This is the third time the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) has faced off against the Daleks on New Year’s Eve — but for the Doctor, it seems like a lot more than that, because she and her companions are stuck in a time loop!
So what can writer and outgoing showrunner, Chris Chibnall, tell us about Eve of the Daleks?
Can you give us an overview of the New Year’s Day special?
In the New Year’s Day special, we are in a storage facility in Manchester and ten minutes to midnight on New Year’s Eve and it’s a time travel loop romantic comedy with Daleks, Aisling Bea, and Adjani Salmon. The Doctor lands the TARDIS in a place she’s not expecting to land in order to reset it from the damage done to it in the Flux in the previous series. She has to face continuously escaping Daleks in a time loop and save the lives of the two people who are there on New Year’s Eve.
How complicated was it to write a time loop story?
It was incredibly complicated – I have the grid on my whiteboard at home! But that was the challenge of it, that was the delight of it and we hadn’t really done an episode like this. The idea of doing a romantic comedy with Daleks as the obstacle felt nice, the idea of doing a time loop romantic comedy felt really nice. It takes a lot of work but also the delight of the decreasing amount of time across each time loop, so each time loop was separately plotted… It took a lot of work and it was really rewarding.
How did Aisling Bea and Adjani Salmon come to be involved?
It was written for Aisling to be honest. I talked to her very early on, we’d wanted her in the show, we thought about this story and I spoke to her and said “this is what we’re thinking of doing and would you be up for it?” She was great, she was really super positive and amazing as she is, and she agreed to do it! And with Adjani, Rebecca Roughan, one of our script editors had seen his work on Dreaming Whilst Black – his show that he’d done on both YouTube and a now as a BBC Three pilot – and went “he’s a star!” He is a star as Aisling is a star, so we roped him in as well and they are a brilliant double act and we are really lucky to have them in what is ostensibly a two hander.
What’s the relationship between Jodie, John, Mandip, and the guest stars?
They seem to get on brilliantly. I think the great thing is Jodie, Mandip, and John just create this incredible welcoming atmosphere. John was on the receiving end of it in episode one, where he was welcomed into the family and studios in Roath Lock and on location. He becomes part of the family very quickly and then he’s welcoming in new people as guest artists come in across the series and the specials. I think the delight of working on this show is people who come in for an episode or a couple of episodes, they just become a very tight knit team. Obviously with the episode where you’re in a time loop and you’re doing scenes in the same spaces with the same characters again and again I think they had a proper great time with it.
What’s different about the Daleks in the special?
These are execution Daleks; they’ve got slightly different weapons and have very much come with a very clear purpose for this. They are not trying to destroy the world — they are trying to destroy the Doctor in payment for what has been done to the Daleks at the end of the previous series.
See those special Daleks on BBC1 at 7pm on 1st January 2022.