COVID-19, (PROSE: The Invasion of London) also known as Corona Virus Disease 2019, (WC: U.N.I.T. On Call) was an infectious and deadly disease, caused by a virus which spread on Earth during 2020. (PROSE: Sweet Revenge)
To mitigate the spread of the pandemic, (PROSE: Sweet Revenge) individuals remained in isolation, a lockdown. (PROSE: The Invasion of London, Sweet Revenge) If someone did need to go out, they were expected to to keep 2 metres' distance from others, to wear a face mask, and use hand sanitiser. (PROSE: 8.46)
Warning of things to come
At the beginning of 2020, a version of Yvonne Hartman from Pete's World, (AUDIO: Poker Face, The Empty Hand, et al.) released a public broadcast where she warned the populace of the "unprecedented times" ahead, telling them to self-isolate, or there would be consequences. (WC: Incoming Message) The Thirteenth Doctor also sent a similar message from inside a wardrobe, telling those who received the message to know that they could "get through this" even if things looked bad, to keep spirits high by telling jokes, to be kind, as well as to look out for friends and family, to listen to doctors, and finally to stay strong, as she promised to be back "very soon". (WC: Message from the Doctor)
The Long Lockdown
On 10 May, Petronella Osgood and her Zygon duplicate kept in touch during lockdown, using Zoom to converse while isolating. Among other things they discussed the fact that Petronella needed a new prescription for her asthma inhaler but had trouble getting one as, due to the pandemic, doctors were "all busy at the moment." After their chat, they watched the BBC television series Doctor Who on BBC iPlayer. (WC: The Zygon Isolation) On 17 May, Evie and Maxine also conversed during their self isolation, though using a different video chat application called VidChatX. (WC: The Descendants of Pompeii)
During the crisis, Conall was furloughed while Dean got a temporary job in a Tesco Extra. Conall and Lucy spoke a lot during this time, and he told her that he and Dean were thinking of moving to Cardiff once the lockdown was over, to be nearer to his family. (PROSE: The Invasion of London)
The murder of George Floyd occurred during the pandemic and, despite the lockdown, it sparked mass protests across the United States and United Kingdom. When Lucy and Hobo joined the peaceful protests in Ogmore-by-Sea, they wore face masks, carried a bottle of hand sanitiser, and made sure to stay two metres away from other people. (PROSE: 8.46) Bill Potts attended a similar march in Bristol, noting that people kept their distance and remained calm while protesting. (WC: The Best of Days)
Further combatting of the virus
The Third Doctor knew that COVID-19 impacted the Earth in 2020. During late 2020, a Doctor Who fan somehow called UNIT in the 1970s, to get advice about how to handle COVID-19 now that UNIT had been suspended. (WC: U.N.I.T. On Call)
In November 2020, the British government ordered P.R.O.B.E. to investigate whether lockdown was some kind of alien conspiracy. Giles reluctantly got to work, and uncovered an unrelated conspiracy by Control to conceal the CIA's experiments with a device that created gaps in the border between the normal universe and Ecto-Space. The CIA had been using COVID-19 as a convenient excuse to cover up disappearances related to their experiments, with people who inquired after those captured by the pink slime receiving laconic text messages purportedly from the individuals, claiming that they were COVID-positive. (HOMEVID: Goo!)
Though by one account, face masks did not appear to be commonplace by the time of the 2021 Dalek civil war, (TV: Revolution of the Daleks) the virus was still present in some form by as late as December 2021, by which point, posters reminding the public to remember "Hands, Face, Space" to avoid catching the virus were still a common sight. (TV: The Vanquishers)
Divine Intervention's universe
In a network of collapsing timelines in which Robin Bright-Thompson went on to be the leader of Divine Intervention and created his own history, set forth by the Eighth Doctor becoming stranded in London in 2020, the pandemic never happened, or else never reached England.
However, by closing the gap and giving Robin a second chance, a stable timeline was restored in which Robin's father Ken Bright-Thompson never made them leave 107 Baker Street. Instead, this timeline had a pandemic which necessitated lockdown. Ken was surprised that Robin, the Doctor, Liv, Helen, Tania and Andy were standing so close without masks.
Even having visited countless divergent timelines, creating and averting various catastrophes, including the very end of humanity by Robin's hand, this was the first news of a pandemic in 2020 to anyone in their group. (AUDIO: The Keys of Baker Street)
Behind the scenes
Impact on production
For the most part, production on Doctor Who universe (DWU) material continued in another form during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, with each medium bringing its own obstacles. Ultimately, changes had to be made across the board in order to complete projects, with some plans needing to be postponed, and others needing to be fundamentally changed in order to become viable.
Among the DWU projects impacted by the pandemic:
- Post-production work on Revolution of the Daleks, which had concluded filming before lockdown began in the UK, continued remotely, concluding around mid-December, close to broadcast on New Year's Day 2021.
- Big Finish Productions announced on 17 March 2020 that production on future audios would be suspended in compliance with health and safety guidelines. Production resumed later in the year, with recording being done remotely. Since most Big Finish audio stories are recorded months and even years in advance, Big Finish's release schedule for 2020 was largely unaffected.
- Although production on Doctor Who Magazine continued remotely, the main comic strip was twice forced to go on hiatus. The first began from DWM 553 and lasted until DWM 556, while the second lasted from DWM 563 through to DWM 570. A serialised short story, Black Powder, was published within the final two issues of the second hiatus to make up for the strip's continued absence. Production on the magazine's regular humour strip, The Daft Dimension, was not affected.
- Time Lord Victorious was nearly cancelled, according to James Goss, but he credits his partners, including Titan Comics and Big Finish Productions, for their commitment to still make it happen.
- The planned live events, like escape rooms, were perhaps the most affected, as large gatherings would not be possible. Escape Hunt ultimately released The Hollow Planet, a print-and-play "escape room" of sorts, rather than hosting a live event. Later on during the pandemic, Time Fracture, an Immersive Theatre production, did open in London, as part of Time Lord Victorious.
- Although it was initially reported that filming on series 13 would begin in September 2020, the pandemic caused filming to be delayed to 2 November 2020. Since it would be impossible to produce a series on the same scale as series 12, series 13 was restricted to eight episodes, and production could not travel overseas, as before, or feature too many characters. In order to work best around these restrictions, and to avoid drawing attention to the pandemic in the upcoming series, Chris Chibnall and the BBC decided to transform series 13 into one serialised story, becoming Doctor Who: Flux. This aired in late 2021. Despite the effort made to avoid drawing attention to COVID-19, one scene in The Vanquishers includes a government banner, advising the public to remember Hands, Face, Space to avoid catching the virus.
References in invalid sources
In Strax Saves the Day, Strax mentions having hoarded toilet paper, a reference to the real world shortages of essential items in the Western world due to hoarding, amidst the widespread panic in March 2020, when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO.
The webcast United we stand, 2m apart, released by the BBC on Twitter, saw the Thirteenth Doctor send out a video message directly instructing an unseen audience on how to protect themselves against the virus.
The 2021 Comic Relief skit 2020: The Movie was set up as a trailer for an upcoming movie that would depict the struggles of lockdown in a light-hearted way, with Jodie Whittaker playing an actual doctor alongside Mandip Gill. The virus was played by Michael Sheen in the in-universe film.
The Doctor Who: Lockdown! project was founded by Emily Cook to help Doctor Who fans pass the time in self-isolation. The initiative involved scheduled simulcast watch-alongs of past episodes, and featured specially made content such as webcasts and short stories, written to tie in with that event's episode.
Many writers and cast members from the original TV stories got involved, either posting on Twitter in response to the scenes everyone was watching, or contributing original content to the project themselves. These stories, as well as novelised versions of some webcasts, were later released in book form, in the Adventures in Lockdown anthology. A portion of the proceeds made by the anthology were donated to Children in Need.
The short video message, The Doctors Say Thank You, was broadcast during BBC One's The Big Night In telethon on 23 April 2020, in which nearly every living on-screen actor who'd played the Doctor thanked the National Health Service and frontline doctors and nurses for their efforts in caring for the unprecedented numbers infected by the virus.
The 2021 edition of Comic Relief's Red Nose Day telethon featured the comedic short 2020: The Movie, which was presented as a trailer for a fictitious film about the pandemic. Among the many stars to appear in the short where Jodie Whittaker and Mandip Gill, loosely in character as the Thirteenth Doctor and Yasmin Khan, respectively.