When Does 'Doctor Who' Season 11 Premiere? The Show Will Look Very Different When It Returns

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On July 1, yet another season of the beloved science fiction series Doctor Who will draw to a close, and there are bound to be a lot of surprises in store for fans who’ve breathlessly been watching Pearl Mackie and Peter Capaldi’s adventures at Bill and the Twelfth Doctor. But after the season finale, it’s looking like the show might be angling for a fresh start. So when will Doctor Who return for Season 11 — and what will it be like?

According to Radio Times, the 11th season of the modern Doctor Who will begin filming in early 2018, to be released later that autumn. The odds are good that this delay has to do with the fact that longtime showrunner Steven Moffat, who’s guided the show since its fifth season in 2010, is stepping down so that Broadchurch creator Chris Chibnall can take over. There was a delay between former showrunner Russell T. Davies’ run and Moffat’s run, too, although it manifested a little differently; between when the fourth season ended and the fifth season began, Davies worked on a series of four TV specials that aired across 2009 and 2010, which gave Moffat’s production team time to prepare for Season 5.

The production delay isn’t where similarities between Moffat’s first season and Chibnall’s soon-to-be-first season end; like Moffat, Chibnall is getting the chance to pick an all-new Doctor. As reported by BBC America, Peter Capaldi will be stepping down after this year’s Christmas special. In 2016, a source from The Mirror suggested that “BBC management wants a return to the format from the David Tennant era, when you had a dashing male lead and young female companion,” which means it’s very likely that the new Doctor will be much, much younger than his 59-year old predecessor — and probably still male, despite recent fan interest in a female Doctor. Speaking of which, the female Master played by Michelle Gonzales over the past three years will also be leaving; according to Digital Spy, the Season 10 finale will be Missy’s last episode.

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But will Season 11 have a new companion as well? At the time of writing it’s before the season finale, and Bill’s fate is completely up in the air. Given that (spoilers!) she’s been converted into a cyberman, things are not looking too good — but companions have gotten into all kinds of horrible scrapes before, so it’s possible the next episode will undo the damage that’s been done. Remember in the first season when it seemed like Rose had gotten vaporized by a Weakest Link robot? Or last season, when Clara died before the season finale? (Except I suppose that’s probably not a good example, since she also left the show that season.)

Moffat recently joked during a BBC Facebook Live Event that Bill is now permanently changed, but there hasn’t actually been official confirmation about whether or not she’ll return for another season, although early rumors at The Sun say she’ll be replaced by another companion. It would be a shame to lose Pearl Mackie so soon because so far, she’s been completely amazing as a companion. But if she does leave the show, it’ll probably be because Chibnall wants a fresh start with his Doctor, just like Moffat did when he created Amy Pond for the series.

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It’s odd that so much of Doctor Who's future is up in the air, but at least fans can take comfort in the knowledge that it will return in 2018, even if it ends up seeming a little different. The Doctor's face may change and he might travel with a new companion, but no matter what he's still the same Doctor underneath it all, right?