Actress Mandip Gill says season 13 of Doctor Who will delve into Yaz’s backstory and mental health. The long-running British science fiction television program follows the time-hopping adventures of the eponymous alien Time Lord referred to only as “The Doctor.” Since the first series in the 1960s, the Doctor has been accompanied by a whole host of companions as they travel across time and space to protect the universe from a host of villains, chief among them the Daleks, soulless cyborgs who seek to “exterminate” what they perceive as inferior life forms.
Doctor Who owes its longevity in part to the immortal Doctor and the unique in-universe rules that govern their eternal life. After would-be fatal incidents, the Doctor simply regenerates in a new biological form with a slightly different personality. For production purposes, this means the lead actor can simply be replaced every few series. Season 11, which aired in 2018, introduced the first female Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker. Season 13 began filming just recently, promising the continuation of the Whittaker Doctor’s adventures alongside her companions, Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh), Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), and Yasmin “Yaz” Khan (Mandip Gill).
Speaking on a panel as part of New York Comic-Con, Gill revealed that the latest season will explore mental health through her character’s backstory. Asked whether she draws on personal experience, Gill said that she did not as it isn’t her method as an actress. However, she says that she and the creative staff were in contact with mental health charity Mind, asking questions about how people with mental health issues would react in various proposed situations. Gill explained:
“You have to think about loads of things. We actually worked with Mind charity…We were able to ask lots of questions. How would people react in certain situations? [It gave me more insight into] why Yaz hadn’t mentioned it running up to this, why she’d gone to her sister and not her mum because she’s obviously very close to her mum. I’m really happy that I got to play that part. It’s part of Yaz’s journey now and it will affect her choices in the future.”
It’s an exceedingly timely choice on the part of the Doctor Who team. Mental health is slowly attracting the awareness that it warrants the world over, and impactful representation that affects characters and their decisions is more than welcome. It’s not the first time the series has delved into serious and pertinent issues. In the fan-favorite episode “Vincent and the Doctor” from season 5, the Doctor brought the famously tormented Vincent Van Gogh to the future where his work is finally appreciated.
The panel revealed yet more exciting news for the future of the series. The upcoming holiday special, “Revolution of the Daleks” will see the companions take on the genocidal aliens all on their own, giving them more agency than they’ve had before. Big moves are on the horizon for the franchise, perhaps the most iconic British property aside from Harry Potter. The transmedia event “Time Lord Victorious” will incorporate everything from audiobooks to comics, except the TV show itself. Wherever it goes, there’s no doubt Doctor Who is becoming more representative—great news for the diverse fanbase of the beloved franchise.
Source: New York Comic-Con