Jodie Whittaker & Mandip Gill on Their Final Episode, “The Power of the Doctor”
Official BBC interview with Jodie Whittaker
Can you tell us what audiences can expect from your final big special?
I would say that Whovians are in for an absolute treat. We celebrate the old, the present and the new. It’s a wonderful homage to the legacy that Doctor Who has had. It encapsulates all the things the fans love about Doctor Who – whether it be old monsters, returning characters, new elements, everything that unites Whovians is in this episode. If you haven’t seen Doctor Who before this special will be sure to hook you in for your new Doctor.
Was it exciting to be part of the BBC’s Centenary celebrations?
It is. I love the BBC, it’s a huge part of the fabric of our industry. Doctor Who is a huge part of that. Being part of a show that is so iconic in the BBC, I’m very passionate about. For this episode to come out now is a real celebration. As a young kid, the TV shows I watched led me to this now. All the drama, the comedies and the 100 years of the path that it’s laid has led to my casting.
It’s a huge episode for the villains – it’s the first time we’ve got the Cybermen, The Master and the Daleks all in one. How has it been working with Sacha again?
I love Sacha, he’s amazing, an incredible actor and a phenomenal force of nature on set. His detail and level of commitment to The Master is inspiring. But in that he’s also a team player, he turns up and the crew love him, cast love him because he’s a really good laugh and he makes sure he’s part of the team. For me, he’s the perfect villain because in real life he’s the complete opposite and on screen you absolutely believe everything that comes out of his mouth. If you know him in real life, he’s such a nice guy and a lovely man. So to be so convincing as The Master? Hats off. All his choices I love. A lot of my favourite scenes throughout my tenure have been with Sacha. So being told he would be part of my final episode was an absolute joy for me. I don’t feel as it would have served my Doctor to not have the moment of resolution and heartbreak with him.
How tense are those scenes?
What I love about Sacha’s Master, and what I think is important, is that he’s so broken and actually it’s not just two-dimensional evil. It’s got so many layers and there’s such a vulnerability to him that it makes things much more complicated for the Doctor. That he cannot let the Doctor survive is the most heart-breaking thing. Our last scenes were shot in order, which we never usually do so it had a big build up.
How were the stunts this time?
Stunt-wise, the opening sequences were really fun because they involved all of us at all different competence levels. You have got Dan falling out of the TARDIS but then smashing his landing. There are a lot of iconic costumes that even the fandom who haven’t even seen the episode are recreating. Someone at Comic Con turned up in my orange astronaut costume.
There are so many brilliant moments for us, there’s a lot of playfulness. There was a massive stunt that I wasn’t allowed to film where Sacha yanks the Doctor back. That was Linda, my double. Sometimes I’m gutted I’m not allowed to do things, but I didn’t miss out on being dragged over a quarry. I was fine with that!
We did loads of wire work for walking on the roof of the train. The suits were hot, and we had to have fans pumped in but they had to be turned off and then the screens would steam up. So, you had that critical moment where they’d scream ‘film’ and then the steam would come up. You go, ‘It’s not as easy as it looks!’
Can you tell us about the atmosphere on set during those final scenes?
Everyone was wonderful. On my last day there were last scenes with Yaz and the Doctor on the TARDIS but I got in a bit before Mandip to start filming. I was wondering where everyone was, but they got me on set and the cast and crew had lined up and were clapped me and I obviously lost it there. Then we did it for Mandip and I was crying more than her!
Jen, who was our third AD, had stepped up to step in as the first (AD) that last few days. She said ‘So this is the final time I’m going to call ‘Rehearsal in the TARDIS’ and I lost it. We shot the last moment and it was one take and once the camera team were happy, I could see everyone nodding and making eye-contact and my bottom lip went and I knew it was the end. It was just (the challenge of) being able to articulate to everyone what you think of them. It’s not just Mandip, not just the cast, it’s all the phenomenal people you get to work with. It’s lifelong friendships that have been forged in four years and we’ve had the time of our lives and survived a pandemic! At the beginning of our work, we had to be all separate and then at the end, we could all come together. It felt particularly emotional because of where we were at.
What will you miss most about being the Doctor?
I’m not a method actor, I don’t stay in character between scenes, but I spent a lot of time before I played the Doctor doing quite emotionally traumatised roles. I’ve played people who lost children, people whose husband had been disabled, things where characters were on the brink a lot of the time. They were major events that I can’t understand, so a lot of the time at work you are always on the moment of devastation. A lot of the time for me filming was amazing and fun to do, but you are always on the brink of upset. (With Doctor Who)
There were four seasons, there was heartbreak, there was fear and there was loss, but my overriding emotion was excitement. I felt like the over-riding thing the Doctor brought was curiosity and excitement. Obviously fear, rage and all those things, but the thing that encapsulated my Doctor the most was that bouncing into things, and that really fed into my evening and my weekend and my year. I was very half-full all day every day, so it bleeds into life. I’m not someone who sits in character all weekend but you do realise how much that emotional trauma leaves you on the edge of upset when you’ve been doing it for 12 hour days. You don’t quite let it go at the end of the day, without realising. So the reason I can gush so much about this job is because it wasn’t just happiness on set, it fed into everything. I feel like it’s knocked 15 years off me because I’ve been so energised because I had to be at work that it fed outwards and I’ll miss the energy of the Doctor.
What are you looking forward to about being a viewer of the next era?
I’m really excited to not know any spoilers! There was two big events for me – knowing O turned into the Master and that Whovians would be like, ‘OMG!’, and that I dig up a TARDIS and I turn round and Jo Martin is the Doctor. Knowing those two things were coming in one season and they hadn’t been leaked was the most fun. So now I won’t get to know those things before they come out, so I can’t wait to go, ‘You are kidding me!’. I cannot wait to see it in real time, and I don’t have the stress of keeping the secrets.
Did you steal anything from the set?
I’ve got my costume, my sonic, a Cyberman! When I fly the TARDIS, I flick a switch and what spins inside is a mini TARDIS that lights up so that spins and then I pull the handle down – I’ve got that too.
You and Mandip have spent such a long time together. What will you miss most about the bond between the Doctor and Yaz?
Mandip makes me laugh in a way that nobody else does. I find her to be one of the funniest people I’ve ever been around. Mandip is in-built half-full and really constant. Everyone loves being around her. Whenever we get people on set, everyone gravitates towards her because she just is ace to be around and she is a perfect energy for me. On a selfish note, she makes me a better actor and a more level-headed person. So, on a selfish note, I feel like my anchor has gone because she never runs out of chat, which is my favourite thing…there’s an unconditional love and sisterhood. It’s unique where you find that later in life. I met her at 36 and you don’t think you’ve got room at that age. But to not be around her energy every day has been hard and I have really missed it, but obviously we speak all the time.
If you could pick one scene from your whole time that you’d love to do again, what would it be?
The episode I’d like to do again because I had such an amazing time around it, it wasn’t just the filming but the location, the people, and experiences while we were there – was Demons of the Punjab. I loved that we shot in Spain, it was our first season, it book ended our time with Jamie Childs, who’d directed us at the beginning and the end. There were some very funny moments on and off camera, we had a wonderful story that educated me because I shamefully didn’t have the knowledge about that period of history that I should have had.
So if I could go back and relive that time, I’d choose Demons of the Punjab but it would be for many reasons. Any Doctor Who fan who is into our series knows I love a birthday and I had a birthday out there, so that played a big part. But as far as doing a scene again, because it was my first week, I wish I could do the crane scenes again because the jump across, filming with Jonny (Dixon) and having scenes with Amit Shah and doing massive stunts. They were my first scenes on set and I had my very first hero speech so I would love to do that again, not because I want to change anything, but so I could relive it.
What would be your top tip for the next Doctor?
This is yours for the taking.
Official BBC interview with Mandip Gill
Can you tell us what audiences can expect from this feature length centenary special?
Expect lots of jaw dropping moments and amazing character interactions. When I first watched the episode my mouth was wide open. It is fast paced and as expected Chris Chibnall has once again upped the stakes in this special.
It’s a huge episode for villains with the Master, Daleks, Cybermen all appearing together for the first time since 2005. How was it working with Sacha again? Were you excited to find out he was back?
I love Sacha. It is amazing to work with one of my closest friends for obvious reasons but to watch him as an actor, creating the work he does is a privilege to watch. Trust me – you’ll see what I mean when you see it!
We’ve also got two returning companions, Sophie Aldred and Janet Fielding, did you get to know them on set?
Yes we did. It was really nice to be working with people who love the show as much as the current cast and both have so much energy and plenty of stories from their time which helped pass time during filming. It was also really exciting trying to keep them both a secret whilst filming.
The trailer looks action-packed, can you tell us a bit about any stunts we can expect?
Firstly I do all my own, so please remember that when you see me flying in the air holding on for my dear life! That was really hard and all me. Seriously it was really fun but taxing. The ropes are tight and it’s difficult to hear in the helmets. Oh and climbing up the ladder was also so difficult. It was wobbling everywhere so my look of sheer panic and distress is real. However it’s always fun to read a script where you see a stunt written, you know it’s going to be a fun few days on set.
Can you tell us about any fun moments with the team during filming? Those spacesuits look comfy!
The suit itself was very comfortable but we had huge space helmets on that had air pumped into them and I was apprehensive to put it on at first, as I was scared the air supply would stop. But the team were amazing and would take them off if I needed it. Deian Humphreys, our Sound Mixer, kindly played Dave the rapper into my helmet so I could have a little dance and rap along.
Can you tell us a bit about how you handled filming your final scenes?
Filming the final scenes were emotional, as to be expected. The Executive Producers were on the floor, the atmosphere was beautiful and naturally Jodie and I had real emotions flowing. It will be something I will remember for the rest of my days as we all knew it was the end of a beautiful chapter.
You and Jodie have been on this amazing journey together, do you hope to share the screen again?
Absolutely, we think of ideas and it usually ends up with us both been very northern and attached to the police force somehow. I would love to work with her again on something completely different, even a different genre. I am so fortunate to have found a best friend in her. The last four years have been amazing and so easy as we quickly become inseparable. We’ve been fortunate to have seen some of the world together too.
If you could go back and film one episode or scene again, what would it be and why?
I would zoom back to the beginning where the Doctor falls through the train roof and we all meet. At the time I was thinking about my delivery, character and the scene. This time I would stop and be able to see the amazing journey we’re embarking on and I would be able to enjoy it a tiny bit more.
Who have been some of your favourite guest artists over the years?
Too many to name. But watching Kevin McNally at work doing what he does so well is a highlight. Working with Jacob Anderson was a real treat I’ll treasure forever. Sacha has since become one of my closest mates but watching his process was precious. He is such a hard working brilliant actor. Joana Borja, Nadia Parkes and Crystal Yu (to name a few) are just some of the reasons why working on this show has been the highlight of my career so far. Getting to meet amazing talented interesting actors that become friends is a wonderful feeling.
What will you miss the most about Doctor Who and what are you most proud of during your time?
I will miss Cardiff and the crew there. They work so hard and are truly like family. I can’t emphasise how enjoyable my time has been on Doctor Who. Working long hours in all sorts of terrain with your mates is not really working for me. I am most proud of the atmosphere on set I helped to create. There were some very tough days but staying upbeat and positive can really help the rest of the cast and crew in difficult times. Jodie unknowingly has set a very high bar as “number 1” and I will work hard to follow suit.
Did you take anything from set? We heard a few things went missing..!
So, I definitely heard someone say we can take stuff. As soon as we heard that the TARDIS was dismantled in seconds! I took a sphere that was glued down but with the help of the runners it was soon in my possession and hidden from anyone I thought would steal it off me. Then we heard they still had scenes on the TARDIS to film – imagine my face because I am not naughty.
Are you excited to see the next era?
I am so excited, it will be really interesting to see their stories as I know some of our episodes were specific to my heritage, such as Demons of the Punjab and Tosin Cole’s (heritage) in Rosa, so it’ll be interesting to see theirs. Also to see them up against new and returning monsters will be fun to watch!
How was it knowing that this episode would be part of the BBC centenary celebrations?
At the time we were still only half way through the current series so it almost felt normal until I realised it was a feature long episode and it would be the regeneration and many wonderful characters! Only then did it dawn on me how privileged I was to be a part of something so iconic for Doctor Who and the BBC.
Can you sum up Yaz in three words?
Loyal, courageous and resilient.