This is something I do every year.
Series 9’s Head Writer is Steven Moffat, who was also Head Writer for Series 8 (writing the episodes Deep Breath, Listen, Dark Water and Death in Heaven and co-writing Into the Dalek with Phil Ford, Time Heist with Steve Thompson and The Caretaker with Gareth Roberts). As such, he’s set the format for this season, which is twelve episodes split into six pairs, with each pair either defined two-parters or connected in some other way.
“That 45-and-out rhythm has served us incredibly well for ten years but there is a slight sense sometimes – about 35 minutes into the episode, you expect the hero music. It’s just making you slightly unsure you’ll get through the story by the time the music comes up. Sometimes they’re just linked episodes. The rule I’ve got is that you won’t be absolutely certain [from the story and tone] whether a show is going to be a two-parter or not. And with each of the two-parters we’re doing, there’s a substantial difference between the two halves.”
He also claims the inspiration for this format came from writing Series 8’s eleventh and twelfth episodes, Dark Water and Death in Heaven, the first two-parter he’d written since Series 6 episodes seven and eight: A Good man Goes to War and Let’s Kill Hitler.
“Writing the first two-parter that I had done in years I just thought, ‘I’m liking this. This feels more unpredictable’. Because you don’t know how far you’re going to get through the story…”
He’s written pair one; episodes one and two, The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar; and pair six, episodes eleven and twelve, and has co-written the first half of pair three, episode four, The Girl who Died.
The Magician’s Apprentice features the return of the Master and Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, who were last seen in Series 8 episode 12, Death in Heaven by Steven Moffat.
“I’ve figured out the cliffhanger to the penultimate episode [of Series 9]. And it’s a whopper. Ohh, I don’t think you’ll see this coming! I’ve got a script where I’ve set myself a ludicrous challenge. When episode 11 comes up in the next series of Doctor Who, you’ll see just how ludicrous the challenge I’ve set myself is. I’m in a state of panic about it.”
Of the Master’s return, he said
“Everybody hide – Michelle Gomez [as the Master] was an instant hit last year, so she’s straight back to plague the Doctor and Clara in the series opener. But what brings her back into their lives is the last thing they’d expect. I was thinking of the story of the first two-parter and I was thinking that she fits, she should be there. That character, if you get it right, does put a different light on the Doctor. I was looking back at the old Jon Pertwee/Roger Delgado ones and what’s fascinating about that is that they only ever play it as friends. They never, ever play it as enemies at all. They’re just two gentlemen having fun with each other. The Doctor’s best friend is a murdering psychopath, that’s actually quite fun.”
The episode also features Claire Higgins, who played Ohica from The Night of the Doctor by Steven Moffat. Ohica was part of the Sisterhood of Karn that convinced the Eighth Doctor to become the War Doctor, who they’d designed. It’s unconfirmed if she’s the same character, but connections have been drawn between her ability to design new regenerations including the physical sex, and the Master’s new, female form.
It’s known that a map of the world in a secret base is involved.
Filming has taken place by a Volcano in Tenerife, prompting speculation that the episode will return to Pompeii to explain how the Twelfth Doctor has the same face as Lobus Caecilius from Series 4 episode 2’s The Fires of Pompeii by James Moran.
Kelly Hunter is also returning to the show after being the Shadow Architect in Series 4 episode 12, The Stolen Earth by Russell T. Davies.
Another character named Ryan is also included.
Moffat co-wrote pair three’s first half, episode four, The Girl who Died, with Jamie Mathieson, who debuted in Series 8 with episodes eight and nine, Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline. The girl who died is believed to be a highwayman played by Doctor Who Live: the Next Doctor’s Maisie Williams. It also features Rufus Hound as the character Sam Swift.
Pair three’s second half, episode five, is The Woman who Lived by Catherine Tregenna. Tregenna listed Series 9 in her online CV via The Agency. This will be her first Doctor Who episode, having written Torchwood episodes under Head Writer Chris Chibnall: series one episode ten, Out of Time, series two episode four, Meat, series two episode five, Adam, and series two episode twelve Captain Jack Harkness.
At the Sky Women in Television and Film Awards, Moffat said
“I chase both sexes. I think a female voice would be fantastic. But we’re getting no luck there. I have a folder of women. They all said no!”
These comments were made in response to observations of Tregenna being the first female Doctor Who writer since Helen Raynor with Series 4’s fourth and fifth episodes, The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky, under Head Writer Russell T. Davies.
This pair features a new, unnamed monster, Norse mythological god Odin and character Lucy Fanshawe.
Pair two, episodes three and four, are both written by Toby Whithouse. This will be his first time writing for the Twelfth Doctor, having previously written for the Tenth Doctor with Series 2 episode three, School Reunion, under Head Writer Russell T. Davies, and the Eleventh Doctor with Series 5 episode six The Vampires of Venice, Series 6 part 2 episode four, The God Complex and Series 7 Part 1 episode three, A Town Called Mercy under Head Writer Steven Moffat, who described his first two-parter as “creepy”. It also features a character named Prentice, who’s been linked with pair one’s first episode, episode one, The Magician’s Apprentice by Steven Moffat.
Pair four, episodes seven and eight, are written by Peter Harness, who also debuted in Series 8 with episode seven, Kill the Moon. This episode features the return of shape-shifting Zygons and the character Osgood, becoming the two-part continuation in a trilogy of stories.
In the fiftieth anniversary special, The day of the Doctor by Steven Moffat, Osgood fought Zygons with Lethbridge-Stewart and the Eleventh and Tenth Doctor. Lethbridge-Stewart’s plan was to detonate a warhead beneath London to stop the Zygons, but the Doctor wiped their memories so none of them would know whose side they were on, leading to perfect peace negotiations.
In Series 8 episode twelve, Death in Heaven by Steven Moffat, Osgood was apparently killed by the Master, but it was never known if this was a Zygon believing itself to really be her. These two episodes are expected to answer that.
Of Osgood’s return, Moffat said
“Osgood is back, fresh from her recent murder at the end of last series. We recently confirmed that Osgood was definitely dead and not returning – but in a show about time travel, anything can happen. The brilliant Ingrid Oliver is back in action. This time though, can the Doctor trust his number one fan?”
Pair five, episodes nine and ten, are shared as halves by Mark Gatiss and Sarah Dollard. Gatiss is the writer to have written at least one episode a year during Steven Moffat’s premiership, and this is remaining the case with Series 9. He wrote Series 8 episode 3, Robot of Sherwood. Gatiss said
“It has been a tough nut to crack, but I’m delighted with how scary it is. I can’t say any more than that.”
Sarah Dollard is contributing to Doctor Who for the first time here, saying
“When I found out I was actually writing an episode, there were no words really. I was just screaming internally. It didn’t feel real. Complete dream come true, completely terrifying. Really, really exciting. I often have to trick myself into sitting down to write at the computer because all blank pages are scary for a writer, but a blank page for Doctor Who where you have to type ‘INT. TARDIS – DAY’ is absolutely terrifying! Getting to play in the Doctor Who toy box is a dream come true. It’s a total honour to contribute to a show that has brought me such joy as a fan. However, writing for Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman has presented a serious problem: some days I’ve been too excited to actually sit down and type!”
Rigsy, from Series 8 episode 9, Flatline by Jamie Mathieson, makes a return appearance here.
Series 9 episode guide:
Pair one, part 1: episode 1, The Magician’s Apprentice
Pair one, part 2: episode 2, The Witch’s Familiar
Pair three, part 1: episode 5, The Girl who Died (with Jamie Mathieson)
Pair six, part 1: Episode 11
Pair six, part 2: Episode 12
Pair two, part one: Episode 3
Pair two, part two: Episode 4
Pair three, part 1: The Girl who Died (with Steven Moffat)
Pair three, part 2: The Woman who Lived
Pair four, part 1: Episode 7
Pair four, part 2: Episode 8
Pair five, part 1: Episode 9
Pair five, part 2: Episode 10