Doctor Who; Specials

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Thursday, 23 December 2021 - Reported by Chuck Foster
Eve of the Daleks poster (portrait clean) (Credit: BBC/James Pardon)

This year's festive special, Eve of the Daleks, will premiere on BBC One at 7:00pm on New Year's Day.

 

The BBC's guide to the Christmas line-up reports:

The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and friends will kick-start 2022 with an action-packed spectacular episode set to air on BBC One on New Year’s Day. The festive special will feature guest stars Aisling Bea (This Way Up, Living With Yourself, Quiz), Adjani Salmon (Dreaming Whilst Black, Enterprice) and Pauline McLynn (Father Ted, Shameless).

Sarah (Aisling Bea) owns and runs ELF storage, and Nick (Adjani Salmon) is a customer who visits his unit every year on New Year’s Eve. This year, however, their night turns out to be a little different than planned…

The festive episode is the first of three Doctor Who Specials airing in 2022. The second Special airs in Spring and Jodie’s final feature-length Special (in where the Thirteenth Doctor will regenerate), will transmit in autumn 2022 as part of the BBC’s Centenary celebrations.

Doctor Who is a BBC Studios production for BBC One and a BBC America co-production. BBC Studios are the international distributors for Doctor Who.

Speaking about festive treats in general, the BBC's Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore said:

Christmas 2021 is a time to reunite with friends and family once more, and this year’s line-up of must-see shows will bring everyone together to share the festive season on the BBC. There’s a stocking full of special programmes to enthral and enchant featuring your favourite stars and characters, whatever your mood. The BBC is the place to be entertained this Christmas and New Year.

 

Focussing on the show itself, the BBC have released a number of interviews with the cast and crew:

Interview with Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor)

What can audiences expect from Eve Of The Daleks?

I think the festive special is a wonderful high octane contained story, so if you haven’t seen the series, including the Flux, you can start this episode and be taken on a rollercoaster through a scenario where the Doctor, Yaz and Dan are stuck in a time loop. Not only are they stuck in a time loop, they’re being pursued by the Doctor’s biggest enemy, which is the Daleks. For the Doctor it is her worst scenario.

This is all set on New Year’s Eve and we’ve two fantastic guest stars, Aisling Bea and Adjani Salmon who are not only hilarious but also wonderful actors that provide so much energy and brilliant chemistry. Audiences can expect lots of comedy, lots of fun, high stakes, huge amounts of jeopardy and an energised rollercoaster ride.

Can you introduce us to Sarah and Nick? How was it working with Aisling Bea and Adjani Salmon?

In the New Year’s Day special we were really lucky to work with Adjani Salmon and Aisling Bea. I had met Aisling before - and had never met Adjani - so I knew how lovely Aisling was going to be and how hilarious she is! My first introduction to Adjani was when we did the read through on Zoom and he was absolutely hilarious and I couldn’t wait for his energy and Aisling’s energy, they’re so different and they complement each other so well. Because they’re both from a world of comedy which I’m not from or Mandip’s not from (but obviously John is!) it was like comedy gold dust just being on set with them, they were making us laugh the whole time. What they brought to the characters and what they brought to the episode was really fun, a lot of high energy, a lot of farce, high stakes in this very groundhog, Russian Doll environment.

What was it like filming this time loop story from an actor’s perspective?

From the actor’s perspective, filming a repetitive moment or the replaying of the same moment in time – the Groundhog Day sequences where we exit the TARDIS and you realise that time is playing a loop - it’s actually really fun to shoot because you end up shooting really quick. So because you set it up, you’re covering so many moments that it’s only slightly different. It’s a little bit tricky sometimes because it all does turn into one in your head and then you’ll turn a corner and realise you’re shooting a different moment and it’s unexpected.

I have to say being on set the episode feels like it’s going at a million miles an hour even though you’re hitting the same moment every time, so I found that fascinating. It was brilliant because it’s contained, it’s in one location, there’s a real brilliant use of comedy with the Daleks as well which was really interesting to do. But also there was just five of us the entire time and that was so much fun.

What was it like filming the scenes where you’re exterminated?

When I read this episode for the first time and in one of the opening moments get exterminated I genuinely thought, “Somebody has decided to write me out a bit sooner than I thought!” It’s brilliant to play because the first time, for the Doctor, it’s as if you’re grasping at those seconds and that realisation that it could be your last moment. And for you to be killed by a Dalek would be so horrendous! But then once you realise you’re in this time loop the anticipation of the pain and the fun that can be had with that... it’s the first time in my career I’ve died so many times in an episode, there’s always a first!

What makes the Daleks so frightening?

What makes a Dalek so frightening is no matter how many times you think you’ve defeated them they always come back. And it’s that never-ending game of tennis, terrifying tennis.

How has the Doctor and Yaz’s relationship developed since they first met each other?

I think what’s been great is the amount of time that’s played out, I think obviously (our) first season was in real time... but with season twelve and season thirteen what happens is we have these elongated gaps between seasons and the time spent away, like the months that the Doctor’s in prison. In this season, there’s the time where Yaz has absolutely no idea if she’s going to see the Doctor again.

So the Doctor has given Yaz a hologram of information and Yaz continually plays it as her one connection to the Doctor when they’re parted in time. I think what’s brilliant is that these two, have had out of everyone - for my Doctor - the most amount of time together. And so it grows from Yaz’s perspective from somebody who is finding her feet to leading and confidence. What the Doctor loves is seeing Yaz’s independence and confidence grow, but she never falters in always being there for the Doctor and vice versa as well.

Interview with Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan)

What can audiences expect from the New Year’s Day special?

The New Year’s special is a standalone episode so it’s a really easy access point for anyone that perhaps didn’t watch the series or has never watched Doctor Who. It’s full of adventure, there’s a lot at stake, particularly for the Doctor but it’s also the funniest episode we’ve done. There’s lots of humour, there’s lots of warmth, romance, and then there’s this really cool storyline in which the gang are stuck in a time loop against the Daleks and unless they break the time loop it’s not going to look good for them.

It’s a really nice, essentially easy watch but not because there is a lot at stake but at the same time, having come off the back of Flux which has been quite an intense series, it’s a little bit different for people.

We’ve got Aisling Bea and Adjani Salmon joining the cast for this one. What it was like working with them and can you tell us anything about their characters?

For this episode we worked with Aisling Bea and Adjani Salmon. We had a really good time. Essentially it was just me, Jodie, John, Aisling and Adjani together for a couple of weeks in the same set as it’s we’re stuck in a time loop. We just had such fun. There was a time where Jodie, Aisling and I really convinced ourselves that it would be a good idea to do a music video because there was a big silver gate and it reminded us of Girls Aloud’s ‘Sound of the Underground’.

We practiced it, then we had to go to set, then we practiced it again and in my head I really thought Adjani was actually our tour manager. John kept going in and out and I think we said he could be the director but really we knew we didn’t need direction! In my head we were really going to do this music video and then it didn’t happen. Aisling was a bit like the director, she gave us our lines. I was like, “Can I be Kimberley because she’s really northern?” and she let me do that bit which was really nice of her!

How are the central trio managing off the back of Flux?

The trio have been through a lot, and they’ve been separated for quite a long time. Weirdly we sort of forget about the emotional turmoil that we’ve all been through, to some degree. What happens in this world is you get thrown into another challenge and adventure, you meet new people, and you dust yourself off and you’re back in it again.

There’s no time to sort of reflect on everything that has gone on. However, we do, I’ve been on a really long journey with Dan in which he’s seen things and emotions, a side to me he probably wouldn’t have seen if we hadn’t been separated from the Doctor. He starts to question my actions, he makes me think about my actions and my feelings so we do remember to a degree what we’ve been through and what happened when we were separated so we do touch upon that, we don’t just forget about the distance and the years that we spent apart. At the same time, they are just thrown into a new adventure and they don’t have time to think about the gravitas of the Flux at that point.

How was it working with the Daleks this time around and what makes them so fun as a villain?

The Daleks have been around quite a few times since I’ve been in Doctor Who but every time you become more familiar with them. In the beginning I didn’t really speak to the actors and questioned whether there was anyone in there, but we’ve become so familiar with the actors playing the Daleks that we have chats in between scenes. John was like, “Can I get in?” and I was like, “He’s so brave, I’ve been here for years, and I’ve not asked to get in, but I wish I was more that person!”

They’re just brilliant aren’t they? They don’t look like the scariest of creatures but they are so dangerous, so I can only assume that’s why people like them. Every time they come in they create chaos and turmoil, sometimes we beat them and sometimes we haven’t. I’m not saying audience want us to be exterminated, perhaps they do, but I just think that’s what you tune in for, the trepidation and you know when these things come something is about to go down.

Were there any other stand out moments from filming this special in particular?

It was really fun to be working with Aisling and Adjani. They’re very funny people. It was just us five in this wet tunnel and we get on so well with the crew but you’re in a storage unit, there’s only so much space and they’ve got shelves up. Aisling created these characters from my life and played them for me, just for me, it was like having a one woman show every time we cut camera.

We’d be acting, then we’d cut and I’d turn around to Aisling every time we cut and ask “what else have you got for me then?” and she’d turn it on, start doing this performance, I’d be laughing my head off thinking “how has she thought of this, where has this come from, how does she have so much energy?” And then at action we’d go again and then at cut I’d basically look for her to entertain me the whole time!

This episode is all about time loops. If you could go back in time and relive any one event in your life, what would it be?

That’s a very deep question. I’m thinking “could I go back and do something better?” The answer is probably no. We went to Canada as a family when I was 7 or 8 and you have those performances where someone gets up and starts performing and I for some reason said I’d be Elvis Presley, and I absolutely loved it. I was in my element and my family thought it was the best thing that ever happened. They were cheering me on. There was no other audience, just my family, and I remember thinking “I am absolutely brilliant!” For me if I could go back and relive that moment, those are the moments where I probably realised I loved performing. I had a guitar and everything. Very random because I definitely wasn’t listening to his music.

What would Yaz’s New Year’s resolution be at this point in the story?

I think Yaz’s New Year’s resolution at this point should be to talk about her emotions a little bit more with people in the TARDIS and people back in Sheffield. She’s a very emotionally intelligent character and she always bangs on to the Doctor to talk about what she went through and open up but all the while she’s been hiding this turmoil she went through when she was younger. She’s got mixed emotions and is toying with things at the time of this episode and yet really when someone confronts her, she doesn’t answer so I think I’d say to Yaz to take her own advice.

What will your own resolution be, do you believe in them?

I think resolutions are brilliant. It doesn’t matter if you don’t stick to them. Also, I tend to make resolutions throughout the year. I think it’s really nice to give yourself a goal because prior to me giving myself goals, I used to say I have no willpower and I have to eat all the cakes and cookies I see! I’m going to make a resolution I think, I don’t know what it is but it’s definitely going to be along the lines of exercise or something. Make time to move, even if it’s just to walk. I’m always too busy but this year I’m actually going to do it as a New Year’s resolution and see how long it goes.

Interview with John Bishop (Dan Lewis)

What can audiences expect from the New Year's Day special, what kind of adventure do the trio go on?

It’s like a time loop, in the time loop it finds us in Manchester on New Year’s Eve where the Daleks are about to take out the Doctor forever. The problem that we face is that every time there’s a potential to interrupt them we get caught by them and get exterminated and have to start again. And that’s the maddest of all experiences because obviously (after) extermination by a Dalek, there’s no going back.

So to have actually been one of the few characters ever to have survived the Dalek extermination in fact I think, ever, is a bit of an honour. It’s also a bit of an odd thing because how do you die? There are different ways of dying but when a Dalek exterminates you, you sort of freeze. I kept on trying to make it better every time!

We’ve heard this is a very fun special, with a comedy element in there too?

The relationship between Aisling (Bea) and Adjani (Salmon) is great - there are some ad libs they dropped in which Chris kept in as they are great comic actors and both very funny. It’s fast-paced, because it’s a loop the narrative keeps changing so it’s a fast pace, it’s got to start and restart itself a lot throughout the episode.

It’s contained because of where’s it’s taking place in a warehouse in Manchester and it’s fun! Anything to do with something as iconic as the Daleks is bound to be fun but this is a massive step up, from my point of view as anyone who gets a part in Doctor Who hopes there may be a scene with the Daleks. You don’t always expect to get this interaction with them, it’s brilliant!

How was it working with Aisling Bea and Adjani Salmon?

Aisling I know from stand-up, I’ve known her for a long time and we’ve gigged together but we’ve never acted together and Adjani none of us knew (beforehand) I don’t think. It was just easy, and it felt very comfortable straight away. There was a sense of claustrophobia a little bit because we’re in this warehouse, but it was all filmed in a bunker, people were saying was a nuclear bunker – it felt like one even if it wasn’t one! There was no room not to get on with each other because we were literally underground for a few weeks filming it.

Did you have any standout memories from being on set?

Aisling (Bea) can flip her voices and characters and all that so there was loads of messing about and having a laugh. Obviously the Daleks themselves, they stay on set and when the actors (playing them) aren’t in the Dalek you just find yourself sat having a cup of tea leaning against a Dalek, talking with Adjani about football! It was just bizarre.

This episode is all about time loops, if you were stuck in a time loop yourself and had to repeat a big moment what would you do again?

I’ve had loads of fantastic moments throughout my life and career. It sounds naff but the last proper holiday we went on before lockdown was in the Maldives and there’s been many a time over the last couple of years I thought “I’d do that again!” So if I could get stuck in a time loop I wouldn’t mind being in a nice hotel in the Maldives!

Where do we find Dan in this special?

He’s comfortable with the Doctor and Mandip and he’s a comfortable time traveller. It’s still clear that he has a hankering to go home at some stage in his life. He’s definitely enjoying it and has got confidence to contribute to what is going on. He takes the responsibility at certain times in the episode to be the person who makes a difference whereas prior to this he wasn’t ready to do that, he wasn’t able to.

If he had a New Year’s resolution at this point, what do you think it would be?

I think to be more proactive and take charge - I think there’s a point in this episode where he decides to take on the Dalek and delay them.

Are you a fan of New Year’s Day? Do you have any New Year’s Day traditions?

We started going away for New Year and we go to a hotel with friends and our New Year’s Day tradition is to get up and walk to the pub through some fields and then walk back, regardless of the weather and the sore heads from the night before!

Interview with Adjani Salmon (Nick)

What can audiences expect from Eve Of The Daleks?

It’s about a shy and lovestruck character who is trying to build up the courage to profess his feelings for Sarah (Aisling Bea), and that gets interrupted by Daleks! They end up in a time loop where he has to do so before time runs out!

How was it working with Jodie, John and Mandip? Did you and Aisling immediately slot into the dynamic?

It felt like we were welcomed into a family. It felt like I was invited to someone’s family barbecue - everyone is welcoming and offering food and wants to show you what’s happening! Immediately before I even met Jodie and the rest of the cast, Jodie reached out and asked for my number to say she was glad I was coming on the show so before I even met her I was already welcomed by her. It was good fun and we had loads of great chats!

We heard there was a music video being created on set?

Yes - Aisling, Mandip and Jodie decided they were the new Girls Aloud and I was the cameraman!

This episode is all about time loops, if you had to repeat any day from your own life on a loop what would it be?

There was a time I went to a friend’s birthday at Dunn’s River Falls – which is a waterfall that falls into the sea. It was waterfalls, beach, rum, music and friends – that would be the day.

What would Nick’s New Year’s resolution be?

After all that he’s been through I think his New Year’s resolution would be to be brave to pursue whatever he wants.

How was it working with the Daleks?

The actors (in the Daleks) are so great – I didn’t even know actors were in there! There are so many things that you don’t know about Doctor Who until you’re doing it. Nick (Briggs) who actually speaks, speaks live and you hear him live as well. The first take we did I think was when the Daleks come and I react to them and when he spoke I couldn’t believe it – that was a real reaction!

Do you have any New Year’s Day traditions?

New Year’s Eve is normally partying with friends and family. The day is very much about reflecting on the past year and setting goals that you want to achieve throughout the year.

What was your biggest surprise filming Doctor Who, apart from actors being inside the Daleks?

One thing I took away is how much easier it is when you have a solid team. The entire Doctor Who clique is like a family and a unit. It feels like a family working together and when we were in high pressure environment it was still this synergy of everyone working and moving and getting it done. As a filmmaker I’m watching it thinking “I want this energy when I’m on set!”

Interview with Chris Chibnall (Showrunner)

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.

Interview with Annetta Laufer (Director)

Can you tell us a bit about how you came on board for this project, and what attracted you to the job?

I got contacted by the producer of our episode Sheena Bucktowonsing who had seen some of my work online - in particular a Sci Fi short film I directed called Afro Punk Girl. She emailed me and asked if I was interested in meeting her and later Chris (Chibnall), and it went from there. The reason I decided to join Doctor Who was because I knew such a genre bending, epic story telling format was going to be a huge and fun challenge for me to embark on. Plus I was going to work with the first female Doctor in the history of Doctor Who! That’s pretty awesome!

What were the biggest challenges filming Eve Of The Daleks?

From a practical point of view - it was time, time, time. We had a lot to shoot in a short space of time while also making sure it looked cinematic and exciting. The locations were also a challenge - especially the narrow corridors. Moving around with cast and crew and equipment, and Daleks and abide by all the strict COVID-19 rules in place, made it very challenging.

But we luckily had a fantastic crew who were fast and extremely efficient so we always managed to get it done. From a story point of view - the challenge was keeping track of which time loop we were in, as we were shooting out of sequence and so some time loops could appear very similar. We also had to keep track of what the ‘story time’ was on the clock as each loop lost one minute.

What was the atmosphere like on set? You had a few comics in this cast – there must have been lots of laughs?

The atmosphere was amazing. We laughed A LOT! But also everyone worked really hard and were incredibly focused. So we actually got so much work done. Everyone was such a joy to work with.

Have you always been a Doctor Who fan, and if so what are some of your own favourite episodes or specials from previous series?

I was never really a big Doctor Who fan when I was a kid. I remember it being on TV but I wasn’t much into Sci Fi at the time. It is only when the reboot started that I took more notice. Some of my favourite specials from previous years include The Runaway Bride, Voyage of the Damned and The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe. I also really enjoyed Resolution and Spyfall Part 1 with our 13th Doctor.

Were you involved in any of the casting?

Chris had suggested Aisling Bea which I thought was a great idea. I knew Adjani from his web series Dreaming Whilst Black so when his name was put name forward I was excited, as was Chris.

Will you be watching it yourself on New Year’s Day? What do you hope audiences take away from this episode?

I will be watching it with my family on New Year’s Day which will be a lot of fun. What I want the audience to take away with them is a feeling of happiness and a warm glow inside. After all the heavy months we have been through, I think everyone deserves a bit of magic and cheer. So what could be better than watching a Rom Com with Daleks!

 

 

Other territories that have confirmed broadcast at the time of writing include the USA (BBC America, with a simulcast broadcast at 2pm EST), Australia (ABC, with the episode available on iView shortly after UK broadcast), Canada (CTV SciFi), New Zealand (TV2) and Turkey (BBC Prime); full broadcast details can be found via This Week in Doctor Who.