The most recent edition of Doctor Who Magazine reveals that the first block of Series 14 will be directed by Dylan Holmes Williams, a young British screenwriter and director whose first major TV job was on M Night Shyamalan’s Apple TV+ horror series Servant. Starring Rupert Grint and Lauren Ambrose, that’s the story of a couple who hire a nanny to look after a reborn doll, opening their home to a mysterious force.
Between 2016 and 2019, Holmes Williams released three horror shorts that captured the film world’s attention. The Nightmare on Deskteeth Street is the story of a boot obsessive on a mission to retrieve his favourite pair, Stilts is set in a dystopia where everybody is forced to wear huge metal stilts, and The Devil’s Harmony is about a teenager who forms a Glee Club to wreak revenge on her high school enemies. The latter won awards at both the Sundance and Raindance film festivals, and is available to stream on Disney+, the new international home of Doctor Who.
Seven-minute, largely silent film Stilts is the story of Rafe, a man who rebels against the surreal restrictions of his world and seeks to escape. It was commissioned by Channel 4 Random Acts, and was shown before previews of weird, atmospheric horror The Lighthouse in UK cinemas. You can watch the film in full here:
Stilts stars Tom Glynn-Carney, who recently appeared in SAS: Rogue Heroes, and also features two names with ties to previous Doctor Who showrunners: Amanda Hale, who featured in Steven Moffat’s series Jekyll, and Con O’Neill who played Cliff in Russell T Davies’ series Cucumber.
Unsettling to watch, Stilts is beautifully shot, and such an outside-the-box concept it’s possible Williams has forgotten what a box looks like altogether. This bodes very well for Doctor Who indeed, and suggests Russell T Davies has a fairly major shake-up in mind for Series 14, perhaps taking the show down an edgier, cooler, darker road.
After all, horror, eeriness and Doctor Who have always gone hand in hand. Davros is the stuff of nightmares, the Weeping Angels are legitimately terrifying, and don’t get us started on ‘The Waters of Mars’ – this show knows how to do horror, it just seemed to slightly forget that during the Chibnall era.
Our rundown of the show’s scariest episodes over the decades demonstrates what a broad horror church Doctor Who is, including memorably disquieting scenes from ‘Kinda’ to ‘The Awakening’ to ‘The Curse of Fenric’, plus more contemporary chilling stories such as Tennant-era ‘Midnight’. The show’s modern era has welcomed several directors known for unsettling imagery and storytelling, including Ben Wheatley, Rachel Talalay (back for the first of three 60th anniversary specials) and many more.
Hopefully, Dylan Holmes Williams, and the rest of the new writer and directors being brought on board by Bad Wolf, will deliver original, mind-bending Doctor Who stories that creep under our skin and stay with us long after we’ve watched them. We’re certainly looking forward to seeing what he brings to Series 14.