is coming back for its 11th season (since the modern reboot) next month, featuring the first-ever female Doctor (Jodie Whittaker). The BBC just released a new trailer, and it’s clear from the footage that we’ve got a delightfully fresh take on the classic series ahead, while still keeping the most iconic elements that have made so enduring.
There were hints here and there over the last few seasons that, while the Doctor might have typically appeared in male form, a female incarnation was certainly possible. Count me among the longtime advocates for a female Doctor, particularly because it opens up an entirely new angle to the storytelling. It’s one thing for a white male Time Lord to show up at various points in history. It’s quite another for a strange woman to show up in, say, medieval England. So there’s an opportunity for new kinds of conflicts and poignant shifts in relationships.
We got a taste of that during David Tennant’s tenure as the 10th Doctor. In “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood,” the Doctor takes the guise of a humble schoolteacher in 1913 London to escape detection by the so-called Family of Blood, who are pursuing him across time and space in hopes of draining his life force so they might survive. His companion, Martha, guards his Time Lord essence (in the form of a fob watch), since he will have no recollection of his no-human existence. But Martha is black (and female), which limits her own undercover identity options to that of a lowly maid in the school, scrubbing floors despite her medical degree. And, well, she’s treated accordingly.
The Doctor is in
When Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor regenerated as the more mature Peter Capaldi, we learned that the Doctor apparently can choose the form he takes—and he wonders openly why he would have chosen to be an older man after two dashing, young incarnations. We’ve yet to see how the Doctor reacts to this new female body, beyond the initial “Oh, brilliant!” There’s a moment where one new companion, Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh), questions why she should be in charge. Her other two companions, Yasmin Kahn (Mandip Gill) and Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), respond by emphatically declaring her “the boss”—and she clearly is, running down corridors and facing down danger, trusty (redesigned) sonic screwdriver in hand.
There’s no sign of the Tardis here: it was presumably badly damaged in last year’s Christmas special “Twice Upon a Time,” suffering multiple failures right after the Doctor regenerated. (Still photos released last year showed a somewhat different-looking Tardis.) Nor are there many hints about the broad narrative arc of the upcoming season. Rumor has it that the first episode will be set in Sheffield as the Doctor tracks down her lost Tardis while adjusting to her new body. At least we know the 13th Doctor’s : “Sometimes I see things need fixing,” she says. “And I do what I can.”
The new season drops October 7, and we can’t wait.