Doctor Who Scientific Advisor: behind the scenes on Series 11

Dr. Niall Doran, who received a credit as Scientific Advisor of the Doctor Who Series 11 episode Arachnids in the UK, has some interesting insight into the challenges Chris Chibnall and other Doctor Who showrunners face. These challenges may be part of the reason Series 12 of Doctor Who will not air until very early in 2020 even though principal photography for the series began during the week of January 21-25, 2019.

Dr. Doran spoke to Dallas Jones for issue 3 of Trap Street magazine:

“As with all showrunners, [Chris Chibnall has] a lot on his plate, which isn’t just making the show, but also the promotional management and corporate diplomacy that goes with that job – which is a real challenge to balance. There’s simply not enough time to deal with all the things being thrown in his direction…”

While Dr. Doran was only given credit as Scientific Advisor for Arachnids in the UK, he served as an advisor for most of Series 11 and was present for a great deal of the filming.

Screen shot, Arachnids in the UK credits, Scientific Advisor Dr Niall Doran, BBC

Ironically, as of the publishing date of Trap Street, Dr. Doran hadn’t yet had the opportunity to watch Arachnids in the UK due to the demands of his busy schedule.

“Interestingly, there’s one element of the final CGI spiders that I’m curious to see if they got right. I’m not mentioning what it is until until I see how it’s been handled!”

Doctor Who, Arachnids in the UK, BBC

Dr. Doran has seen other Doctor Who Series 11 episodes that happened to be on television during his free time and was able to watch the 2019 New Year’s special Resolution.

While Chris Chibnall penned a scene in Resolution where Call Centre Polly told the Doctor that all UNIT, Unified Intelligence Taskforce, operations were put on hold “following financial disputes and subsequent funding withdrawal by the UK’s major international partners”, UNIT is not far from Chibnall’s mind according to Dr. Doran:

“Chris is an interesting and friendly character. He jokingly referred to me as the ‘Third Doctor to their UNIT’, at least until I pointed out how much trouble he had caused the Brigadier.”

So perhaps there is hope for restoration of support and funding to UNIT in future thirteenth Doctor episodes.

Third Doctor, Brigadier, Terror of the Autons, BBC

Dr. Doran also described what he observed of Chris Chibnall’s vision for the show:

“He obviously loves the show and its history, and cares about putting together something that has a specific look, details and momentum in keeping with his vision of the show, just as every producer/showrunner brings that to their era. It was very deliberate on his part to have a different structure and visual approach to this series.”


Dr. Doran, a zoologist and researcher for the University of Tasmania, arranged to observe and advise Doctor Who production through his Churchill Fellowship, which helped finance his travel to the UK. The focus of Dr. Doran’s fellowship is to observe large-scale production to investigate ways to combine scientific and educational engagement with multimedia and pop culture.

Dr. Doran plans to give more details on is experiences on the Doctor Who set along with his experiences on other productions when he files his Churchill Fellowship report. We will keep you updated once he files his report.