Image Credit: Adapted from Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0, Flickr)
Image Description: Chris Chibnall speaks into a microphone
Ian Bayley examines what the Oxford Doctor Who Society thought might have been going to happen in Series Thirteen
March 2020 began with WhoSoc watching The Timeless Children together and President Victoria Walker reading out the predictions society members had made for Series Twelve. It ended with the introduction of lockdown and a homemade video from Jodie Whittaker in costume assuring us that “darkness never prevails”. Despite this, the Covid restrictions seemed to make a prolonged blackout of new Doctor Who content inevitable, so we were overjoyed to hear that Series Thirteen would arrive after a gap of only 19 months. It was a shortened series of only six episodes, we learned, but the challenges of Covid had been overcome with an innovation: Series Thirteen would be a single story – Flux – and would last even longer than The Daleks’ Master Plan.
At first, all we had was a one minute trailer which showed us Yaz, Dan, known returning monsters and unnamed guest characters. As a serialised story, the parts could be connected either as tightly as the ten episodes of The War Games or as loosely as the stories in The Trial of a Time Lord. Aside from episode titles, which were only released a week or two in advance, there was much we didn’t know so it was time for speculation to fill the gaps. As in previous years, society members wrote their predictions, sealed them in envelopes and gave them to the President for safekeeping before being read out after the final episode aired. Except where otherwise stated, the predictions which follow were made before Part One was aired.
With Series Thirteen, and the following specials, set to bring the Chibnall era to an end, some used the exercise as an opportunity to call out its tropes. There were predictions for a lot of deep lore, though one person predicted there would be none. Meanwhile, Chibnall would write the worst episode and not the best, one suggested, while another said that an episode will end with “an awful speech” that will “cause old men on Twitter to complain about something woke”. Another similarly proposed that “all will be resolved with power of hope/love speeches”.
Putting the era to one side, and focusing on the series itself, the most common focus of speculation was Yaz, the only member of the ‘Fam’ to stay on after Graham and Ryan left in Revolution of the Daleks. Focusing on the relationship with the Doctor, one person suggested that Yaz had “attachment issues” which “will be her downfall”. Another, predicted there would be “material for 13/Yaz shippers”, which arguably was one of the first predictions to be confirmed, given the double bed three minutes into Part One, but they added “nothing concrete” would happen. Arguably, this is true – confirmation wouldn’t come until Eve of the Daleks, though this continues Flux’s storylines. While this prediction may have been bang on, another was wide of the mark, anticipating a romance with Vinder. As Series Fourteen would have a new showrunner, many tried to foretell the circumstances of Yaz’s departure. One person (after watching Part One) thought she would leave in response to the Doctor’s secretiveness. Others suggested she would “die dramatically” and become “memorable at last”; “die and be brought back to life”; or be saved, like Peri, Rose or Wilf, by a regeneration-inducing sacrifice from the Doctor. Though these predictions may not have been accurate for Series Thirteen, these could yet come to pass in 2022’s specials.
Nothing was known about Dan, the new companion, except that he was a plasterer from Liverpool. One WhoSoc member was emphatic that “Dan is just a man” but others had different ideas, with a suggestion after War of the Sontarans that Dan was an alien. His quip on entering the TARDIS that ‘a mate of mine had one of these’ suggested to one person a link with the Master, but another wrote that Dan would leave with nothing bad happening, leaving the Doctor with no companions.
Speaking of the Master, thoughts of their return were inevitable given their importance in Series Twelve. It was suggested that the “creepy blue guy from the trailer” (Swarm) would be the Master or, following War of the Sontarans, that he was somehow linked to the Master. There was even speculation that the mysterious Passenger could be the Master in disguise. The Master could also be the Timeless Child, according to one prediction, while another mistakenly predicted that this concept was one of the Master’s lies and wouldn’t come back again. It was also thought that the Flux came from the same place as the Timeless Child, was “wibbly wobbly timey wimey”, or was the form taken by the Doctor’s mother. Instead, it turned out that the Doctor’s adoptive mother merely caused the Flux, yet no one in the society predicted her return.
The return of Tecteun made one prediction impossible – that the Ravagers themselves could be the Doctor’s parents. However, our predictions did offer an alternative rogues gallery of returning characters including Krasko, Paterson (perennially referred to as not-Trump) and the duo of Ryan and Graham – albeit now as “force ghosts”. A society favourite may also be due a return in a pre-regeneration flashback – but perhaps not the minor character from Orphan 55 that was expected. As Jodie regenerates, keep an eye out for Wilma, rather than Benni – we can only shudder to think what the society’s reaction to this near miss could be.
Following The Halloween Apocalypse, some more specific predictions were made after more detail was known about future parts. Part Two would include a linguistic confusion of Russians and Rutans; Yaz and Dan would say they wanted to meet Florence Nightingale instead of Mary Seacole; and the episode would end with a reading of Tennyson’s ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’. While the last of these isn’t quite right, the Doctor refers to herself and Mary travelling “half a league onward.” After that episode’s actual ending, in which Yaz was put in danger in Atropos, one person suggested that Yaz’s time was running out. However, there were some accurate predictions too, including that Dan would be sent back in time by the Weeping Angels and Williamson’s tunnels were designed to enable mankind to hide from the Flux. Part Six, later named The Vanquishers, would see all adversaries combining to defeat Swarm. Unfortunately, the alliance proposed by Skaak was a trick and did not identify Swarm as a common enemy, and so this prediction misses the mark.
After Series Thirteen proper, new predictions were solicited for Eve of the Daleks. Now that Dan’s first six episodes had been shown, it was easier to get a feel for his sense of humour. As a result, the prediction Dan would reference the film Groundhog Day thanks to the time loop was borne out. The person who made that prediction also predicted correctly before the series had even begun that Dan would call the Sontarans potato heads. Another prediction, that Dan would ask why the Daleks have plungers would have been a good guess if the models had not been redesigned.
As for the characters, there was the prediction that the guest stars would marry. As Nick’s early behaviour made many uncomfortable, perhaps this is not a match they would want to get behind now. Later in the episode, the value of leftfield guesses in this exercise was demonstrated with the surprise return of Carl from The Woman Who Fell To Earth, not so very different from the proposed return of “kebab guy”, more formally known as Dean, from the same episode. Others, however, hedged bets with predictions that there would be some Flux references, but fewer than expected. Whether detailed predictions, or broad guesses, are the best strategy is for you, the reader, to decide, as well as whether WhoSoc is getting any better at this.