First female Doctor Who on S11, doing her own stunts & shooting in SA
Season 11 of Doctor Who, the world's longest running sci-fi series, hits SA's small screens today.
And, for the first time in the show's 55 year history, Doctor Who — a super-smart force of nature who can change appearance (and gender) by regenerating when near death — will be a woman.
"If you’ve never seen the show before, this is a great season to start with. It doesn’t need an encyclopaedic knowledge of Doctor Who to get into it," says Jodie Whittaker, who stars as the iconic title character.
We caught up with Whittaker to chat about what Whovians can expect from the new season, what it was like shooting part of the series in South Africa, and the challenges of doing her own stunts.
What do Whovians have to look forward to in season 11?
If you’re a fan of the show already, it’s got everything you'd expect. It’s got new monsters, it’s got fantastic new worlds.It’s also got worlds that we’re familiar with, but are maybe seen from different points of view.
It honours everything that has gone before, but it then has a different burst of energy with all the new cast members.
This season features 10 stand-alone episodes; you have a huge series character arc for many of the characters, but if you come in at episode five, you’ll get a stand-alone story which feels like a film.
How did you decide what kind of Doctor you were going to be?
It’s easier than it sounds, because it’s all in the writing. All those wonderful layers and characterisations are given to you on a plate in the writing. But there are no rules with it; you’re not limited to a time period or a certain etiquette and you can play it how you want, so it was fun and playful.
How long did it take for you to settle into the role?
The thing that’s really helpful in episode one is being in Peter Capaldi [the previous Doctor Who's] costume for 95% of it and feeling like I was literally in someone else’s shoes. So I felt as if I was continually trying to discover things and I suppose settle in.
WATCH | The trailer for Doctor Who S11
I really love the euphoria of the scene where the Doctor finds what she wants to wear because it does feel like from that moment, the electricity is all connected back and for me personally it felt like I could get into my own skin. So I felt like it was a really helpful episode to start with.
What’s it like seeing fans dressed up as you?
It’s amazing to see all ages and different genders wearing your costume and it looking cool on everyone. It’s really comfortable so I’m not surprised they’re wearing it.
What themes do you think are important this series?
Friendship, loyalty and survival. All things that are very human, interlaced with things that are very far from human and familiar.
How was shooting part of the series in South Africa?
It was amazing because it was January and it was freezing in the UK and it was boiling in South Africa.
The crew over there were extraordinary. We were so well looked after and we were filming in locations that as a tourist I don’t think you’d necessarily get to see and that’s mind-blowing in so many ways.
Just the elements and nature and I suppose the epic landscape serving the story was great; they made our job a lot easier.
Did you do your own stunts?
In episode one, that’s all me. I’m really proud of that. There were moments later on that needed a professional, but episode one just needed someone daft enough to jump between two cranes.
It was three days in. Four o’clock in the morning. Week one. I was trying to be really cool in front of all the crew so I said I’d do it. We were about 60 feet - pretty high - and I was obviously on a wire and it was all safe, but it was nerve-wracking and not something you do every day. Actually it was amazing.
The wonderful thing about the Doctor is it’s all about self-belief in so many ways. You don’t have these outlandish or otherworldly skills physically; you have a body like anyone else, and it can and can’t do certain things. But that kind of faith to just leap was euphoric.
What was it like to watch the first episode?
Often we’re on set, we’re shooting out of sequence and we’re not necessarily looking at what is on screen. There are so many bits you don’t know about, so watching it is amazing.
• The first episode of 'Doctor Who' S11 is now streaming on Showmax, with new episodes coming every Monday express from BBC One in the UK.