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James Pardon/BBC America
The annual Doctor Who festive special has become a huge deal for the show's army of fans in the 15 years since the first-ever special holiday season episode introduced David Tennant's incarnation of the titular time-traveler. So, what has showrunner Chris Chibnall cooked up for the latest adventure, which premieres on BBC America, Jan. 1?
"The Doctor is in prison serving an all-of-lives sentence from the Judoon," says Chibnall. "Meanwhile, back on earth, her friends — Graham, Yaz, and Ryan — are missing her. They’ve been there ten months, there’s no sign, they feel like they’ve been ditched by the Doctor. They don’t know what’s happened to her and they spot a sighting of a Dalek on earth and investigate. And complications ensue!"
In addition to the core cast of Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, and Tosin Cole, the festive special will feature guest stars Dame Harriet Walter, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, fan-favorite John Barrowman, and Chris Noth, who will be reprising his role as the Trump-esque businessman Jack Robertson.
"He’s obviously a very contemporary character and he just brings lots of stories," says Chibnall. "Chris really understands the tone of the show and I think he gets to do something in Doctor Who that he doesn’t do anywhere else. He just grabs every scene with both hands and rinses it and that’s what we love."
Sounds like a lot of fun! But it was recently revealed that the festive special will also see the departure of the characters played by Walsh and Cole. How will the episode leave viewers feeling?
"I think it’s quite a rollercoaster of lots of different feelings," says Chibnall. "Because it’s a festive special, you want it to be full of everything. So, there’s a lot of action, there’s humor, there are character moments. You’ll be emotionally wrung out by the end, I think, and hopefully feeling like you’ve had a good time, and you’ve seen a few Daleks."
While Chibnall is hyping the festive special, he is also overseeing the shooting of the show's new season which began filming in November.
"We’re filming as we speak," says Chibnall. "We’ve got lots of new characters, new monsters, some old ones coming back. We’re only a few weeks in. It’s very different, but we obviously have to work in a very different way, under COVID protocols. So, it’s not without its challenges, but every series of Doctor Who has had its challenges. At the moment, everybody's smiling."
Does Chibnall have an idea of when the new season will premiere?
"Yeah, I’ve got an idea," he says with a laugh. "But Charlotte Moore (BBC Chief Content Officer) would send 'the boys' round if I told you any hints. As soon as finish it, I promise we’ll put it on telly straight away."
Watch the trailer for the festive episode of Doctor Who below.