5 things we need to see in Doctor Who season 12

Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan, Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair, Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, Bradley Walsh as Graham O'Brien - Doctor Who _ Season 12 - Photo Credit: Ben Blackall/BBCAmerica/BBCStudios
Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan, Tosin Cole as Ryan Sinclair, Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, Bradley Walsh as Graham O'Brien - Doctor Who _ Season 12 - Photo Credit: Ben Blackall/BBCAmerica/BBCStudios /

A new season of Doctor Who arrives this January, and we’ve got a few things we’d like to see happen when Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor returns to the TARDIS.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not the winter holidays (though, admittedly, those are great. No, it’s almost time for a new season of Doctor Who!

The iconic sci-fi series returns on New Year’s Day, which will also mark star Jodie Whittaker’s second season in the TARDIS, following her history-making debut as the show’s first ever female Doctor in 2018. By the time season premiere “Spyfall” airs, Doctor Who will have been off the air for a full year – even longer when you consider the fact that 2019 New Year’s Day special “Resolution” was only a single episode, and one that installed months after Season 11 concluded.

Whovians everywhere have been waiting for long time for a new season, is what I’m saying.

And now that its finally – well, almost – here, it’s time to talk about what we’d like to see in it.

A more complicated version of Thirteen

The first season for any new Doctor is always challenging. (Personally, I like to pretend a big chunk of Peter Capaldi’s first year in the TARDIS never happened.) Perhaps that statement is even more true when it comes to the first female Doctor that has ever been. Before she ever appeared onscreen, Thirteen was under constant scrutiny. How would her being a woman play into her character? Would it affect the kind of stories the show chose to tell?

Every new regeneration asks what kind of Doctor will this version be? How would those who compare to the Time Lords who came before? But all those questions were ramped up to 11 in a media and fannish landscape that was all too eager to find fault with literally anything the show chose to do with the character. As a result, Doctor Who felt as though it was treating her character a bit gingerly. Sure, Thirteen was a determined pacifist and allowed to be fallible again for the first time in forever, but she didn’t have a definitive arc in her first season. That’s okay, I think, given that we’re all still getting to know here, and the show had to balance the addition of not one, not two, but three new companions. But it’s something the show needs to work on in her second year.

Longer and more complicated arcs

Showrunner Chris Chibnall’s first season at the helm of the TARDIS was markedly different than his predecessors in lots of ways. His Doctor is a woman, of course. He waited until the series very last episode to bring back the Daleks – or to include any familiar Doctor Who monsters at all. He was very into less complicated storytelling, with easily digestible stories that had clear endings.

(The weird one about the alternate reality where the pocket universe decides to present itself as a talking frog is the exception that generally proves the rule.)

Now that we’re heading into Whittaker’s second season as the Doctor, it’s time to mix things up a bit. Tell longer stories. Maybe give us an arc that extends over a handful of episodes. Build to something in a way that Thirteen’s era really hasn’t done much of yet.  (The season 12 premiere is a two-part installment called “Spyfall,” which is hopefully an indication that Doctor Who will play around more with narrative structure this season, and not rely so much on insular stories this time around. I don’t need, say, Steven Moffat-level complicated stories (please no, actually), but something with a bit more space to breathe and develop would be good.

Stories that explicitly address the Doctor’s gender

One of the best episodes of season 11 was “The Witchfinders,” a period piece that saw the Doctor and friends land in Lancashire during the reign of King James I, a time which saw England endure its own witch panic and sees Thirteen’s new status as a woman directly impact the story in significant ways. (This episode could never have happened if the Doctor were still played by Peter Capaldi, is what I’m saying.)

And we deserve to see more of that in season 12.

It’s an entirely new and unexplored area for the show – much of season 11 was specifically about reiterating the idea that the Doctor is the Doctor no matter what form a particular regeneration takes. And that’s still true. But others – whether human or alien – are going to react to a female Doctor differently than they did a male one. And that’s an angle of this story that’s worth seeing, too. Thirteen wouldn’t – and shouldn’t – be free of misogyny and the patriarchy simply because she’s the Doctor, and we should see more stories that both reflect that fact and show us how she chooses to handle it.

A bigger role for Yaz

One of the most consistent issues with Doctor Who season 11 was the fact that it very obviously didn’t know what to do with companion Yasmin Khan. While Thirteen herself was finding her feet, and Ryan and Graham worked out their family issues, Yaz was often left on the sidelines of other people’s stories. Her exploration of her family’s history in “Demons of the Punjab” was moving – and honestly rates as one of the season’s best episodes – but the show really didn’t give her much in the way of an arc of her own.

That really needs to change in season 12. Because at the moment, I still don’t feel like I know Yaz very well as character, even though we’ve spent almost a dozen episodes with her. Why is she traveling with the Doctor? What is she trying to find in the folds of time and space? And why is she so devoted to Thirteen? For a lead character, Yaz has been almost criminally underwritten, and here’s hoping the new slate of episodes addresses that problem head on.

Separate arcs for Ryan and Graham

During season 11, Graham and his step-grandson Ryan ironed out a lot of their personal issues together. The season even ended with Ryan calling Graham “grandad” and the two of them being generally adorable together. Seeing them come together as a family was both moving and an event that felt completely earned. After all, season 11 pretty much spent its entirety building to it, making the pair’s relationshp

This is, of course, why season 12 should do something completely different, and let Ryan and Graham have their own stories this time around. Maybe flesh out Ryan and Yaz’s relationship a bit further – other than the fact that they were primary school friends and are kind of flirty together sometimes, there’s not much basis to their friendship at the moment. And other than Wilf – who, let’s remember was in the TARDIS for all of five seconds – Graham is the oldest companion in the New Who era. Let’s maybe see what that means in real, concrete terms. How is this trip through time and space different for someone with so much of his life already behind him? That’s a story I’d watch.

Next. The trailer for Doctor Who season 12 promises new adventures and a few old enemies. dark

Doctor Who season 12 begins January 1, 2020 on BBC America.