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China check-up in store for Doctor

By Julian Shea in Cardiff | China Daily | Updated: 2019-12-03 07:46
A poster for the latest series of Doctor Who in 2018. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The creative head of BBC sci-fi drama series Doctor Who said that fan reaction to the show in China has been "thrilling" and hinted that future travels in time and space could take the doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker, to the country.

Speaking ahead of the launch of a new series next year, showrunner Chris Chibnall said he was delighted by how well the long-established series has been receiving by one of its newest audiences.

"The last series had more than 100 million viewers worldwide. it's a real privilege to do something that spreads around the world like that," he said. "Streaming means the show is now available to a much bigger audience, so, for me, the fan response from China in particular has been thrilling and unexpected. The doctor won't go to China in this new series, but would we like to do a story set in China? Yes, it'd be amazing."

Doctor Who features the adventures of an alien known as a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who takes on human form, and accompanied by a succession of assistants, travels through time and space. It was first broadcast in 1963.

The doctor character regenerates and has been played on television by 13 actors. The latest, Whittaker, is the first female doctor.

A recent series of posters featuring the Chinese-styled artwork of Ruan Feifei shows the importance of the Chinese audience.

"I love those pictures," said Whittaker. "If it wasn't a bit weird to have a big picture of myself on the wall, then I'd definitely have them! I'm not on social media, so I've not experienced it directly, but I know there has been enough interaction to make it clear that the show is watched and enjoyed all over the world. That's amazing."

Over the decades the show's storylines and characters have developed a universe of their own, and a devoted fan base known as Whovians. Much of its success is down to its appeal to all ages, something Chibnall, who grew up as a fan, is keen to continue.

Whittaker's first season in the role deliberately sought to bring in new viewers, he said, but the next one will be different.

"Season one was all about access. You want as many new people as possible to get interested and involved, but the new ones delve deeper into the doctor and her companions (played by Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole). It finds things from the past."

As the first female doctor, Whittaker received huge attention. But she said she did not feel any extra pressure. In fact, quite the opposite.

"As a woman, of course I'll be different, so I think there was more pressure on the male actors," she said. "The doctor is an alien, so really I'm no different from the men who played the role before me. The doctor hasn't changed. I've just got different-sized feet! At fan events, I see children dressed up as the doctor, not as a boy or a girl, just as their favorite character."

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