Months have passed and yet I still find myself fascinated with the video revealing Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor. The big twist of the video is that the Doctor will soon be played by a woman, and the video revels in both keeping that information from its viewers, and teasing them with clues.
The first shot has an individual walking into frame. The camera is kept low, looking upwards to give a sense that this persons upper body and shoulder width are bigger than they actually are. On my first viewing I said, ‘the shoulders are broad, it must be a man.’ The jacket is baggy enough that it hides the shape of this persons body, delaying any guesses that the new Doctor may be a woman.
But then I started to wonder if this was even the Doctor at all. I’ve become so use over the last decade to the Doctor bouncing about instead of simply walking. Even Capaldi’s often more serious Doctor was shown to run like ‘a penguin with his arse on fire.’ This person was walking in a strong and steady manner. I began to suspect this person was actually a decoy and that they were heading towards a confrontation with the new Doctor.
However the next shot makes it clear that this is the Doctor, because a close up draws to the audience’s attention that this person is wearing a hood that is far enough forward to hide their face from view. Breathing can be heard, and I’ve seen a few reaction videos on YouTube where they guessed that the new Doctor was a woman based on the breathing. This amuses me because that breathing is almost certainly not Whittaker, but rather a folly artist in a BBC studio. It’s here, too, that a drone gently fades in to add a seriousness to the mood of the video.
The next shot has the camera focus in on an old, rusted wheel, while the Doctor walks across the screen in the background. They are completely out of focus, and with this shot the video is teasing the audience, knowing they are desperate for the identity of this Doctor to be revealed.
Two things stand out at me about this next shot. This was my first hint that they Doctor might actually be a woman. I wondered if a man would be shown wearing boots like this, or trousers that cling to the skin as much as these do. That’s not to say that men in the real world can’t or don’t, but within film, the way a character is dressed says something about them. These boots are not overly feminine, but they hardly scream masculine. They are not was costumers typically put a man in.
The second thing that stood out on a second viewing, knowing that the next Doctor would be a woman, is that she stands on a large twig and snaps it. It has been a long – and I think undeserving – joke about Classic Who companions that the women are constantly tripping over twigs and needing to be rescued. I wonder if it was a little in-joke on the part of the filmmakers that our introduction to the first female Doctor shows her standing on a twig and snapping it.
We switch to a wide shot that shows the full body of the Doctor, who comes to a halt. Here, the more feminine shape of this Doctor is a bit more obvious, however she is still slightly out of focus. The branches creep into the foreground, as if to obscure our view, but given that they are mostly to one side and we can see the Doctor reasonably well. It makes me think of a curtain being drawn back to reveal an actor on a stage. This is the final shot in which anything is hidden. After this shot, the answer to the question every Who fan has is about to be given.
As we hear the beautifully comforting sound of the TARDIS dematerialising, the Doctor extends out a hand that is clearly female. This was the moment when it really hit me that this could be a woman.
And this is where I started shrieking. It’s still not saying who the new Doctor is (unless you’re really savvy at identifying actors) but it is telling you that the new Doctor is a woman.
Instead of jumping to the big reveal, we get another shot from behind the Doctor as the hood begins to be pulled back, perhaps partly to tease the audience one last time before the reveal of the actor, but more likely to give them that extra second to process what they have just seen.
And then – at last – the reveal, a six second shot as the camera gently moves closer to her, allowing the audience all the time they need to digest the revelation. The TARDIS sounds get louder. The music builds up. Then just at the end of the shot, she smiles, just ever so slightly, at the sight of what we have heard but not seen: the TARDIS.
And then, one final shot of our new Doctor walking towards home*. I do like the choice of location for this final section, with the old wall that has crumbled away, and the Doctor climbs over the rubble to get to the TARDIS. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if she had made her way to the TARDIS via the glass ceiling.
This is a lovely little video, and it does so much in a mere ten shots, lasting fifty one seconds. It builds up mystery and suspense, and revels in teasing the audience. The soundtrack, too, is nicely done, beginning with bird chirps, which are soothing and juxtapose the anticipation and anxiety the viewer will be feeling. The drone sound that comes in then heightens those feelings, before being overpowered by the TARDIS sound which I’m sure ever fan finds comforting and reassuring.
* Yes, that is a photoshopped TARDIS. You didn’t really think they were going to drag the prop out to (what I assume is) a London park, for one shot in a sixty second video, did you?