Doctor Who: What we Learned About the New Companions for Season 11

Doctor Who Season: 11 Episode 1
BBC/Giles Keyte

As you can probably imagine, its got to be tough to be part of a massive television series like Doctor Who and not be able to share any real details for fear of spoiling things for fans.

That said, the Doctor’s latest companions (or “friends” as they’re being referred to) hopped on a conference call with the press last week and gave us a few tidbits about Season 11 in anticipation of its premiere Sunday, Oct. 7. Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill and Bradley Walsh discussed their personal history with Doctor Who, why the series is still going strong after fifty years, the secretive auditions, fan expectations and much more.


Details on the New Characters Remain a Mystery

When asked about their characters, the cast was able to provide names and basic descriptions. Cole explained that he plays Ryan Sinclair, a “regular guy”. “He gets caught in crazy situations and doesn’t know what to do, but he goes with the flow,” says Cole.

Gill, who plays Yasmin Khan, described her as a young girl who really enjoys her job. “She’s speaking to her boss one day like, ‘you know what, I’m really capable of doing the job that you give me, but I just need a little bit more of a challenge,'” she says. “And she’s sent away on a job, which is where she meets the other characters and she’s definitely given a challenge.” Meanwhile, Walsh says Graham O’Brien is someone “caught up in this extraordinary scenario.” He says something happens in the first episode that’s a “tough old ride for Graham.”

The Audition Process was Very Different

The process of auditioning for Doctor Who can be challenging. Gill told us she auditioned for the show about twelve times, but wasn’t told what it was for.” Scripts and scenes were very secretive. Cole had a different experience, as he only auditioned twice and “a week or two later they offered me the gig,” he said. Walsh, the TV veteran of the bunch, didn’t audition at all. New showrunner Chris Chibnall and he are old friends, having worked together on Law and Order in the UK. “Chris asked me if I fancied doing the job and I agreed,” Walsh said.

Doctor Who Season: 11 Episode 1
BBC/Sophie Mutevelian

Not Everyone Had the Same Level of Experience with the Series

As far as their personal Doctor Who stories, Walsh said, “forty years ago, I was a kid in the sixties with William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. They were my favorite doctors. Other than that, I haven’t really watched it after that.” Cole admits he hasn’t watched much of the series. “I only watched half of one episode with David [Tennant] in it, about the angels and stuff like that,” he said. “And that’s, yes, about as much as I know.” Gil says her brother is a bona fide Whovian. “When my friend’s kids come visit me, I’m not joking, we probably watch about 20 episodes in a weekend,” she says.

The New Season is more of a Soft Reboot

According to the cast, you won’t need a deep understanding of the Doctor Who mythology to jump right in. “This season we have a new showrunner, we have a new Doctor, we have new companions, assistants, whatever you wanna call them,” says Cole. “Everything on the show is brand new. It has characters of diverse ethnicity and all ages, so there’s a little bit for everybody in there.”

“The way it’s been shot now is very film-ic, of course, and the cinematography is extraordinary,” adds Walsh. “Doctor Who is no longer a television aspect show, it is now the film that makes the show. And the fact that Christian’s production has taken this direction is something to behold and that the BBC and everyone should be proud of what they did because this would be a global phenomenon.”

They Won’t Let the Pressure of Meeting Fan Expectations Get to Them

When asked about the pressure of joining a series with such a long history and loyal fandom, Walsh said he hasn’t watched the series since childhood. “I only remember William Hartnell and Pat Troughton, the first two doctors,” he says. “They were doing the show and it was in black and white, so I haven’t seen the show in basically almost 50 years. I think that sometimes it’s better when you haven’t seen anything because you are coming to it with fresh eyes as an actor and you are basically being told in collaboration with the others, the producers, the directors what to do and how to do it. That’s what I like. It’s being very organic and a very collaborative process between us all.”

Gill added that there’s a risk to putting pressure on yourself while acting, thinking about future fan reactions. “I just think, like Brad said, we have an amazing team who we completely trust to go along with them and hope it works out well and not put that pressure on yourself, because what will happen, will happen,” she says. “We did our work.”

“Yeah, I’m just going with flow,” Cole adds. “Wherever the flow takes me I shall go.”

Doctor Who Season: 11 Episode 1
BBC/Sophie Mutevelian

Historical Episodes are a Particular Favorite

When asked whether the cast enjoy their time in the past, present or future the most, both Gill and Walsh favored the more historical episodes. “While we were doing them, I really enjoyed the historical ones just because they taught me so much,” Gill says. “It was things that I knew about, things that were close to my heart or things that I wanted to learn about. There are two episodes that are historical and obviously I cannot tell you much more about them, but there’s so much in them. Heart and truth. They are really close to my heart, and when you see them you will know why.”

“I’m a history buff and I love historical facts, I really do,” Walsh adds.”The stuff that I found out about history, per se, that I didn’t actually know about. I think that’s what’s great about the show. It’s not only entertaining, but it’s really informative as well.”

Cole, however, “enjoyed everything” when it comes to filming each episode. “Traveling to the past, and to the present, and yes, even to outer space for that matter,” he says. “It’s ridiculous seeing the hard work that the artistic team put together for the set up. I really enjoyed that stuff.”

Why the Series can Keep Going

So how is it that Doctor Who has withstood the test of time? “Because the show is always changing,” Cole says. “The doctor always regenerates and becomes a new expression for the audience.”

“Like the universe and space itself, it’s a never-ending place for sci-fi shows,” adds Walsh


Are you looking forward to the new season? Sound off in the comments below.

Doctor Who returns this Sunday, October 7 at 1:45 pm ET on BBC America and Space.