'Doctor Who' Season 13 Has Begun Filming And Will Have Only 8 Episodes

In uncertain times like these, we need Doctor Who more than ever. And lo and behold, our favorite time-traveling alien has answered our prayers. The 13th season of Doctor Who has begun filming amid strict coronavirus (COVID-19) safety protocols and guidelines for a season that will be "fun filled and action packed as ever – with plenty of surprises," BBC teases. But, due to the added time of those safety protocols, Doctor Who season 13 will be shortened to eight episodes (likely meaning seven, plus a holiday special), rather than the usual 11 episodes.

Doctor Who announced that season 13 has begun filming under under strict industry and government guidelines to ensure the safety of all cast and crew amid COVID-19. But the season will be three episodes shorter than usual, down from 11 episodes (which for the past two seasons have been a 10-episode season, with a holiday special). It's been a bit of bummer seeing the episode count slowly whittle down from the 13 episode-seasons we used to get (plus Christmas specials!) but it's honestly a relief to get new Doctor Who at all, especially as the U.K. prepares to enter another lockdown and many film and TV productions are slow to resume.

Showrunner Chris Chibnall praised the Doctor Who team for working to get the show back into production, confirming the eight-episode count, but assuring that the "ambition, humour, fun and scares you expect from Doctor Who will all still be firmly in place." Here's the full statement:

"In this strangest of years, the Doctor Who production team have worked wonders to get the show back into production. We're thrilled to be back making the show. Given the complexity of making Doctor Who, and with new and rigorous COVID working protocols, it's going to take us a little longer to film each episode, meaning we expect to end up with eight episodes, rather than the usual eleven. But rest assured, the ambition, humour, fun and scares you expect from Doctor Who will all still be firmly in place. For everyone around the world, this is a challenging period — but the Doctor never shirks from a challenge!"

What can we expect for Doctor Who season 13? It's still unclear for now, as the season 12 finale cliffhanger will be addressed in the upcoming festive special "Revolution of the Daleks," which is set to premiere at an unknown date (either Christmas or New Year's are the expected release dates). But Matt Strevens, Executive Producer BBC Studios, teased that the season is "going to be as fun filled and action packed as ever – with plenty of surprises."

Surprises! What could it mean? Or who could it mean? Considering the amount of surprises (and surprise cameos) that Chibnall and co. packed into season 12, there's plenty of reason to speculate that this could mean another return for fan-favorite Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), and hopefully in a capacity that will actually let him meet the newly female Doctor. Fans are already theorizing that we could see Captain Jack as soon as the upcoming festive special, as the Barrowman-led spin-off Torchwood was steered by Chibnall for two seasons. But that's all speculation...for now.

Doctor Who will return before season 13 with the upcoming festive special "Revolution of the Daleks," in which "the Doctor's best friends Yaz (played by Mandip Gill), Ryan (played by Tosin Cole) and Graham (played by Bradley Walsh) have to pick up their lives without her. However they soon discover a disturbing plan forming involving one of the Doctor's biggest and most feared enemies – the Daleks. How do you fight the Daleks without the Doctor?"

"Revolution of the Daleks" has been in the can for a while, wrapping shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year. With filming now beginning on season 13, we can probably expect the next season of Doctor Who sometime in mid- to late-2021.