DOCTOR WHO Goes Back to School (Again)

caretakerFilming for season nine of DOCTOR WHO has been under way for about a month now, and this week the cast and crew moved to a very familiar location: Tonyrefail School in Rhondda Cynon Taff, Wales, which has stood in for Coal Hill School since “The Day of the Doctor,” and appeared in several stories last season.

Jenna Coleman was seen filming at the school along with Clara’s motorbike, but neither Peter Capaldi nor the TARDIS were glimpsed. This block of filming is directed by Hettie Macdonald (of “Blink” fame) and the episode is believed to be the season opener, “The Magician’s Apprentice,” which is also believed to be a two-parter.

The return of Coal Hill portends not only more workplace drama for Clara, but also another chance to bring back one of the original members of the TARDIS crew, former Coal Hill science teacher Ian Chesterton, played by William Russell.

Coal Hill School appeared most prominently in last season’s “The Caretaker,” and the writer of that story, Gareth Roberts, told Cultbox that he wants Ian to return:

I’d love to see William Russell back in the show! That’s so rich and so fertile for someone to do. You’d have to explain it enough so that everyone would get it.

Russell played Ian from the first episode, “An Unearthly Child,” in 1963, until “The Chase,” the next-to-last story of the second season in 1965. Although he has done extensive work with Big Finish’s audio range and commentaries and extras for DVDs, Russell has never returned to TV as Ian.

“The Day of the Doctor” established that Ian is Coal Hill School’s Chairman of the Governors — and while I don’t know what that post means, it certainly sounds like an excuse to let Ian wander the halls and run into an old friend or a big blue box.

How much fun would it be for the grumpy 12th Doctor to turn a corner and, upon spotting Ian, growl, “Ah, Chesterton, there you are, my boy, come along…” and just march off, expecting his old companion to follow like a faithful puppy. Of course Ian doesn’t know about the Time Lord’s ability to regenerate. And then there would have to be a sad mention of Barbara’s absence, because actress Jacqueline Hill passed away in 1993.

But still — Ian! Let’s hope there’s room in Steven Moffat’s script for an old friend.

DOCTOR WHO returns to BBC America this fall.

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