You've probably heard this by now, but it's worth repeating again for the sheer unbelievability of it: For the first time since Doctor Who premiered in November 1963, the British sci-fi series will be headlined by a woman.
Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch) is taking over the iconic role of the time-and-space-traveling Doctor from Peter Capaldi, who offered a darker, angrier take on the heroic Time Lord over the show's previous three seasons. But if you've been hesitant to jump on board the Doctor Who train because of the intense time commitment or complicated mythology involved — it's totally normal to feel overwhelmed by it all — we're here to tell you that there's actually never been a better time to start watching Doctor Who than right now.
The series is at a pivotal moment in its 50-plus year history; when it returns for Season 11 of the New Who era (the series was revived in 2005 after taking 16 years off), it won't just be with a female Doctor piloting the TARDIS, it will be with an entirely new crew. Whittaker's Doctor is being joined by three new companions — Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Yasmin (Mandip Gill) — who accompany her on adventures and help her ultimately save the day. They are taking over for the radiant Pearl Mackie who portrayed Bill, the Doctor's most recent companion, and left after last season as well.
However, it's not just that there are new faces leading the series; there are many new voices behind the scenes too. Steven Moffat, who first made his mark on the series as the writer of instant classics like "Blink" and "Silence in the Library" before taking over as showrunner from Russell T Davies in Season 5, departed the series alongside Capaldi, Mackie and Michelle Gomez, who portrayed Missy, the latest incarnation of the Doctor's longtime nemesis the Master. Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall, who previously wrote the Doctor Who episodes "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" and "The Hungry Earth," among others, has taken over as showrunner in his stead, and he's charting a new path.
One of the ways he's doing this is by adding a chorus of new voices to the writers' room, which includes the series' first writers of color. "It was overdue," Chibnall told Den of Geek of the series' newfound inclusiveness. "I can only speak to since I've been in the job and I got to make the decision. It felt really simple and obvious. The world was ready."
Joining the series as writers this season are young adult author Malorie Blackman, Skins writer Ed Hime, playwright and screenwriter Vinay Patel, Wentworth writer Pete McTighe, and The Life and Adventures of Nick Nickleby's Joy Wilkinson. But there's not just new blood on the page; there's also a slate of new directors behind the camera as well. Jamie Childs, who directed Whittaker's reveal, returns for the season premiere, titled "The Woman Who Fell to Earth," while Sallie Aprahamian, Jennifer Perrott, and Mark Tonderai will all get a chance to direct in Season 11.
Under Chibnall, the series will also be moving away from the complicated wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey overarching narratives that came to dominate the Moffat era. Featuring more standalone episodes with stories that are resolved within the hour makes the series more accessible to casual viewers as well as newcomers, and Chibnall's decision to add his own flair by featuring more new things rather constantly returning to old characters and villains also contributes to this. It's something that could potentially annoy longtime Whovians who love to see their favorite creatures and monsters return after they've being locked away in the vault for a bit, but after 55 years, even they have to admit there are also only so many Daleks one can take before the word exterminate starts giving them hives. With all of time and space at the Doctor's fingertips, there's really no excuse to bring back the Cybermen every season, you know?
What all of this means is that Doctor Who isn't just experiencing the traditional soft reboot that happens whenever a new doctor or companion is introduced; the series is actually in the process of reinventing itself. It's always been impressive that Doctor Who has continued to feel fresh and new each time there was cast turnover, especially when you consider how many times the series had to reboot itself over the years. But this is the first time there's been a truly blank slate off which to work since the series was revived in 2005 (Moffat had been with the series for four seasons when Matt Smith took over as the Doctor and Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill played his companions Amy and Rory, so even if there was a noticeable shift in tone and structure, it wasn't quite a blank slate). As the series prepares to embark on this historic new season, though, it's also important to remember that the hallmarks of Doctor Who -- the adventure, the heroics, the Sonic Screwdriver — are still present.
One of Season 10's most memorable moments came near the end, in the season finale. Facing down the Master, Capaldi's Doctor gave an impassioned speech about why he continued to put his life at risk when there was no guarantee he would win or that things would even work out.
"Winning? Is that what you think it's about?" the Doctor said. "I'm not trying to win. I'm not doing this because I want to beat someone or because I hate someone or because I want to blame someone. It's not because it's fun. God knows it's not because it's easy. It's not even because it works, because it hardly ever does. I do what I do because it's right, because it's decent, and above all, it's kind. It's just that. Just kind. If I run away today, good people will die. If I stand and fight, some of them might live. Maybe not many, maybe not for long. You know, maybe there's no point in any of this at all, but it's the best I can do. So I'm going to do it. And I will stand here doing it till it kills me."
This perfectly encapsulates so much about why Doctor Who has managed to survive for more than half a century — there are always going to be enemies to fight, and the Doctor will always continue to fight them — but it also reveals how the Doctor, and thus Doctor Who by extension, continues to inspire hope, both within the series and outside of it. And this echoes exactly what Whittaker told fans at San Diego Comic-Con this past summer when talking about the importance of joining the show and what it means for it going forward.
"For me, the Doctor is pillar of hope, and striving for brightness and inclusion," she said. And in these dark and frankly uncertain times, we definitely need a reliable beacon of hope. So pull up a chair, google what TARDIS stands for, and join the fun, because there's never been a better time to start watching Doctor Who.
Doctor Who returns for Season 11 on Sunday, Oct. 7 at 1:45pm/12:45c, with a special encore airing at 8/7c.