn’t twigged. (laughs).
How was it working on a show like Doctor Who with lots of special effects, aliens and prosthetics?
ANJLI: A bonkers but exhilarating process. Being fitted for the prosthetics was a little bit surreal because it felt very strange. Being live cast. But the team that work on the prosthetics and create everything were just so brilliant to work with and so lovely and fun and just made the experience exciting.
GORAN: We actually had a lot of physical props but we did have some stuff that we needed to imagine. There’s a green screen with these aliens coming from the side and you have to imagine that and react. There were days like that but there was also a lot of practical elements too. We spent time inside the TARDIS too, which was great.
Is it quite different when you're in prosthetics in terms of playing a character, is it a different experience?
ANJLI: For sure! I think that makeup definitely helps with your character transformation. You feel very different, your skin feels very different and therefore, yeah, I think any piece of costume enhances performance or helps actors sort of like transcend their current reality. So when you've got that much makeup on it’s great to work with. How did you find playing Tesla?
GORAN: Tesla was born in Croatia so I know a lot of about him and we studied Nikola Tesla more than I would say an average European or American student, so I knew a lot of details way before I was playing Tesla. I read his biography, a lot of fantastic elements about him, a lot of the things that are mysteries – I was very familiar with a lot of it. When they asked me if I needed any help with the research, I was like “no, I’ve already got it!” (laughs).
How does playing a historic character differ to playing an entirely fictional character?
GORAN: Well I would definitely skip a moustache if it was a fictional character – those things are so uncomfortable (laughs). There’s very well-known photograph of Nikola Tesla, he always had his moustache and there are known things about him, what he liked and didn’t like, so I kind of incorporated some of those things into the character. In a way it’s a double edged sword, it’s a blessing because you know things about your character already because they’re given to you but the other side is that you have to do certain things with your character that are established. In truth, I can’t even consider Tesla as a historical character from “the books” because I feel like I grew up with him, I knew who he was since I was a kid so in some ways it was like playing someone you know.
How did this role differ from others you’ve had in the past?
GORAN: I’ve never played a historical character that was so well known. When I say well known, he was living in a time that was well described and he was internationally known as an inventor. Every character is different, every time you work in a new job there’s so many different things to consider, for example is it a film or series? This was just one episode so you have to make the character quite quickly. In ER, I played the same doctor for years, you really know the character and you become the character. You play everything through yourself. When you have an episode like this, you have to build it through building blocks and hold it all together for the duration and then you can let it go.
Do you have a particular highlight of filming/favourite memory?
GORAN: I just had this big warm feeling about working Doctor Who. It was a really good experience. There wasn’t even one tiny friction of something negative or any bad memories. It was just smooth and pleasant. The actors, producers, crew… it was just smooth sailing and really pleasant. I really had tons of fun, I think you’re going to see that.
What was the most exciting part for you about your Doctor Who experience?
ANJLI: Just the whole thing. Jodie is one of my favourite Doctors so far, so to work with her, and being on those sets as a fan and as an actor is just an experience that I won't forget.
More Doctor Who fans than ever can now step inside a VR version of the TARDIS as the BBC’s hit virtual reality experience Doctor Who: The Runaway comes to the Doctor Who YouTube channel and launches internationally.
The VR experience stars Jodie Whittaker voicing an animated version of the Thirteenth Doctor, a role she’s just reprised in the new series on TV. The viewer crash lands in the TARDIS and is quickly recruited by the Doctor to help return a strange and potentially dangerous creature called Volta to its home planet.
Where previously the experience has only been available to view on VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Samsung Gear VR, the YouTube 360 version enables anyone with an entry level VR headset like a Google Cardboard to step into the TARDIS and try out the adventure for themselves.
The international launch will also enable the show’s fans around the world to team up with the Doctor in virtual reality. Until now, The Runaway has only been available in the UK, but is now available globally for free on the Steam store for the first time, is launching on the Oculus and Viveport stores internationally, and globally on the BBC VR app for the Oculus Go and Samsung Gear VR.
Fans of The Runaway should also check out The Edge of Time, a feature-length Doctor Who virtual reality game where players solve mind-bending puzzles, escape treacherous environments and come face-to-face with classic Doctor Who monsters such as the Weeping Angels and Daleks!. Find out more about The Edge of Time here.
Doctor Who: The Runaway features new original music from series composer Segun Akinola, and is directed by Mathias Chelebourg, whose previous work in virtual reality includes Alice, the Virtual Reality Play and The Real Thing VR. The script was an original story written by Victoria Asare-Archer, and is being published today on the BBC Writersroom blog.
Doctor Who: The Runaway has been produced by the BBC’s digital drama team, BBC VR Hub and Passion Animation Studios. It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year and has since been shown at the Sandbox Immersive Festival in China and the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France, among many others. The BBC VR Hub has also taken it on an extensive tour of UK libraries, enabling people without VR headsets to try it in their local library.