Where next for Doctor Who series 7?

Feature James Peaty
29 Sep 2012 - 20:05

We're at the first break in Doctor Who's seventh series since it returned. So where next for Doctor Who?

This contains spoilers. Don't read it if you've not seen Doctor Who series 7 up to The Angels Take Manhattan.

Despite the departure of the Eleventh Doctor’s long time companions Amy and Rory at the end of The Angels Take Manhattan, series 7 of Doctor Who is still very much an ongoing concern for everyone’s favourite Time Lord. With the Christmas episode, eight more one-off adventures and probably at least one 50th anniversary special to come, let’s take a look at quick look at what’s potentially in store for the Doctor as 2012 gives way to 2013…

Christmas And Companions
(Spoiler-y discussion of the Christmas special in this bit, in terms of which characters are in it)

As it currently stands, very little is known about the 2012 Christmas special other than it ‘officially’ introduces new companion Jenna-Louise Coleman to the show.

Having already graced our screens in the form of Oswin Oswald in Asylum Of The Daleks, Coleman’s ongoing role is said to be a different character to the one she played previously. How this fits together with her appearance as Oswinis a mystery, although it’s worth remembering that Who has previous at reusing actors in leading roles further down the line (although not when they'd already been cast in a companion role). Does Steven Moffat have something typically somethingy-wumthingy up his sleeve to connect with these two characters? Or is he simply pulling his own out-version of Russell T Davies’ patented ‘spatial genetic multiplicity’ routine? Time will tell, as the Seventh Doctor once sagely said.

Away from Coleman’s reappearance, it’s been confirmed that the episode is a Victorian set tale, featuring both Richard E Grant and Silent Witness star Tom Ward in significant guest roles. Alongside these new faces, the episode will also apparently feature the returning characters, Madame Vastra (Neve Mackintosh), her ‘special friend’ Jenny (Catrin Stewart) and Sontaran Nurse, Commander Strax (Dan Starkey).

After their memorable turns in the series six episode A Good Man Goes To War, it seemed inevitable that Steven Moffat would reuse the Silurian Vastra and her sidekick at some point, but the return of seemingly dead Strax is a surprise.

But all of these other mysteries and returns are merely window dressing to the real story at the heart of this special: the debut of the show's new companion. Always a good stepping-on point for new or lapsed viewers, it’s reasonable to assume that this episode may well end up being one of the highest rated of the Matt Smith era so far.

Into 2013
(Again, slight spoilers, as we talk about known casting and character news).

With Christmas out of the way and a new companion in place, the show then moves into its anniversary year with a run of eight episodes currently slated to air in the spring.

Keeping the ‘movie of the week’ format that’s served the 2012 series so well, the upcoming spring season will see a writer new to Doctor Who, the creator/showrunner of Luther Neil Cross. He's writing two episodes.

The first of these, guest starring Dougray Scott is seemingly set in the 1950s, while little is known about his second script other than it’s due to be helmed by returning director, Farren Blackburn (The Fades, The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe).

Despite Cross’ addition to the writing team, the remainder of the 2013 writing line-up has a rather familiar air to it. In addition to Moffat scripting both the opening and presumably the losing episode, with his first episode rumored to feature action on ‘a worldwide scale’, there will also be a pair of scripts from series stalwart, Mark Gatiss.

His first story, directed by Douglas Mackinnon and guest starring two actors previously linked to the role of the Doctor himself, Liam Cunningham and David Warner, is rumoured to be set aboard a submarine and may or may not feature the return of classic series monsters, The Ice Warriors. Directed by Saul Metzstein, Gatiss’ second episode is another Victorian set story, rumoured to be titled The Crimson Horror, and features a major casting coup in the form of Dame Diana Rigg (The Avengers, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service).

Appearing alongside and her real-life daughter, Rachel Stirling (Tipping The Velvet), Dame Diana will also share the screen with the returning Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax. Promising fun, colour and gothic scares, this episode promises to be the kind of ghoulish romp that Gatiss does so well.  

Of course, the highlight of Gatiss’ Who output next year may not turn out to be either of his episodes of the main show, but instead his recently commissioned drama about the genesis of Doctor Who. Scheduled to air on BBC 2 later in 2013, this passion project entitled An Adventure In Space And Time, promises to be a highlight of the show's anniversary.

Back with the show proper, the spring run will also feature an episode from writer Steve Thompson (Sherlock) which reportedly features a journey into the heart of the TARDIS and a rumoured reappearance for the Eye of Harmony. Directed by newcomer Mat King and guest starring Ashley Waters (Hustle, Top Boy) fans will be hoping that Thompson hits the creative heights of his Sherlock work. His previous Who adventure, The Curse Of The Black Spot episode, was arguably the weakest of series six.

Aside from Moffat’s finale, probably the most anticipated episode of the upcoming series will be the return of fantasy legend, Neil Gaiman to the writing team. Winner of a Hugo award for his 2011 episode, The Doctor’s Wife, Gaiman has already been elevated into the top rank of Who writers and news of his next episode was announced after he collected his prize earlier this month.

There’s already been some chatter that Gaiman’s episode will feature a revamp of the Cybermen, but as it stands nothing is really known about this script other than it looks like being one of the last episodes to go into production for series seven.

As for what’s in store beyond those next eight episodes, Matt Smith’s recent quotes about the 50th anniversary special seem to indicate that Moffat’s script should be ready around Christmas and that plans exist for it to film sometime in the spring. Will this be the only anniversary special? No one’s saying for sure, although the current execs have mentioned "anniversary specials" in various interviews on more than one occasion.

The future beyond November 2013 is equally unclear. Recent interviews with the key cast and crew suggest that Steven Moffat is on board for a potential series eight, while Matt Smith’s involvement seems somewhat less secure. Could it be that when the show returns in 2014 a new Doctor will be occupying the TARDIS? At this stage nothing appears set in stone, but it seems clear that Smith’s time in the TARDIS is closer its end than its beginning.

What is certain is that Doctor Who as a show still has plenty of life left in it and that it heads into 2013 refreshed by its recent break, renewed by the imminent arrival of a new companion and ready for life beyond its 50th anniversary.

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