The new production team working on Doctor Who season 11 had their work cut out relaunching the show basically from scratch, with an all-new Doctor in Jodie Whittaker and a completely fresh supporting cast. For inspiration, though, it seems they turned to another successful reboot of a beloved sci-fi franchise: Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
While speaking to the press at this weekend’s New York Comic Con, showrunner Chris Chibnall and exec producer Matt Strevens discussed casting the new companions – played by Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole and Bradley Walsh. The former explained that “With any casting, there’s a bit of magic and alchemy as you go.” Stevens then made the point that he hopes the young cast will warm themselves to viewers as much as the likes of Daisy Ridley and John Boyega did in Disney’s Star Wars sequel.
“It’s similar to what we loved about something like The Force Awakens. Where initially people would go in thinking, ‘Oh I can’t wait to see Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher.’ But actually, you sort of forget them in the first half hour when you meet John Boyega and Daisy Ridley because you’re instantly in love with these new guys.”
The situation is a little bit different with Doctor Who, as there aren’t any old stars still hanging around in season 11 unlike Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher’s supporting roles in TFA. Still, the point about fresh faces taking over a long-established franchise is a relevant one. It’s something that Who has actually done a lot more than Star Wars over the decades, with the British institution shaking up its cast every few years.
But could any of season 11’s stars become as big names as Ridley or Boyega? Well, it’s possible, as Who‘s launched many careers over the past 13 years. Take Karen Gillan, for instance, who went on to appear in some of the decade’s biggest movies and was recently seen in Jumanji and Avengers: Infinity War.
Chibnall went on to give Gillan a namecheck, too, when he said that season 11’s companions are following on from the show’s previous leads.
“We were looking to give the world these four new best friends that you want to travel with through space and time. So they’ve just got everything. You’re looking for stars. They’re following in the footsteps of people like Karen Gillan, Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman.”
Doctor Who season 11 debuted this weekend and was met with a ton of love from fans and a hefty ratings boost. Hopefully that success will keep up throughout the rest of the ten-episode run, which continues this coming Sunday with “The Ghost Monument.”