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Doctor Who series 13 trailer hints at the show’s new serialized approach

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Get ready for a ‘is Doctor Who actually a movie?’ debate

The Doctor (JODIE WHITTAKER) Yasmin Khan (MANDIP GILL), Dan (JOHN BISHOP) stand in an ancient ruin James Pardon/BBC Studios/BBC America

Fans have been waiting since New Year’s Day for any information about the upcoming series of Doctor Who. The 2021 San Diego Comic-Con panel on the BBC stalwart delivered, giving us new details about series 13, including a warning to prepare for cliffhangers. While no official premiere date was announced, we know new Who is coming “later this year” which is good news.

The biggest reveal comes from showrunner Chris Chibnall, who announced the series will be one serialized story, with each episode serving as a chapter in a larger whole. “It’s definitely the most ambitious thing we’ve done since we’ve been on the series,” Chibnall said about the change in format.

A series of Doctor Who mostly consists of standalone episodes with occasional two-parters that are otherwise removed from any larger central arc. Showrunner Russel T. Davies played a long game with the Master (John Simms), seeding his story into several episodes over multiple seasons culminating in “The End of Time” two-parter. His successor, Steven Moffat, also leaned toward the prestige TV mode by building each season around a central theme like cracks in time or the impossible girl, the Eleventh Doctor’s investigation into companion Clara Oswald. But series 13 will be the first time episodes are truly serialized, and telling one cohesive story.

Series 13 will pick up after the Doctor (Jodie Whitaker) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) have been traveling for some time. The pair will meet Dan Lewis (John Bishop) during one of their adventures. The Doctor Who New Year’s episode, “Revolution of the Daleks” was the swan song for two of the Thirteenth Doctor’s three original companions, Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Graham (Bradley Walsh), but in a post-episode stinger, fans were introduced to Dan. Little information was given about the new addition — a fact that hasn’t changed after the panel. He’ll play a pivotal role in the series, but fans still know almost nothing about him.

Chibnall didn’t give much away about the major narrative decision, but said we can expect more new faces. “We have a number of amazing guest actors joining us across the series and quite a few of them recur across multiple episodes, which is very unusual for this show.” One such character is Vinder, played by Jacob Anderson aka Raleigh Ritchie, who’s probably best known for playing Grey Worm on Game of Thrones. Anderson previously worked with Chibnall and Whitaker on Broadchurch. Anderson was the “very special surprise guest” BBC promised in the lead-up to the panel.

“He makes you root for him, and he breaks your heart … he’s got the whole range” Says Chibnall, on casting Anderson.

The cast was notoriously tight-lipped about what else to expect, but Anderson gave a little bit away, by describing his experience on set. “Not only did I get to go on the TARDIS ... but I’ve got my own ship. My own ship has a world of buttons and levers and switches that you could actually press.” Bishop also refers to him as an “action star” which gives us some idea of what we can expect from the character. Not to mention this costume.

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Chibnall’s era has been short on classic monsters, except for the Daleks, who appeared in both holiday specials, and the Cybermen. But that appears to be changing. Jodie says she’s “excited for our amazing whovians to see some incredible interactions with old monsters.”