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Doctor Who: What to expect from Jodie Whittaker’s first episode

By Ian Youngs
Entertainment & arts reporter

image captionIn the show, the Doctor picks up her companions in Sheffield

Doctor Who fans will finally get to see Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor in the first episode of the new series on BBC One on Sunday.

This article tries to avoid plot spoilers, but does have some details about what you can expect of the characters, locations and themes. If you don't want to know, read this instead:

  • On the red carpet in Sheffield at Doctor Who premiere

The episode's official synopsis reads: "In a South Yorkshire city, Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) and Graham O'Brien (Bradley Walsh) are about to have their lives changed forever.

"A mysterious woman, who is unable to remember her own name, falls from the night sky. Can they believe a word she says? And can she help solve the strange events taking place across the city?"

Here are several other things to expect from the new Doctor Who episode, titled The Woman Who Fell To Earth.

A fearless Doctor

Whittaker is likeable, daring, ingenious and funny. But the word that best sums up her character is - fearless.

She isn't as zany as she might have been - she does have some zinging, laugh-out-loud lines, but they don't overpower the sense of adventure.

"The things I wanted to bring were an energy and childlike enthusiasm and joy and hope," Whittaker said at the premiere in Sheffield.

All in all, she's quite a human Doctor. As human as she can be, considering she's an alien.

Oh, and she's a woman you know

As has occasionally been pointed out, Whittaker is the first female Doctor.

This elephant in the Tardis is dealt with neatly early on, when Whittaker's Doctor has an amusing response to someone pointing out she's a woman.

Showrunner Chris Chibnall could have been tempted to make more of this, but hasn't overdone it - although Whittaker said her gender will be a factor in some future storylines.

"The Doctor is a character and is essentially one of the [most] genderless roles I've ever played," she said. "But sometimes in the worlds or the places in history that the Doctor is in, sometimes the gender is relevant."

Bradley Walsh acts his age, and some

image captionBradley Walsh (centre) with fellow companions Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole

Bradley Walsh - actor, comedian, game show host, former footballer, singer, cult hero - is the best-known of the Doctor's three new companions.

He's said he had to appear older than his real age of 58.

"I had to wear a wig because fortunately at my age I'm not too grey. But I needed to be much, much greyer."

He couldn't dye his hair because of his other TV work: "I had to have a wig made. I've never worn a wig before. I quite liked it," he joked. "I'm now having one made for weekends - but blond."

The things audiences most love about Walsh - the natural humour and witty repartee - are difficult to replicate in a scripted show, however.

Sheffield is the star

media captionJodie Whittaker: "Sheffield is a brilliant city for this story"

The Steel City, and the surrounding moors, loom large. Sheffield hasn't had this much screen time since The Full Monty.

We know from the trailer - and would fully expect - that this series will hop around space and time.

But many shots from the trailer don't come from the opening instalment, which mostly keeps its feet on the ground on one dark South Yorkshire night.

"Particularly with a new Doctor, you want to ground it in a home, and Sheffield is the home for this series of Doctor Who," Chibnall said.

"I've lived in the city for a year, I knew how cinematic it was, but also how awesome the people were as well. So to have a load of Sheffield characters felt really fantastic to me. It gives you a different humour, and people saying it as it is."

Some new - and scary - monsters

Chibnall has insisted no old monsters will appear in the new series. And we meet a couple of stubborn new foes in the first episode.

One in particular may cause you to dive behind your sofa. The show has to balance family appeal with fright and tension, and this particular creature gives it a properly scary edge.

Theme of overcoming your fears

It's not only the Doctor who has to be fearless - her companion Ryan must attempt to overcome a condition he struggles with.

"It's important to see that heroes come in all shapes and sizes," Chibnall said. "That's the most important thing about this year, and you'll see that a lot across this year."

The first episode of Doctor Who is on BBC One on Sunday, 7 October.

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Related Topics

  • Sheffield
  • Jodie Whittaker
  • Television
  • Doctor Who

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