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'Dr Who is a show about inclusivity... it does not do borders'

Get ready - Jodie Whittaker's second series as the Time Lord is here. And it promises to be much scarier this time, says Georgia Humphreys

Jodie Whittaker makes her return as Doctor Who on New Year’s Day
Jodie Whittaker makes her return as Doctor Who on New Year’s Day

By Georgia Humphreys

Jodie Whittaker always knew that, for her first series of Doctor Who, there would be a huge focus on her gender. Now, though, her debut as the first female Time Lord is done and dusted. "And the world didn't end, so there we go," quips the bouncy 37-year-old, who hails from West Yorkshire.

"It was absolutely going to be a part of the dialogue of the lead up to the first. It's naturally transitioned into, 'What is in store for the Doctor?' rather than, 'How are you going to represent all women ever in this role?'."

Whittaker - known for Broadchurch, Trust Me and Tess Of The D'Urbervilles - trails off into infectious laughter at this point. In fact, this happens a few times during our chat.

It makes her really fun to interview; along with the fact she's down-to-earth and incredibly talkative.

She admits she felt "massive relief" after the last series aired "because we finally didn't have so many secrets locked away".

Did she enjoy filming this series more, knowing there had been a positive reaction?

"It's a more relaxed sense of fun the second time," she suggests. "Because the costume is familiar and we are not getting to know each other; we know that we all get on and we're really close and we can spend that amount of time together. And you actively look forward to it."

But the filming process hasn't become easier, in any way.

"It's a nine-and-a-half, 10-month shoot, and the night shoots, and the ambition of the show. It's wonderful, but it's not easily achieved. It takes a lot of work. It's not that there's less pressure, it's just that you're not so brutal on yourself."

The new episodes kick off with a two-parter called Spyfall, written by showrunner Chris Chibnall, who also wrote Broadchurch.

The 13th Doctor is once again joined by friends Ryan (Tosin Cole), Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Graham (Bradley Walsh).

And we know a host of famous faces will be appearing throughout the series as guest stars, including Stephen Fry, Sir Lenny Henry and Robert Glenister.

"I was really excited to work with Stephen Fry, because my previous moment with him was half a scene in St Trinian's (2007), which I was like, 'He's probably not going to remember that'," she recalls.

On to the monsters we can expect to see the time-travelling gang face and long-time fans will be reunited with some familiar faces, including the Cybermen.

"And the Judoon!" gasps Whittaker, who's married to American actor and writer Christian Contreras. "They're in Gloucester - that's very exciting and unexpected, I think.

"Because Chris (Chibnall) is such a huge Doctor Who fan - and you can see that in his writing - he wanted to write, or get the writers to write, such a phenomenal episode to warrant bringing them back.

"There's no point wasting these classic monsters, just as a gesture. So, you've got a lot to come. Particularly the Cybermen episode - it's incredible."

That's not to say being part of a sci-fi show has made her any better with scary moments. When she watches horror films, she says, she has to remind herself of all the camera kit surrounding the set and that "there's an actor, and a director, everything about this is pretend".

Doctor Who is hugely anticipated all year long - it's arguably one of our country's biggest-ever shows.

It first aired in 1963, with William Hartnell playing the titular character until 1966. After the Eighties, the show had a long break from our screens, before 2005 saw Christopher Eccleston take on the lead role.

Since then, it's returned year on year, with David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi at the helm.

Whittaker agrees that, at a time when there's a lot of uncertainty in the world, it's nice to be able to dive back into a show that we know so well.

"It's a show without borders and it's a show about inclusivity and it's a show about love and hope," she says.

"We can be the generation to move things forward, even if the immediate future feels like it's not necessarily going forward."

It's also "escapism", she suggests.

"We've all in some way lived through trauma and we can't expect television to be a cure; you can't think your show is bigger than that," she notes.

"But, in some ways, what we should be doing, because we're in the very lucky position of being in a show that we love and we're working in at this moment in time, we are safe in this room. We should be living it and maximising it as much as we can."

Doctor Who, BBC One, New Year's Day, 6.55pm

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