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SYFY WIRE Doctor Who

Doctor Who season premiere will be "biggest episode" ever, says showrunner

By Josh Grossberg
Doctor Who

Talk about kicking the decade off with a bang.

To the delight of legions of Whovians, the Season 12 premiere of Doctor Who promises to be the "biggest episode" ever in the history of the long-running sci-fi drama.

That's the good word from showrunner Chris Chibnall, who in a sit-down with Deadline spilled more tidbits about the previously announced two-part barn-burner titled "Spyfall," which drops on BBC America on New Year's Day at 8 p.m.

According to Doctor Who's head writer and producer, Jodie Whittaker's sophomore season as the latest Time Lord to helm the TARDIS starts out on the level of a "movie-like" action adventure, raising the bar for the TV series not only in terms of budget, but creatively as well.

"Episode one is probably the biggest episode of Doctor Who we've done, or has been done, I would imagine. Physically, there’s a lot of stunts, there’s a lot of locations, it’s a globe-trotting action thriller," said Chibnall. "But you don’t want to lose sight of character and intimacy and emotion. You can’t do everything at 11."

A super-sized Doctor Who is no surprise in the Platinum Age of television, where traditional broadcasters like the BBC have had to up their game in order to compete with streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon, whose unlimited budgets have produced ambitious fantasy dramas that are breaking new ground.

When asked if audiences expect more as a result, the showrunner agreed that they do. But he was quick to argue that what makes Doctor Who so timeless since its launch way back in 1963 is baked into the show's unique DNA.

"Doctor Who has a thing that those shows don’t have, which is that we go somewhere new every week. So every week, we’re in a new world, we’re in new locations, we’ve got new guest actors, got a new guest cast, got new monsters, we’ve got a new threat, got a new story," said Chibnall. "So the incredible thing is Doctor Who has already structured itself like that. Our responsibility is to make sure the production standards are up to scratch."

No doubt the current incarnation of Doctor Who with Whittaker at the controls has a lot going for it already, having received positive notices from critics and fans alike. But if you ask the show's mastermind, he's just getting started.

While Doctor Who avoided big two-parters when Chibnall took over as showrunner for the 11th season last year, this time around he teased he'll be taking more risks with different narrative structures that will run through the season, though he didn't elaborate.

"The success of last year really emboldens you. All that audience we gathered up last year, we’re now going to take them on a journey into the toy box of Doctor Who,” he added, noting how beloved the franchise is around the world.

Stephen Fry

The drama will also be helped along with the guest appearance of one of Britain's most acclaimed actors, Stephen Fry, who Whittaker predicted will fit right in, and was effusive in her praise.

"To us, he’s everything: he’s an actor, philosopher, he’s a writer. In years to come, he’s one of the great minds of our generation and he is in our series," she gushed to Deadline.

We can't wait.