'Doctor Who': 5 Things Learned From the Season 11 World Premiere

New Time Lord Jodie Whittaker and incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall unveil the highly anticipated first episode of the new season.
Credit: BBC Studios
'Doctor Who'

The new Doctor Who has finally landed.

The BBC’s global time-traveling hit launched its 11th season with a bang, eschewing the more traditional London with a world premiere in the northern U.K. city of Sheffield.

The red carpet event saw hundreds of fans line up outside for a glimpse of incoming Time Lord Jodie Whittaker, while journalists and local school children were treated to a screening of the season opener, an episode entitled "The Woman Who Fell to Earth," which was then followed by a Q&A featuring Whittaker; her co-stars Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill and Bradley Walsh (who play the Doctor’s new friends Ryan, Yasmin and Graham, respectively); and new showrunner Chris Chibnall.

Before it began, Chibnall — best known for Broadchurch (also starring Whittaker) — revealed that screening his first story as the Doctor Who boss in front of an audience was both an emotional moment and a "recurring nightmare."

Here are The Hollywood Reporter's five takeaways from the world premiere of Doctor Who season 11.

The series will deal with dyspraxia

A strong component of "The Woman Who Fell to Earth," which airs Oct. 7 on BBC America, is that of dyspraxia — a neurological condition affecting physical coordination that is thought to affect around six percent of children.

Showrunner Chibnall, who has a nephew with dyspraxia, expressed his opinion that it was "important" to explore the issue within the show, which has a huge fan base amongst children.

The writer explained that the script team had also done a lot of research with the Dyspraxia Foundation and went on to say, "It’s a relatively common thing amongst kids, so I think it’s important to see that heroes come in all shapes and sizes. That’s the most important thing about Doctor Who, and you’ll see that happen a lot across the year."

Dude, where’s my TARDIS?

When one of the Sheffield school children present at the screening asked about the new design for the Doctor’s time-traveling ship, still yet to be seen by the public, Chibnall replied, "I don’t know whether we’ll see the TARDIS."

Arguably the most iconic element of Doctor Who doesn’t actually feature a large part in Whittaker’s debut.

"That would be something we might discover over the coming episodes," said Chibnall.

Shooting took place in South Africa for a "couple of different worlds"

Although no filming for the first episode occurred in South Africa, the Doctor Who production team did take a trip out there earlier this year.

"We were filming in locations that, as a tourist, you don’t get to see. It’s mind-blowing," said Whittaker. The star praised the "epic landscape" that serves the story (which has not been revealed as of yet). "It made our job a lot easier," she added.

Chibnall agreed, "It looks stunning."

It is currently rumored that a season 11 episode, featuring the civil rights movement and Rosa Parks, was filmed in South Africa, though it appears the country may have been used for other episodes too.

"We went there because we wanted scale — we’ve got quite a lot of scale in Sheffield, to be honest — but we’ve also got a different type of scale in South Africa," said the showrunner. "Different types of landscapes, and a couple of different worlds, we’ve done in South Africa."

A new star thought a new monster was like a roll of toilet paper

Mandip Gill, who plays no-nonsense member of the police Yasmin Khan, spoke about the frustrations of acting against "nothing" — in this case, the aliens and monsters that the 55-year-old show is famous for.

Gill recalled a moment when the cast didn’t know what they were acting opposite, "There was one of the monsters, which obviously I can’t talk about, where we all had different perceptions of what we thought it was. I thought it was a toilet roll!"

With confused faces all around, she added with a laugh, "And then they showed a picture of it. We’re gonna need to see pictures before we start from now on!"

Familiar faces and old enemies are not ruled out for the future

Secrecy is everything in Doctor Who, even more so under the new regime, and fans are always keen to know if there will be any characters (either good or evil) from the Doctor’s past making an appearance.

However, season 11 is a clean slate for the sci-fi series, and Chibnall has been clear on this.

That being said, he dismisses the idea that this is now the "rule" on returnees and is open to fan favorites coming back in upcoming seasons.

"As is relatively well-known, I’m as big a fan of the show as anyone and there’s lots of things you’d like to bring back," he said. "We might do that in the future but just not this year."

Guests at the premiere were also treated to an extended version of the Doctor Who theme, a staple of the series since its beginnings in 1963, arranged by another newcomer, Segun Akinola. The latest version of the iconic theme is more stripped-down, compared to the orchestra-laden take in recent years from composer Murray Gold. It uses samples from the original Delia Derbyshire arrangement while upping the bass.

Season 11 of Doctor Who will open with a feature-length episode, followed by nine 50-minute installments starting Oct. 7. Chibnall is the head writer and executive producer, Matt Strevens (Tin Star) and Sam Hoyle (Broadchurch) are exec producers for BBC Studios and Ben Irving (Paddington, Paddington 2) is exec producer for BBC One. BBC Studios is the international distributor.

Doctor Who is a BBC Studios production for BBC One and is a BBC America co-production.