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The Impact of 2020 on Doctor Who Series 13 Production

Waiting to be whisked away from our worries by the whimsical world of Doctor Who.

There is no question that twenty-twenty has been a trying year for the world as a whole. In the wake of the-virus-that-shall-not-be-named, all sorts of productions have been delayed, shifted to different mediums, or even canceled outright. In cases where production has continued, the landscape in which these stories have been told has been a very different one. Whether it be the extra precaution around how scenes are shot, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), or how post-production is implemented, twenty-twenty has definitely shaken up the industry.

Photo Copyright © 2020 BBC.

Then there is our beloved science-fiction program, Doctor Who. Certainly, the production of Doctor Who doesn’t even come close to the list of items that are at the top of mind during such difficult times, but there is a certain catharsis in being whisked away from our daily worries into the whimsical would of science-fiction; helping us cope with these tumultuous times. With that in mind, it’s worth looking into where twenty-twenty has left the prospective outlook of the next season of Doctor Who.

New Who has always been about the wait. The constant urge for consistency has been the topic of heated debate for many years. Since its continuation back in 2005, fans have been left from one season to another with the insatiable wait for more Who. More often than not, the Christmas Specials have been the key to bridging the tide, and previously one can even say that having shows like Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures made the wait even more tolerable. But there is no Torchwood or Sarah Jane Adventures in 2020, and all we have is the Christmas turned New Year’s Specials to quench our thirst. The gap between seasons can range from just under a year for the shortest and up to eighteen months for the longest. That being said, most fans have been okay with waiting, with the added caveat that what we get in the end is something amazing, but as of late the acceptance of the current showrunner Chris Chibnall’s direction for the show has certainly been up for debate.

Making Television During The Pandemic

It goes without saying that while we do yearn for more adventures from our favorites shows and characters, we have to ask ourselves the question: “Why take the risk?” If we truly care about the programs and the actors therein, why even entertain the thought of putting them in danger? As you would surmise, it’s all a calculated risk, weighing the relative health of the cast and crew against the confidence that a safe and responsible show can be made in the current conditions.

Photo Copyright © 2020 BBC.

One great example of making a show during the pandemic has been Star Trek: Discovery season three. While all principal filming was completed prior to the onset of the pandemic, most of the post-production was not complete. Things like pick-up shots, digital effects, and the orchestral score had yet to be completed. Pick-up shots were completed digitally via motion capture when it was unsafe to bring in the actors, home offices became editing bays, and closets became recording studios; with the process of post-production continuing on even as the season started airing.

Then there are the shows that began filming after the pandemic started. In addition to the requirements for PPE on set, there is also the change in the way that certain scenes are shot, even to the point where there may be a lot less fighting and sex scenes in television made during the pandemic. Some shows have even taken on the challenge of incorporating PPE into the show itself.

Series 13 of Doctor Who

Ultimately, how does this all affect Doctor Who? While we do have confirmation that Doctor Who series thirteen is officially underway, that does come with a fair amount of caveats. After already having to deal with a cut in the number of episodes with the inception of the Chibnall era, fans will once again have to deal with even fewer episodes due to the pandemic. Doctor Who series thirteen will only be an eight-episode run. In a quote from bbc.com Chibnall outlines the current state of the show.

In this strangest of years, the Doctor Who production team have worked wonders to get the show back into production. We’re thrilled to be back making the show. Given the complexity of making Doctor Who, and with new and rigorous Covid working protocols, it’s going to take us a little longer to film each episode, meaning we expect to end up with eight episodes, rather than the usual eleven. But rest assured, the ambition, humour, fun and scares you expect from Doctor Who will all still be firmly in place. For everyone around the world, this is a challenging period — but the Doctor never shirks from a challenge!

Executive Producer at BBC Studios, Matt Strevens also adds:

We are so thrilled to have unlocked the TARDIS, dusted down the sonic and be able to start filming again for the next series of Doctor Who. The amazing production team, crew and cast have worked wonders to get us shooting again in these challenging times. It’s going to be as fun filled and action packed as ever — with plenty of surprises.

Photo Copyright © 2020 BBC.

Of course, the important take away here is that Doctor Who is filming again. Undoubtedly an exhaustive amount of preparation had to be put in place to even make shooting possible. Furthermore, there will be an unprecedented bevy of challenges, which the cast and crew will face as shooting continues; every interaction with people and places will be met with an added amount of scrutiny.

Lastly, we have to ask the question, when? With Revolution of the Daleks slated to air over the holiday break, it's likely that we’ll have to wait a while before the season premiere airs. With Chibnall’s past two seasons, filming has averaged around eleven months of shooting, but that’s with a ten-episode season, giving a little over a month of filming per episode. With series thirteen, we can probably look for shooting to go from November 2020 until July or August 2021; but taking the pandemic into account, it will likely be even longer. Also, the last two seasons of Doctor Who have aired about two months after filming concluded, but again, we have to take the pandemic into account, possibly pushing a premiere date to October or beyond.

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