It's been a very long year since fans last saw the Doctor Who fam in the Season 12 finale in March. The series ended on a cliffhanger, as the Judoon catch up with the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), imprisoning her for crimes committed during a period of her life she cannot recall. The three companions, Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Graham (Bradley Walsh), settle in at home, believing this to be a short break. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to them, the Doctor is trapped in a far-away Maximum Containment prison for life, with no hope of rescue.
Season 12 already shook the show's foundations up by introducing this massive raft of extra Doctors, including the "Morbius Doctors" faces that previously had been considered canonical errors. Leaving the companions to function Doctorless for the holiday special was just another step in changing the expected norms.
That's not to say the show hasn't done things like this before. Companions have been doing it for themselves even as far back as Classic Who with Sarah Jane. (One could argue that the spinoffs The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood were entire shows based on the notion.) But this is the first case where the Companions already functioned as a team before danger struck. (Whereas in other situations, Companions usually have to build a team or find each other before getting started.) Moreover, this time, they'll be facing down a villain who is traditionally reserved only for the Doctor (or other Timelords): The Daleks.
The first images from the Holiday special show the Doctor has been imprisoned for a long time.
As for the fam, this is the ultimate "discuss it around the kitchen table" situation.
The BBC released these photos at the New York Comic-Con Doctor Who virtual panel, along with a synopsis of the Holiday special. Whittaker, Gill, and Walsh attempted not to give away any spoilers during their interview with TV critic Melanie McFarland. Check out the full discussion below.
The synopsis for the Holiday special suggests that the fam left back on Earth will indeed be facing down Daleks without so much as a sonic screwdriver for help.
The latest season was packed full of shocking twists, turns, and surprises, and the upcoming holiday special will see the return of one of the Doctor's biggest and most feared enemies – the Daleks. The Doctor is locked away in a high-security alien prison. Isolated, alone, with no hope of escape. Far away, on Earth, her best friends, Yaz, Ryan, and Graham, have to pick up their lives without her. But it's not easy. Old habits die hard, especially when they discover a disturbing plan forming. A plan which involves a Dalek. How can you fight a Dalek without the Doctor?
The Doctor Who Holiday special does not have a confirmed date and time as yet. But it will once again be part of a BBC America week-long marathon of Doctor Who episodes that air starting Christmas Day through New Year's Day. Whether the episode arrives at the beginning or end of it remains to be seen.
As for Doctor Who Season 13, filming is expected to begin before the end of 2020, but no premiere date has been set.