Showrunner Chris Chibnall and debut director for Doctor Who Annetta Laufer talk about the New Year’s Day Special!
Tune into Eve of the Daleks on New Year’s Day 2022.
Can you give us an overview of the New Year’s Day special?
In the New Year’s Day special we are in a storage facility in Manchester and ten minutes to midnight on New Year’s Eve and it’s a time travel loop romantic comedy with Daleks, Aisling Bea and Adjani Salmon. The Doctor lands the TARDIS in a place she’s not expecting to land in order to reset it from the damage done to it in the Flux in the previous series. She has to face continuously escaping Daleks in a time loop and save the lives of the two people who are there on New Year’s Eve.
How complicated was it to write a time loop story?
It was incredibly complicated - I have the grid on my whiteboard at home! But that was the challenge of it, that was the delight of it and we hadn’t really done an episode like this. The idea of doing a romantic comedy with Daleks as the obstacle felt nice, the idea of doing a time loop romantic comedy felt really nice. It takes a lot of work but also the delight of the decreasing amount of time across each time loop, so each time loop was separately plotted…it took a lot of work and it was really rewarding.
How did Aisling Bea and Adjani Salmon come to be involved?
It was written for Aisling to be honest. I talked to her very early on, we’d wanted her in the show, we thought about this story and I spoke to her and said “this is what we’re thinking of doing and would you be up for it?” She was great, she was really super positive and amazing as she is, and she agreed to do it! And with Adjani, Rebecca Roughan, one of our script editors had seen his work on Dreaming Whilst Black - his show that he’d done on both YouTube and a now as a BBC Three pilot – and went “he’s a star!” He is a star as Aisling is a star, so we roped him in as well and they are a brilliant double act and we are really lucky to have them in what is ostensibly a two hander.
What’s the relationship between Jodie, John, Mandip and the guest stars?
They seem to get on brilliantly. I think the great thing is Jodie, Mandip and John just create this incredible welcoming atmosphere. John was on the receiving end of it in episode one, where he was welcomed into the family and studios in Roath Lock and on location. He becomes part of the family very quickly and then he’s welcoming in new people as guest artists come in across the series and the specials. I think the delight of working on this show is people who come in for an episode or a couple of episodes, they just become a very tight knit team. Obviously with the episode where you’re in a time loop and you’re doing scenes in the same spaces with the same characters again and again I think they had a proper great time with it.
What’s different about the Daleks in the special?
These are execution Daleks – they’ve got slightly different weapons and have very much come with a very clear purpose for this. They are not trying to destroy the world they are trying to destroy the Doctor in payment for what has been done to the Daleks at the end of the previous series.
Can you tell us a bit about how you came on board for this project, and what attracted you to the job?
I got contacted by the producer of our episode Sheena Bucktowonsing who had seen some of my work online - in particular a Sci Fi short film I directed called Afro Punk Girl. She emailed me and asked if I was interested in meeting her and later Chris (Chibnall), and it went from there. The reason I decided to join Doctor Who was because I knew such a genre bending, epic story telling format was going to be a huge and fun challenge for me to embark on. Plus I was going to work with the first female Doctor in the history of Doctor Who! That’s pretty awesome!
What were the biggest challenges filming Eve Of The Daleks?
From a practical point of view - it was time, time, time. We had a lot to shoot in a short space of time while also making sure it looked cinematic and exciting. The locations were also a challenge - especially the narrow corridors. Moving around with cast and crew and equipment, and Daleks and abide by all the strict COVID-19 rules in place, made it very challenging.
But we luckily had a fantastic crew who were fast and extremely efficient so we always managed to get it done. From a story point of view - the challenge was keeping track of which time loop we were in, as we were shooting out of sequence and so some time loops could appear very similar. We also had to keep track of what the ‘story time’ was on the clock as each loop lost one minute.
What was the atmosphere like on set? You had a few comics in this cast – there must have been lots of laughs?
The atmosphere was amazing. We laughed A LOT! But also everyone worked really hard and were incredibly focused. So we actually got so much work done. Everyone was such a joy to work with.
Have you always been a Doctor Who fan, and if so what are some of your own favourite episodes or specials from previous series?
I was never really a big Doctor Who fan when I was a kid. I remember it being on TV but I wasn’t much into Sci Fi at the time. It is only when the reboot started that I took more notice. Some of my favourite specials from previous years include The Runaway Bride, Voyage of the Damned and The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe. I also really enjoyed Resolution and Spyfall - Part 1 with our Thirteenth Doctor.
Were you involved in any of the casting?
Chris had suggested Aisling Bea which I thought was a great idea. I knew Adjani from his web series Dreaming Whilst Black so when his name was put name forward I was excited, as was Chris.
Will you be watching it yourself on New Year’s Day? What do you hope audiences take away from this episode?
I will be watching it with my family on New Year’s Day which will be a lot of fun. What I want the audience to take away with them is a feeling of happiness and a warm glow inside. After all the heavy months we have been through, I think everyone deserves a bit of magic and cheer. So what could be better than watching a Rom Com with Daleks!
Tune into Eve of the Daleks on New Year’s Day 2022.