The good news is that there is a new season of Doctor Who coming. It has some great guest stars, familiar faces and a core of writers and directors who have never worked on the show before. Maybe an injection of new blood can tighten things up a bit this year. The bad news is that there will be no new Who for 2016, as Steven Moffat will be erstwhile-detained working on Sherlock. There has been no word of any specials or one of episodes for the coming year.
Some things that are different from last season include continued development of The Doctor by Peter Capaldi. His Doctor will still be mysterious and reckless but he'll have more whimsy built in this year. He's also going to have some fancy new jackets and pants as the season goes on. As with the Matt Smith Doctor before, we see a changing fashion style percolating into the lead character.
We know Clara is staying around for most of the season. As the season opens, she is back at Coal Hill School. As the relationship between The Doctor and Clara deepens there are again times where she must take on the mantle of Companion in setting the Doctor's moral compass. As with last year, we see the production team moving her in a direction that matches the overall story arc of the season. She holds her own and stands her ground, showing that Clara may soon have had enough. We know she is leaving at some point but there is no indication as to when this may be.
The big themes for this year are: that something is stalking the Doctor, the search for Gallifrey, and the return of The Time Lords. We also know that The Doctor's face is important, a fact that may lead to his return to Pompeii. These themes permeate throughout Season 9 and may be related to some of the new monsters we meet along the way.
The Daleks are back and we are told they mean business. There are rumors that The Doctor may be able to wipe them out (a la "Genesis of the Daleks"). The Zygons have a massive role to play in a few stories. Missy is also back but she may, to a certain extent, be helping her nemesis.
There has been a flood of rumors that Paul McGann and possibly David Tennant could be returning to the show. However, the BBC has confirmed none of this.
The season beings with a Prologue featuring The Doctor once again on Karn. It looks like he's made a will and is expecting a showdown with an old enemy.
The Doctor's Mediation
This is the prequel that airs before the first episode. It was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Ed Bazelgette. Daniel Hoffmann-Gill stars as Bors, who appears to be a Viking-like character. The cup held by The Doctor is similar to the one seen in "Night of The Doctor." Is there a connection?
The Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar
Written by Steven Moffat and directed by Hettie McDonald. This season opening two-parter features a lot to process: an intergalactic war, Missy returns and she and Clara hang out, the Doctor makes a big blunder, Kate Stewart returns and the intriguing Colony Sarff is looking for Gallifrey. Then there are the Daleks...part two of this epic tale is set in a Dalek city where Daleks of every era reside. The Doctor is alone without his TARDIS and he's got a chance to finish them off. The starter offers an interesting character study of The Doctor and an opportunity for Peter Capaldi to take him to darker places.
Under The Lake/Before The Flood
Episodes Three and Four were written by Being Human creator Toby Whithouse and directed by Daniel O'Hara. There are some serious horror elements at work here as the TARDIS crew encounters a haunted underwater base. The story has some heavy hitters for guest stars including Paul Kaye (Game of Thrones), Morven Christie (Grantchester) and Arsher Ali from The Missing.
The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived
This is not a proper two part story but more of two episodes linking together. Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) guest stars as a Viking god and a French highway bandit. Rufus Hound also appears in this story that offers fans a chance to see...Vikings in space! "The Girl Who Died" is penned by Jamie Mathieson (who wrote last year's "Flatline") and Steven Moffat while "The Woman Who Lived" was written by Torchwood alum, Catherine Treganna. Poldark's Ed Bazalgette debuts as a director for the series.
The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion
This story is a sequel of sorts to the 50th anniversary story, "Day of the Doctor." In it, we see the return of The Zygons who have entered into an uneasy peace with humans, until something goes terribly wrong... The Doctor and Clara must prevent a deadly virus. This story sees a great deal of growth for Clara as the dynamic between Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi solidifies. Despite "dying" at the end of last season, Osgood returns as does UNIT. Both episodes are from "Kill The Moon" director Peter Harness, with Steven Moffat helping out on the second half. Both are directed by newcomer Daniel Nettheim. Although it is great to have Jemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver back, many fans are eager to see Rebecca Front reunite with her The Thick Of It co-star. That should be magic.
Sleep No More
Episode 9 is a standalone episode that reunites The League of Gentlemen alum Reece Shearsmith and writer Mark Gatiss. Eastenders' star Elaine Tan, Neet Mohan, Bethany Black (the first transgender actor ever cast on the show) and Paul Courtenay Hyu guest star. Directed by Justin Molotnikov (Merlin), the story rests on an entirely new concept for the show, an episode told with only "found footage." Expect lots of gritty camera angles and jarring frames.
Face The Raven
Jovian Wade returns as Rigsy, whom we last saw in last season's "Flatline." Sarah Dollard, from The Game, wrote this story. It is a standalone episode directed by Justin Molotnikov. The Doctor dons a nifty red velvet coat for this episode.
This is Stephen Moffat's mammoth finale to the season. As with last year it is directed by Rachel Talalay. There's a lot of chatter that this is where the Time Lords return. Episode eleven features only Peter Capaldi with no supporting cast or guest stars. There are rumors that the story could be set on Gallifrey and that is where The Doctor would meet his former selves in some capacity that is not a regular guest turn but more of a cameo. This is where we may see McGann and or Tennant.
2015 Christmas Special
Stephen Moffat has again written this year's special. Alex Kingston returns as River Song with rumors of a possible appearance of The 13th Doctor as the Ghost of Christmas Future. This would of course mean that the next Doctor has already been cast. The events here will set up the next installment of the show.
There are rumors going around that Capaldi may leave after the 2017 season. The best way to gauge if this is true or not is to see how his story arcs play out over the full season.