The Mathieson Years

A (Short) Post-Capaldi Doctor Who Timeline

The year 2016 was a demanding time for the United Kingdom and Europe. It had also been a transitional year for Doctor Who as a television series and an overall media brand. The only Doctor Who production to air that whole year would be the 2016 Christmas Special. Even though the short-lived spinoff series Class, set at Coal Hill School, had premiered that year to fill the void somewhat, the writing was on the wall. 2016 would be the penultimate year of Steven Moffat's time as showrunner, including the penultimate Christmas Special of that era.

2017 would be a conclusion, with the long-awaited Series 10, and a herald of change in terms of the series' production. Moffat had confirmed his decision to conclude his run as showrunner - noting he had already wanted to finish after Series 9 - and what lay ahead was still somewhat of a mystery.

For many months, people were in the dark who the next showrunner would be. Though various names had been bandied about, including a return of Russel T. Davies, the most frequently discussed candidates were Toby Whithouse, Christopher Chibnall, and last but not least, relative DW newcomer, but promising talent Jamie Mathieson.

As Moffat admitted later, he was utterly convinced the choice is going to fall on either Whithouse or Chibnall, with Jamie Mathieson a less likely option overall. However, things went much differently... The busyness of Whithouse at the time ultimately narrowed down the options to Chris Chibnall. Despite long discussions with Moffat, Chibnall also turned out to be wary of taking the position of showrunner. As great as Chibnall's love of Doctor Who was, he was already considering a new project idea with some of his previous collaborators. A project that emerged in the months before Moffat and co. began discussions with their potential successors.

Many were surprised when the announcement was eventually made that Chibnall, already wanting to focus on a new project, and already unsure about becoming showrunner after thinking things through recently, turned down the offer of becoming Doctor Who's new showrunner.

"It was the 50th anniversary year situation all over again," Moffat sighed in a later interview, propping his forehead up with the palm of his hand, doing a tired smile. "At first, I wasn't sure things would be smoothly guaranteed, at all. I was worried we'd get stuck and these crucial things would get resolved almost at the last minute. If they'd get resolved... After taking a day or two off from all the worries, when I even discussed all these ongoing fears and stress with Sue, I made a decision. I picked up the phone, called Jamie, asked him if he's busy. Toby and Chris didn't look like viable options anymore. The pressure from the BBC was getting huge, I and the staff from my tenure were getting genuinely nervous... I was honest to Jamie, but didn't really tell him about the nervousness. It was just a matter of fact question... Would you like to be the new showrunner ? It's going to be very demanding, but if you'd really want to do it... Luckily, he said 'Yes'."

In February 2016, after some worries and delays, the BBC announced to the UK and the whole world that Jamie Mathieson would be the new showrunner of Doctor Who, for the foreseeable future. He'd take over from Steven Moffat and hopefully bring another new direction for the over half a century old science fantasy television series, bring in new and fresh perspectives and approaches, and a new sense of fun and adventure, while respecting the series' long legacy.


Jamie Mathieson in October 2015

Equally, there was much speculation who would get to play the titular main role. As always, the previous actors left large shoes to be filled, particularly with the departure of Peter Capaldi. Though not everyone had (especially initially) appreciated his episodes and their stories in the same manner, the general consensus was that Capaldi had transformed and expanded the role like few actors before him, with the possible exception of immediate predecessor Matt Smith. It was this very same notion that upped the stakes for the casting of the new Doctor, the Thirteenth Doctor.

The worldwide fans of the series and casual viewers alike had joked for months, often in conjunction with less tabloid-y media, about who their preferred choices might be, or at least the actors or actresses most likely to get cast. Idris Elba became something of a cliché in these discussions, to the point that mentioning Idris Elba in discussions about casting the Doctor or casting James Bond would become something of a minor meme of the mid-to-late 2010s. In a similar vein, there were plenty of both serious suggestions and jokes about Tilda Swinton, and so on and so forth, about all sorts of actresses and actors.

For a while, a rumour was spread that Kris Marshall was on a shortlist to become the new Doctor. The flames of this speculation were mostly fanned by UK tabloids, online and offline. Marshall himself, though his regular appearances in Death in Paradise were drawing to a close, eventually dismissed the gossip, noting he was certainly not on a shortlist. If he was considered at all by the series' producers and new showrunner, they hadn't notified him yet. Marshall also wished good luck to whichever person would eventually land the role.

Whenever the debate about casting an actress as the first ever female incarnation of the Doctor recurred, newly-chosen showrunner Mathieson, and even departing showrunner Moffat, were often asked about which actresses would be their preferred choices, or whether the casting is open to casting a female Doctor at all, or perhaps a Doctor of non-European complexion.

Mathieson answered calmly and gently that "All our options are open. We aren't necessarily casting by looks, but by ability, by whether we think an actor or actress can embody the eccentric, sometimes a bit contradictory nature and personality of the Doctor. Believe me, we have plenty of both more predictable choices, and... plenty of, I suppose you could say... 'underdog' choices.

We've laughed a few times that we're feeling like Verity Lambert over fifty years ago, when various actors were being suggested for the role. People like Cyril Cussack, and so on... It's incredibly hard to imagine Doctor Who's earliest history with anyone else than William Hartnell, isn't it ? Mr. Hartnell was a bit of an underdog when chosen, mostly typecast for serious, sullen, glum roles. He really, really wanted to play a character that had more of a humorous, but not comic relief quality, more of that twinkle-in-the-eye quality.

Similarly, Verity Lambert was a complete underdog. Who knew Waris Hussein ? Or Peter Brachacki, who designed the TARDIS set, even if it wasn't a passion project ? Even Ron Grainer, another foreigner, from Australia, was just emerging as a composer with staying power in 1960s British television, and that legendary theme would never have emerged, had it not been for Delia Derbyshire.

Doctor Who was a series created by a team of people perceived more or less as underdogs. Sydney Newman gave them a generous chance and they created a legend. A British TV institution, you could say... So of course we're going to give opportunities for more unusual choices. For the underdog choices. For actors and actresses who can embody both that 'twinkle in the eye', joyous and funny quality of the Doctor, as well as the dead-serious, philosophical, ethical qualities of the character... and the character's fallibilities.".

In hindsight, Mathieson and crew's final choice for the person to portray the Doctor would feel like it came somewhat out of left field. When everyone is going right, you Turn Left. That's not just the title of a revival era episode about alternate timelines and alternate outcomes, it's also a small part of a longer quote by the person cast as the Doctor. Mathieson and co. didn't cast a complete underdog, but they did cast a person most of the general public and most of the fandom barely ever discussed, and only very rarely suggested.

Was it going to be the Matt Smith situation all over again ? Dismissed by almost everyone, they quickly changed their opinion once they saw that underdog in action. Would it happen again ?


Robotic and cyborg henchmen surrounding a corner area of some hangar or warehouse, aiming at it. They're after someone... trying to corner them.
"My, oh, my... Not only have you taken a rather nasty pitfall into my little experiments with the time vortex, my loyal ratcatchers have sprung a rather decent trap for nuissances like you..."
The cheerful, "British upper class twit" style voice is coming from a brightly lit screen on one of the walls. A cheerful voice, but one of dishonesty and menace hidden underneath that aural facade. A disembodied voice, for this is the voice of a dangerously cunning AI.
"Doctor, you might not be the last of the Time Lords anymore - oh, I know, I know -" (giggle) "- but I intend to ensure you'll be the last of your own line and kin. I get sorely annoyed when I go without stimulating amusement for too long. Hopefully I'll find something just as fun, once I'm done with you," he emphasized the last five words with an ominous laugh.
The voice is that of Gus, the cheerful-sounding, yet shady AI from the episode "The Mummy on the Orient Express" !
"Oh, Doctor, my Doctor, pity I'll have to dispose of you. I daresay I've quite enjoyed our little game, started many centuries ago. In the future relative to 'now' ? Or was it the 'past' ? Quite right, what does it even matter ! With all the experiments me and my allies have done at harnessing the time vortex, any obsessions with linearity and chronology will soon become even more irrelevant than before. Shame you won't be around to see our brave new universe."
There's a hint of a figure hiding in the shadows. A tiny hint of a sound that resembles that of the sonic screwdriver.
"Doctor," sighs Gus. "You're no fun at all today. Why don't you want to play with us, provide us with some much-needed merriment ? Why are you so quiet ? Cat got your tongue ? Saying your prayers, already ? I thought you're not particularly religious..." Gus falls silent for a moment, then speaks up again, with a very subtle undertone of frustration. "Well, what's the matter ? Speak up, Doctor. Tell me... In all your travels, all your adventures, does it ever get any easier ?"
The scene is starting to resemble a homage to the cold open of a certain older espionage film.
A close-up on a feminine hand bursting from the shadows, holding the late Capaldi era blue sonic screwdriver. A bit scratched and worse for ware, but it works perfectly all right. The iconic sound of the sonic grows louder, the sonic lighting up fiercely.
Various machinery and electronics in the hall start to malfunction, spark, blow up, damaging and confusing the robotic and cyborg henchmen. Many of the henchmen short-circuit or shoot themselves by accident, severely crippling themselves. Once the commotion ends, only the screen with Gus seems to be still working... but damaged, the screen graphics malfunctioning. Touché.
"Hm. Wait. That wasn't supposed to..." Gus' voice is stumped, sounding worried for the very first time. "Oh, fiddlesticks ! Honestly ! That was just a lucky trick with that... sonic probe of yours. A lucky trick, the repeating of which I will not toler..."
"Any easier ?" a female voice asks from the shadows, cutting off his would-be rant.
The eyes of the human-looking figure, a woman, emerge from the shadows.
Blue eyes, like the Twelfth Doctor's, but not the same. The eyes of a different person, the eyes of a woman.
"Yes," says the Thirteenth Doctor, a female Doctor.
The opening tones of the new Doctor's leitmotif. Sounding surprisingly... James Bond-ish ?!
She emerges from the shadows fully. Wearing a dark green felt coat and a knitted beret on her head.
"Considerably," she says, activating the sonic. Gus wants to holler in protest, but she short-circuits the screen.
It goes dim, Gus' voice in the room silenced... for now.
A bemused smirk appears on her face.
The smiling, pleasant, but mysterious face of...
...Ruth Wilson.
A red light lighting up in the shadows behind her, far closer to the floor.
"Affirmative... mistress," says a friendly, if slightly dotty robotic voice.

In the "Reveal of the Thirteenth Doctor" clip, this is where the footage does a smash cut to black, with the letters "Ruth Wilson... is the Doctor".

In the cold open of the Thirteenth Doctor's first episode, "A Time Vortex Extravaganza", this is where the footage transitions into the new opening titles of Series 11. (See the link below.)

An underlying philosophy in Jamie Mathieson's run as the new showrunner of Doctor Who was "taking the series into another new direction, but adopting a gentler sense of transition and keeping a sense of continuity". Mathieson argued that both the classic era of the series, as well as Moffat's concluding tenure, had normalized the notion that change doesn't need to be wholly abrupt. Capaldi's Doctor was as much a mirror opposite of Smith's Doctor as the same man, at the same time.

There would be a new TARDIS set, but one that evolved Michael Pickwoad's design, rather than wholly discarding it.

There would be a new opening theme and new opening titles, but in spirit, not a wholly new opening theme, and not wholly new opening titles. As Mathieson put it, it would be an evolution of the esthetics from the Capaldi era, rather than a complete revolution.

This also extended to decisions concerning some of the visual effects and production design staff, and particularly the decisions regarding the music composers for the series (at least as far as the new showrunner could influence it). Yes, plural, composers. One of Jamie Mathieson's more unusual decisions was that, for the first time in the series' history since its revival in 2005, there wouldn't be just a single composer working on Series 11 and later. There would be several, to "spread out the work load", as Mathieson put it, acknowledging the demanding job the series composer faced every single year, for the last twelve years in a row.

Murray Gold had voiced his desire to take a rest from the TV series after twelve years, to focus more on family and other musical work. Mathieson agreed with Gold's viewpoint, but also offered an unexpected proposal, one hard won while negotiating with the BBC higher-ups and Gold himself: If Gold would like to continue being involved with the series, but mostly as a supervisor, and most of the new workload would be handled by additional composers, he'd be glad to have him. Murray Gold was leaning more towards "Thank you, but I don't think so", but after roughly a week, he thought it through and agreed to the arrangement. Segun Akinola and Debbie Wiseman became the new composers for Series 11 onward, and Gold added to their newly-proposed ideas with his own advice and feedback, based on his long-term experience with the series.

One demand by Mathieson concerning the new version of the opening theme for Series 11 was to combine the version from Capaldi's tenure with the original Derbyshire version of the theme from the early 1960s. Mathieson reasoned that Capaldi's Doctor was starting over when he first appeared, and at the conclusion of his incarnation's life, he had learnt much from his experience, but was starting anew again. Now free from lifetimes of recuperating mentally and emotionally from the Time War and its aftermath, the Doctor was ready to go on new adventures again, while not ignoring what came before. He left calmly, at peace with himself, and started anew. And this time, it would be more literally than usual. For the first time, the Doctor would begin anew as a female incarnation, with both maturity and a new-found joi de vivre.

When Series 11 premiered in spring 2018, viewers were greeted with a semi-familiar theme. It was Hartnell and Capaldi at the same time, Derbyshire and Gold at the same time, flowing into each other and supporting each other in a mesmerizing, mysterious, but plucky and adventurous melody. Starting in Series 12, Mathieson and Gold approved of Akinola's suggestion to add more subtle reverbs to the wailing sounds in the opening theme. Series 13 would feature another mild reworking of the opening theme.

The "TARDIS flying through clockwork, a clockface, and alongside stylised spirals of the time vortex and unknown planets" titles of the Capaldi era weren't wholly discarded either. Instead, they were enhanced, given a greater degree of detail, and many of the individual elements were reworked or added to. The intro now began with a rotating mess of spiral-like or irregularly-shaped objects, zooming in quickly, revealing these to be billions of galaxies... zooming in quickly to just one spiral galaxy... our Galaxy, or Mutter's Spiral (as the Gallifreyans had called it), then continuing its rapid zoom in through spiral arms and nebulae, until the viewer was in some darkened space, that lit up, revealing the tiniest parts of a TARDIS, now zooming out, the TARDIS errupting through a stylised clock face, speeding up through the clock and riding the time vortex tunnel, spirals of energy flowing around the TARDIS, along with all manner of mysterious celestial bodies.



Ruth Wilson in May 2015

"Someone once told me, when everyone is going right, go left... I think that's a great piece of advice. Always do, what's not expected. And not just of everyone else, but of yourself. So, go where the challenge is, go, where you haven't been before... The things that, yes, scare you, are often the things that you're going to learn the most from. So, go towards what scares you. I know when I'm inspired or when I'm excited by something... and it's when... I can feel the energy in my body, and it's because I'm scared, I don't know how, I'm going to do it... That's when I know it's something I should do, because it's when I'm gonna work harder, it's when I'm gonna really focus, it's when I'm gonna be really challenged. I don't know what the outcome is, but it will be interesting..."

- Ruth Wilson, in an online interview


"Actually, that we also hint at a certain cheerful robotic dog was meant to soften the overall surprise. Everyone was waiting for The Big Reveal of who'll play the Doctor. And then I throw Gus at you, a villain I invented myself... And then there's the other reveal, of who the Doctor's companion might be... We were betting on you not expecting that, and focusing on that just as much as on our casting of the Doctor.

Does it raise lots of questions ? If it does, then that's excellent. We want the viewers and fans to have plenty of questions, to feel intrigued by what might be coming soon, in the series' nearest future. We want the series to be thrilling, fun, never lose its sense of humour, but to also remain thoughtful and engaging. We don't want kitschy melodrama. Doctor Who, as we see it, should be a place you go for some adventure, a good laugh or two, and have an episode leave you with things to think about, and some genuine, sincere emotions.


Did we think of Ruth Wilson as something of an underdog, an unlikely choice for the new Doctor ? Some people reminded us of that, but we didn't ponder it much, almost not at all. Whether you're expecting her to be cast or not, we made our choice based on many criteria similar to those used while casting Peter Capaldi. We wanted someone who's a solid dramatic actor, and above all, also a very human actor. Someone who's just as likely to portray a character very, very seriously, even handle a good deal of moral ambiguity and falliblity when needed, as portraying a character as lovably eccentric, witty, sometimes downright madcap... being able to smile and laugh with heartfelt happiness and conviction, and even having some 'shrinking violet' moments every now and then. Ruth can embody those very human, very relatable, but also very eccentric, very alien qualities of the Doctor, like few other actors and actresses."

- Jamie Mathieson, 2017, after the reveal of the teaser scene from the thirteenth Doctor's pilot episode (with Gus and a hint of K-9)

"Will our new Doctor, the Thirteenth Doctor, ever visit Gallifrey during her travels ? Who knows... (smile) It hasn't been that long since the Doctor visited Gallifrey, in an, I believe, satisfying closure to a very long and very patient story arc. Gallifrey is out there. It's not going anywhere. The Thirteenth Doctor is fairly certain it's going to be all right. She knows her people are out there, with all the flaws and follies, and also all their strengths and admirable qualities. She doesn't need to visit there, attempt to visit there, anytime soon.

Bear in mind: Gallifrey is the only planet in the entire universe, that, though it's the Doctor's homeworld, is the only place where the Doctor can't be the Doctor. His or her identity is based on the identity of being a wanderer and adventurer, a Time Renegade, as they are called. Whether it's William Hartnell's Doctor, or Tom Baker's, or Peter Capaldi's, or Ruth Wilson's version of the Doctor, the Doctor can be at ease with their identity if he or she is in the TARDIS, travelling about, solving mysteries, helping out various peoples... That extends to Gallifrey and its people. But it's not some place the Doctor wants to visit regularly, or even retire there.

So, in short, I don't think you're going to get any episodes, anytime soon, where the Doctor's on Gallifrey again, something bad has happened to it... again... and the Master's involved... again... and the Daleks and Cybermen might be too... again... You get the picture. (laugh) We're not going to be blowing up or destroying Gallifrey, or making up some pointless revelations about the Doctor's deep past, or anything of the sort. There's far more options for interesting stories and storytelling available, the thrilling and the amusing. My script for The Mummy on the Orient Express started from what amounted to a throw-away joke by Steven Moffat, in a script for an episode of one of his earlier series... But even basic, seemingly silly ideas can be developed into good quality episodes, blossom into something much more. That's our core philosophy while we continue Doctor Who with Ruth Wilson and the rest of the new cast. Have fun, be creative, take it as seriously as you need to, and don't overdo it."

- Jamie Mathieson, in an online interview during the premiere run of Series 11 in spring and early summer 2018


There are several subtle PODs involved in this mini-timeline. The most obvious is Chibnall starting some project and voluntarily and politely declining to become showrunner. Another is that there is earlier fallout from the behind the scenes issues of the series The Affair, where Wilson played a lead role during the mid-2010s. In this ATL, she feels more unsure by the first half of 2017 and decides to take a longer rest from serious or dark dramatic roles she'd been in for much of the past decade. That ATL interview with her is actually touching upon an actual OTL interview, so I didn't need to make up any opinions.
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Ruth Wilson as the Thirteenth Doctor.png

"Bet on me. I'm your lucky Thirteen. ;)"
(done with a wink and a smile)
"Onwards and upwards ! Excelsiooor !"
(sort of her "Geronimo !")

"Fear. I don't like it. Fear cripples me, cripples us. But fear is a superpower.
I learn from my own fear. Bravery isn't the absence of fear. It's an overcoming of fear."

The choice to cast the Thirteenth Doctor with an actress proved memorably controversial. As the first showrunner to introduce a female Doctor, Jamie Mathieson received some degree of flack from a more fringe part of the fandom and some of the tabloids desperately looking for a story. The more irrational parts of the fandom (or random critics suddenly pretending to be part of the fandom) were quick to already spell immediate doom for him and his showrunning of the series.

However, as soon as the dust settled, even the greatest naysayers started focusing on the fact that the role went to Ruth Wilson. This wasn't a 'popular' choice by any means, the majority of the fandom and casual viewers often suggesting more famous (or much more random) actors and actresses.

Mathieson, self-confessed as not actually being in the 'make the next Doctor a woman, at all costs' camp, still wanted to give the concept a try, allowing for the casting of actresses in addition to actors. While it originally seemed the Thirteenth would be played by a man again, the idea of Wilson in the role was one that intrigued Mathieson for a long time. Nevertheless, she would be judged just as fairly as the other auditioning actors and actresses. Ultimately, Ruth Wilson's auditions impressed Mathieson enough that he decided to take the plunge. Mathieson politely and patiently defended the choice of Wilson, pointing out that she's a very versatile (Jane Eyre, Alice Morgan, et al) and not conventionally attractive actress, and stressing that she's still far from 'househould name' level stardom.

After the Twelfth Doctor's regeneration proved odder than any of his previous, he came to as... a she. In the following few minutes, the Doctor tried to make sense of things, only to conclude, with a sigh, "Hmmm... Still not a ginger !". This wasn't an indication that the Doctor's first change of sex was quickly sidelined as a topic, though. If the Twelfth had to slowly rediscover himself as a person during his first series, the Thirteenth had it similarly hard if not harder, trying to come to terms with a wholly different body. While the first half of the Thirteenth's first series offered five mostly unconnected standalone stories, one of them a two-parter, their focus on adventure was added to by plenty of subtle scenes of the Doctor getting used to being biologically a woman this time around.

During her three years on the show, the Thirteenth was known to have a fairly cheeky demeanour, usually hidden beneath a mostly stoic and focused-on-the-job facade. While quite serious, the Thirteenth was rarely outright morose. Rather, she was simply eccentric and alien overall, leading to many making comparisons of her incarnation to that of Tom Baker's. Showrunner Mathieson described this as deliberate, since he was aiming at "a softened identity transition from Peter's Doctor, who already showed some elements of the Baker Doctor - that part of him is one of the few things that gets moved to Ruth's incarnation, which is otherwise a fundamentally different one in many ways".

The nature of the Thirteenth wasn't the only thing pointing in this direction. Though she started out with a plain, dark green greatcoat and occassional scarf-wearing in her first series, in her second one, she adopted a coat very similar to the yellowy-brown coat initially worn by Tom Baker's Doctor, as well as beginning to wear a multi-coloured scarf like him, though of a normal length. In her third series, the Thirteenth switched to a more reddish greatcoat, evoking Tom Baker's attire in his last few series, but kept the scarf from the previous series. In addition to this, the Thirteenth was very fond of wearing knitted hats or berets, and these became her signature headgear.

If the Twelfth Doctor had been a crotchety professor with the occassional hint of a magician or aging rock star, the Thirteenth had something of a (brilliant but silly) detective or (bumbling) superspy vibe to her modus operandi. This was reflected in Murray Gold's approach to this particular Doctor's new instrumental leitmotif, often described as 'something of a kid-friendly, DW spoof/homage of the Casino Royale theme'.

Besides the cold open of the first new episode, with the first appearance of the new quasi-Bond leitmotif for the Doctor, and the opening's nods at the opening of Casino Royale ("Yes. Considerably."), the last issue of Doctor Who Magazine before the episode aired featured a cover with Ruth's Doctor in her new attire, with the headline "You Know Her Name". All of these initial spy-fi-esque and detective fiction references gave rise to plentiful jokes in the fandom, such as 'Ruth Wilson is... Alice Morgan... as Sherlock's Sherlock Holmes... in Doctor Who'.

Jokes aside, the Thirteenth could be just as fierce as any previous Doctor when pushed to the limit, as well as very compassionate and selfless when the situation called for it. The Thirteenth was also less of a pessimist than the Twelfth. She would have considered his far too often heard ruminations on whether he's a good person or not as laudable introspection, but very odd in its regularity.

One keen area of interest for the Thirteenth Doctor was playing archaeologist, occassionally even paleonthologist. "Ooh, I love a good tomb exploration !", and all that.

The Thirteenth Doctor had four main, long-term companions during her tenure, including a brand new version of K-9. While Marjorie, Bob and Arkus proved popular companions, many thought one of the highlights of this Doctor's relationship with her companions was her surprisingly warm friendship with K-9. She treated the latest version almost like a robotic little brother, in addition to being her faithful TARDIS-bound pet. Many initially thought that bringing back K-9 is a pointless idea, expecting he'd be handled the same way he was in the 1970s (or briefly in the 2000s) and amount to nothing more than a gimmick. Though K-9's basic personality remained unchanged, and he was a cheerful, chipper robot most of the time, over the course of the Thirteenth Doctor's adventures, he was given an unprecedented opportunity at some character development of his own.

Though the new remote-controlled K-9 props were built to be used often in a variety of sets and even outdoor filming, for budgetary reasons, K-9 didn't always accompany the Doctor into the field. The writers deliberately turned this potential limitation into an asset, as one of K-9's new roles aboard the TARDIS was that of "mission control" while the Doctor was away. He could perform tasks aboard the ship that the TARDIS itself could only do indirectly. "In this new side-job of his, he's Like the Eleventh's one-off buddy Handles, but if he could actually move around and do more involved stuff..." joked Mathieson in a behind-the-scenes video focused on the reintroduction of K-9 as a regular character.

After the pilot episode aired, unexpectedly reuniting the Doctor with a new version of K-9 in a perilous adventure involving the vengeful AI Gus, Doctor Who Magazine's following issue featured a cover that affectionately parodied the poster for the 1996 Doctor Who TV film with Paul McGann. Once again, the tagline read "He's back ! And it's about time !", featuring an elaborate background similar to that in the 1996 poster, but the new K-9 standing in for the Eighth Doctor. Ruth Wilson's Thirteenth Doctor stood to the side, a bit more in the background, with a knowing smile on her face.

A running gag in Wilson's and the new K9's first episode was K9's initial impression that Wilson's Doctor is a new incarnation of Romana, one of the companions of the Fourth Doctor, who looked after K9 for some time after she and the dog departed the Doctor's TARDIS. By the end of the new episode, K9 figured things out, and though a little astonished at first, asked nicely to be given a place on the TARDIS and stay. The Doctor, with no new companions yet, agreed. As Mathieson later put in an interview, "I wasn't sure whether the time was right to reintroduce Romana, on the off-chance she's somewhere out there, having somehow survived the Time War. After thinking about it for a while, I figured some references to her wouldn't harm anyone, all the more that we're reintroducing K9 as a stable part of the series.". The Doctor Who fans had also nicknamed K9's hypothetical idea of an unknown incarnation of Romana as "Ruthmana".

The Thirteenth Doctor was fairly aromantic in her worldviews, though less cold and outspoken about it as her predecessor incarnation, and throughout her three series, only had one story in which she and a guest star grew fond of each beyond the usual friendship she shared with her female and male companions.

I'm sorry to all His Dark Materials fans (at least those of the eponymous TV series adaptation) who are disappointed by Ruth not playing Mrs. Coulter. That loss to OTL fantasy genre television history aside, we've gained Ruth Wilson as the Thirteenth Doctor in this particular ATL. :)

Did the "Affirmative, mistress !" from earlier mean that K-9 is back ? As you can see, he certainly is, and this time, he won't be just a goofy sidekick. Trust me, there'll be a fair few surprises ahead. Mathieson's run is going to have serious and spooky events, but also a lot of lightheartedness. And though a rather modest-looking Doctor, Ruth's depiction of the character is going to be very fun as well. Some will even be surprised of seeing her in this light, since she's always been known as more of a dramatic actress in serious material.


Honestly, she looks very human, but also very otherworldly. The sort of qualities I'd imagine the very first female incarnation of the Doctor would definitely embody. ;)

As mentioned earlier, Ruth is one of the few British actresses (and experienced producers) I can imagine truly fitting the rather multi-faceted character of the Doctor. She can play wholesome, eccentric, friendly, morally ambiguous, goofball, deadly serious, a very feminine and attractive lady, as well as a reasonably tough lady (mentally and physically) and everywoman. She doesn't have overly conventional looks, has a somewhat unusual face, almost like Smith had. You could really believe she's an alien and a lovable eccentric to boot, without her needing to do much effort, whether in performance and appearance. She's unusually well-suited for a character like the Doctor.

Even though she's had a few prominent roles, she is a somewhat overlooked and underrated actress even today, in OTL. Plus, in her late 30s when cast for the Doctor in this ATL, she's about half-way between Smith and Capaldi in terms of age, splitting the difference. Like Capaldi, she's already established and respected as an actor and producer, and she's not one for ego, so a safe bet, but unlike Capaldi, she's not yet a household name.

The archaeological interest is a bit of a nod to this. Capaldi brought the electric guitar into his Doctor's characterisation. Wilson might bring a bit of that interest in archaeology into the characterisation of her Doctor.
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This is a really excellent beginning. As someone who's currently working on my own similar timeline, reading a take like this is great fun, and I'm gratified that in part I was responsible for encouraging you to write it. I personally think Ruth Wilson would make a superb Doctor, she's glamorous but unlike Jodie Whittaker she would bring a slight edge to the role, a touch of madness and moral ambiguity that would make her version of the character sufficiently different and interesting. You should cast Idris Elba in some sort of one-off role so we can have a Luther reunion.

I also love the easter egg with Jamie Mathieson explicitly repudiating what Chris Chibnall did in our timeline of Who - 'We're not going to be blowing up or destroying Gallifrey, or making up some pointless revelations about the Doctor's deep past, or anything of the sort. There's far more options for interesting stories!'

Very well written and engaging, looking forward to reading more of this.
This is a really excellent beginning. As someone who's currently working on my own similar timeline, reading a take like this is great fun, and I'm gratified that in part I was responsible for encouraging you to write it. I personally think Ruth Wilson would make a superb Doctor, she's glamorous but unlike Jodie Whittaker she would bring a slight edge to the role, a touch of madness and moral ambiguity that would make her version of the character sufficiently different and interesting.
Thank you.

Years ago, when I first conceived of the idea of Wilson as a potential female Doctor, I certainly wasn't the only one who had thought of the idea.

I deliberately searched online to see if anyone else had also thought of her, and though it was a rare suggestion, some people did.

Paul Hanley even did an illustration of Wilson as a potential incarnation of the Doctor, including a write-up. Already in 2013, likely even before Capaldi was confirmed. Nice as Hanley's scenario is, I'm ignoring it, of course.

Without being dismissive of Jodie Whittaker, at least within the context of the series as such, I can hardly imagine her getting upset, angry, or shady, in the same manner that McCoy, Eccleston, Tennant, Smith or Capaldi occassionally did. It just doesn't really fit her, nor the attitude she used for most of her portrayal of the Doctor. With Ruth, though, I can definitely see a darker side being more believable whenever it crawls up to the surface. In a sharp contrast to audience expectations, though, her ATL incarnation of the Doctor is not going to be a morose philosopher, or anything of the sort. She'll have her thoughtful moments, but she's much more of a (non-naive) optimist and an adventurer at heart. Smith had the "young absent-minded professor" image, Capaldi had the "rational boffin meets aging rock band member" image. Wilson's Doctor is going to have a "detective, sleuth and part-time spy" image.

As noted in the addendum, part of Wilson's motivations in this ATL was that she wanted to get away from overly serious roles for a while (with the exception of the Mrs. Wilson drama miniseries, which still gets made in the ATL, much like in OTL, with her producing and starring). Her Doctor might not be the often near-campy, irreverent portrayal seen in Smith's era, but she's an overall cheerful, rather chipper incarnation. Wilson is arguably "pulling a William Hartnell" here, appropriately enough. Somewhat typecast as a dramatic actress playing brooding or compromised heroines/antiheroes/villains, and uncharacteristically, choosing a mostly comedic, feel-good role, though one that's still steeped in serious themes and serious storylines.

This is also why we have hints of K-9 coming back, in spite of everyone's expectations, even with regards to casting Wilson. They're going to experiment with him being more of a companion, rather than a mere robo-sidekick, and see him developed from a relatively flat, comic relief character, into a friend and companion with some added depths. Years ago, some people expressed genuine interest in hypothetical episodes of Matt Smith's Doctor having adventures with Handles as a minor sidekick (á la K-9 in the classic era), or even with the Oswin-Dalek as an unusual companion. In a way, Mathieson's team is going to scratch that particular itch, but they're not bringing back K-9 ourely as a gimmick or as set dressing, but a genuine collaborator of the Doctor. In the ATL, Wilson will describe her Doctor's friendship with K-9 as a "buddy comedy with a robot", and say she was first really surprised they'd go in that direction, but grew to really like it as her time in the series progressed. The end result was very much proof how something might seem a goofy idea at face value, but it's all in the particular execution.

The K-9 return, in a surprisingly dignified way, is also a nod to what incarnations of the Doctor they're taking inspiration from. K-9 was primarily the sidekick of the Fourth Doctor, and Wilson will have certain habits and stylistics (especially in apparel) that recall Tom Baker's version of the character and his era. By the time Ruth came along, they've homaged basically all classic era Doctors: Eccleston was rather one-of-a-kind, but Tennant combined traits of Davison's (his favourite) and C-Baker's Doctor, Smith was a blend of Troughton's and McCoy's, Capaldi in turn of Pertwee's, T-Baker's and Hartnell's (and he even met the latter incarnation in his final story). So, that leaves Ruth's Doctor with not being able to rely on a certain amount of homage, but still having a particular personality that evokes certain previous incarnations.

Mathieson's ATL in-universe argument for choosing Wilson was not just novelty, but also part of what he considered the "gentler transition" established between Smith and Capaldi, with their "two sides of the same coin" nature acknowledged more overtly post-regeneration. This is similar with Wilson's Doctor. She has the alien personality traits and behavioural traits of the previous two incarnations, has the Capaldi Doctor evoking blue eyes and prominent, frowny eyebrows.

Mathieson basically stated after the first few episodes of Series 11 aired, that the Twelfth Doctor sort of didn't go away entirely. He regenerated into his very first female incarnation, hoping it'll bring him more gentleness after all the anxiety he felt when meeting the First Doctor, both of them worried over their regenerations... And as part of that process of trying to steer the regeneration, the resulting female incarnation still carries a lot of details that recall the Twelfth Doctor and some of his qurks and habits. You could say little bits of him survive in the Thirteenth Doctor, a few visually, others in a wholly spiritual sense.

In some later potential crossover story, with a few other Doctor incarnations making appearances (I'm thinking mainly McGann's, Smith's and Bradley's/Hartnell's), the First Doctor and Thirteenth Doctor have a personal conversation together. This'll be the only time in Ruth's era that some detail is revealed about the Doctor's past, even if it's a bit fuzzy. The First Doctor, after being confused and bemused for much of the crossover episode that he has a female incarnation now (that it happened to him as well, as a Time Lord, after he thought it rather unlikely), drops a real bomb on the Thirteenth. He gives her an almost fatherly hug, which she accepts, despite laughing about basically hugging herself, but she's curious about that affection. She's him, it's as if she was family to him. "Like your predecessor, you've taken a face you've known before," he explains. "I... It's been a long time since I left Gallifrey. What face ? I don't remember." And then he tells her: She looks like his late daughter. His own daughter. Susan's mother.

He theorises that the Twelfth Doctor, in his final moments, clung to not only steering the regeneration towards female this time around, but had to quickly select a face. He found companion faces inappropriate, he couldn't choose Susan's face either, due to her age and the loss of her still weighing heavily on him... So he chose the visage of his long gone daughter. The Thirteenth Doctor is, of course, quite shocked, but she manages to faintly recall the face he's talking about. We see a very brief flashback to a Ruth look-alike on Gallifrey before the events of the whole series, with a shot of a slightly younger First Doctor from the back, seemingly greeting her on the street during a chance everyday meeting. (The Eleventh Doctor, watching this respectfully from a distance, mutters "Told you I never completely forget a face...".) Given this development, one thing Wilson's Doctor kept from Smith's and Capaldi's is the resolution to recreate someone's face, in order to inspire and motivate herself. We never learn what happened to the Doctor's (original) daughter, since the First Doctor doesn't have the will or time to talk about it, but now we understand why his Twelfth incarnation chose the visage he chose for his first female incarnation. It was in memory of a family member that no doubt meant a lot to him. A face almost forgotten, but recalled after a very long absence. Another face to "hold him to the mark".

One of the running gags, regarding Wilson-Doctor's human companion knowledgeable about popculture, is his habit of nicknaming her "Spock Lady", based in Ruth's rather Spock-ish eyebrows and her more quiet and thoughtful moments as a character.

You should cast Idris Elba in some sort of one-off role so we can have a Luther reunion.
Paul McGann was in Luther as well, so maybe potentially a Thirteenth and Eighth crossover story ? ;)

Elba is high-profile enough that I could see him appear in a guest tole in a Christmas special or New Year's special, provided he'd be interested.

I also love the easter egg with Jamie Mathieson explicitly repudiating what Chris Chibnall did in our timeline of Who - 'We're not going to be blowing up or destroying Gallifrey, or making up some pointless revelations about the Doctor's deep past, or anything of the sort. There's far more options for interesting stories!'
I felt this was a bit cheeky of me and would make some readers groan, but on the other hand, I've worded it in a manner that will seem plausible even in a timeline that never had the era with Chibnall as showrunner and Jodie as the Doctor. What Mathieson is getting at in that particular quote is that "big event episodes" in Doctor Who should be used sparringly. Otherwise it ends up like a lot of contemporary superhero comic books and certain television series, where the only thing behind every story is some shocking swerve or shocking revelation every single time, to the point it just becomes farcical or absolutely pointless to follow.

Mathieson in this ATL is being mindful of the fact that you can't visit Gallifrey or touch upon it all that often, and that making huge decisions or changes, just for the sake of short-term shock value or publicity stunts, is never going to be good for the long-term health and basic internal consistency of the series. There are also not going to be big revelations about the Doctor's past or his/her personal mysteries, because the new showrunner simply thinks enough hints have been dropped during the 50th anniversary and since, and it's best left alone for a while. Instead, there's going to be more of a focus on the Doctor coping with his first female incarnation.

Funnily enough, much like with Withouse in your timeline, the ATL eleventh series in my timeline will also try to mostly steer clear of the big established villains, whether it's the Master, the Daleks, or the Cybermen. The Cybermen in particular will appear in Series 12 at the absolute earliest, simply because of their recent outing in the finale of Capaldi's era, and them being frequent adversaries during the late Matt Smith era and Capaldi's entire era in general.

Very well written and engaging, looking forward to reading more of this.
Thank you. High praise.

I'm largelly going by a very broad outline, a very broad sketch I made a few years ago, here on the site.

There's a lot of details still waiting to be specified.
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