Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker lands in Sheffield for red carpet premiere

By Ian Youngs
Entertainment & arts reporter

media captionJodie Whittaker: "Sheffield is a brilliant city for this story"

Doctor Who fans gathered in Sheffield on Monday to celebrate the premiere of the first episode of the new series, which took place in the city.

Jodie Whittaker, the new Doctor, walked the red carpet before the screening, as did Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole, who play her companions.

The premiere came two weeks before the show launches on BBC One.

It's happening in Sheffield because the first episode - titled The Woman Who Fell to Earth - is set in the city.

"It's exciting because we've worked so hard on it for the last couple of years, so to get to celebrate and share with the fans and potentially with new fans... we know what's coming and we can't wait to share it," said Whittaker.

"And also being in Sheffield - to conclude this epic journey here is great."

image copyrightPA
image captionFans lined the red carpet to see Whittaker and her co-stars

Whittaker, 36, said she wanted to bring "an energy and childlike enthusiasm and joy and hope" to the long-running show's first female Doctor.

Despite much discussion about her gender, she described the Time Lord as "one of the [most] genderless roles I've ever played" while admitting it would "sometimes be relevant" in the worlds or historical periods her character visits.

Whittaker was introduced as the first female Doctor when her predecessor Peter Capaldi regenerated at the end of the Christmas Day special.

The episode ended with her hurtling towards the ground after falling out of the Tardis.

Fans lined the red carpet laid for the premiere, held at the Light Cinema in Sheffield city centre.

image captionFans Georgia Ranwell, Kai Nelson and Amy Spencer were at the front of the queue

"I've been a fan since I was 10, which is about 34 years, and I've never been this excited," said Ruth Mellor from Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.

"I'm very, very excited for Jodie. When it got announced I was jumping around my living room. And up north as well!"

"There's definitely something about the new series that I haven't felt for a few years," said Amy Spencer. Dressed in a rainbow shirt matching Whittaker's, the 19-year-old travelled from Brighton and was one of the first in the queue.

"It's the most excited I've been for Doctor Who since the 50th anniversary. I'm excited for the new vibe of it and all the new characters and a new gateway for new fans to come in."

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image captionWhittaker with co-stars Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill and Bradley Walsh in Sheffield

Tracy Duff, from Grimsby and also in a rainbow shirt, said she hoped the new series would be "a bit more family friendly", adding: "It's got a bit too complicated lately."

Yet she admitted she had reservations about a female Doctor. "I wasn't keen," she said. "But you've got to give everything a chance and I'm coming round to the idea now."

Laura Blakemore, 26, from Cardiff, said the actress would bring "something unique" to the role. "I have wanted a female Doctor for a very long time," she said.

"I've seen [Whittaker] in Broadchurch and a few other things so I knew she was the perfect choice for the role. I think she's going to be brilliant."

image captionIn the show, the Doctor will pick up her companions in Sheffield

Laura's sister Penny lives in Sheffield and saw the filming take place for the first episode.

"I was just complaining that I couldn't leave my flat once because there was a Tardis in front of it," she says.

"But it was really amusing when I was walking around town and kept bumping into the filming. It's nice that it's in my home. I can't wait to see it on TV."

Hundreds of fans won tickets in a ballot to be on the red carpet before the screening.

image captionJodie Whittaker, the 13th Doctor, was joined by 12 lookalikes in Sheffield

The first episode's debut was followed by a question and answer session with Whittaker and new showrunner Chris Chibnall.

Chibnall has written a string of Doctor Who episodes and worked as head writer on its spin-off Torchwood. His biggest hit to date is ITV drama Broadchurch.

He has taken over from Steven Moffat on the flagship BBC sci-fi show and has described Whittaker's Doctor as "fizzing, funny [and] smart."

Chibnall has revealed that each of the 10 episodes will be a stand-alone story and that no previous monsters will appear in the new series - not even Daleks.

image captionChris Chibnall says he wants to "keep up with all the DC shows in the US"

He is hoping to make its new Sunday night slot a weekly appointment for families in an age when young viewers are used to snacking and bingeing on any number of glossy edge-of-the-seat adventure shows.

"This is Doctor Who in an era of Netflix - you've got to keep up," he told Radio Times. "You've got to keep up with Black Mirror, you've got to keep up with all the DC shows in the US.

"So it's just making sure it's fit for purpose. I think you tell great stories with great actors. And you tell stories that feel resonant to people's lives."

The first episode of Doctor Who is on BBC One on 7 October.

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