There’s going to be an awful lot that’s new about ‘Doctor Who’ this year. We’ve got a new Doctor, new companions, and a whole slew of new faces behind the scenes, including incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall. Of course, it’s not just about all the new things we’ll be getting. It’s the familiar faces that we won’t be seeing. After recently intimating that the eleventh season will be devoid of established villains (including series mainstays the Daleks), Chris Chibnall has revealed that he’s taken things one step further.
In addition to the season’s moratorium on the show’s trademark villains, Chibnall has now confirmed to the Radio Times that the show’s extended supporting cast will also be sitting the year out. The showrunner specifically singled out such Moffat-era staples as River Song, Missy, and the Paternoster Gang, explaining that he wants this season to be a “recruiting year” for the show, signaling his goal of drawing in new viewers.
Frankly, this is a good thing. In giving the more familiar baddies a break, it prevents them from getting stale. Though the Weeping Angels, for example, have remained consistently popular in the decade since their stellar debut in ‘Blink’, the stories in which they’ve featured have very much been subject to diminishing returns. Just compare ‘Blink’ to ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’ and you’ll see what I mean. More importantly though, giving even the most beloved villains a rest provides an opportunity to introduce new adversaries.
For newer fans who might be up in arms, I should point out that this sort of thing is hardly unprecedented. For example, the Daleks and Cybermen made a combined total of three appearances during Tom Baker’s seven year tenure as the Doctor. But for a more direct parallel, we need look no farther than Jon Pertwee’s early years as the Third Doctor. The seventh and eighth season of the series’ original run (which first aired from 1970-1971) similarly hit pause on many of the series’ by then recurring elements. Those years represent what we would now describe as a soft reboot, with the start of the seventh season saw the newly regenerated Doctor exiled to Earth by the Time Lords. Deprived of the use of his TARDIS, he began working as a scientific advisor to UNIT, and the series took on a distinct style, influenced in part by contemporary spy movies. During these two seasons, the Daleks and Cybermen (who previously would routinely turn up several times per season) effectively vanished. Their absence, however, paved the way for a slew of new villains, not the least of which were the Autons and the Master. Moreover, the seventh season in particular is now remembered as one of the show’s finest.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more on the upcoming season of ‘Doctor Who’ as it becomes available!
‘Doctor Who’ will return its eleventh season on October 7, 2018. This season will see the arrival of new showrunner Chris Chibnall and the Thirteenth Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker. In addition to Whittaker, the new season will star Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, and Mandip Gil.