In no particular order…
1. A series arc
My favourite series of Doctor Who is Series 6. I know it’s not everybody’s bowl of fish custard, but I adore it, warts and all. To a large extent that’s due to its absorbing series arc; and Series 6 was the most overtly arc-heavy of any series of the revival. I like the capacity for arcs to make the series feel like a extended narrative. I like the way I become invested in the series by following the arc, and interested in seeing the series through to the end. I like the sense of purpose and direction that a series arc lends to the show, and the palpable energy behind the writing when everything forms part of a single narrative whole. In Series 7 and 8 the show spurned the serialised storytelling of Series 6 and reverted to the traditional anthology format, but I’m certainly hoping for a return to series arcs in Series 9. Given that we’re getting an unusually high volume of two-parters in Series 9, I may just get my wish…
2. Continuity development
During his tenure as showrunner, Steven Moffat has displayed commendable boldness in his willingness to push forward the almost-52-years-and-counting story of the show. He gave the Doctor a wife, aged him at least 1,100 years, introduced the character of Clara Oswald, whose importance in the Doctor’s life can’t be described as anything short of celestial, and, in his crowning achievement, brought back Gallifrey. Not all of Moffat’s authorial decisions have been met with enthusiasm from all quarters, but there’s no denying that his mind is always brimming with exciting and creative ideas for the show’s directions. I don’t think Moffat thinks he’s finished with what he wants to do with the show yet, and every indication is that Series 9 is going to be huge. Those who’ve read Moffat’s (very spoilery) Series 9 episode guide in the Radio Times might have an idea of what’s coming…
3. Progress on Gallifrey
Somewhat related to the above, I’d love to see some progress on the Doctor’s search for Gallifrey. At the end of Series 8 we were left with a heartbreaking scene of the Doctor lashing out in a violent rage after discovering that Missy had lied to him about the whereabouts of his home planet. So it’s approximately 1000 years and one regeneration since the Doctor saved Gallifrey, and he’s made 0 progress in finding it. Surely something has to happen next series? Gallifrey doesn’t necessarily even have to come back in Series 9, but some progress would be nice.
4. Doctor development
If Series 8 was about the Twelfth Doctor finding himself, learning about himself, rediscovering who he, the Doctor, was, then Series 9 should give us a fully-formed Twelfth Doctor in his prime. Capaldi’s Doctor should be a magnetic presence in every episode, assured of his identity, confident in his own skin, and enthusiastic once again about being the Doctor in the Tardis. These should be the glory years of the Twelfth Doctor, and they should be unforgettable. Moreover, we should see a measure of personal development for Capaldi’s Doctor. I’d like to see Capaldi’s Doctor mellow somewhat; a Doctor who’s softened and become less abrasive, less prickly, more relatable, perhaps under the erstwhile influence of Clara Oswald, similar to the mellowing of those previous “difficult” Doctors, the First and the Sixth.
5. New monsters/villains
We already know from the trailers that there are going to be a host of very interesting new monsters and villains in Series 9. It all looks wonderfully exciting. This is much appreciated, as Series 8 was noticeably devoid of new creations, apart from the Teller and the Listen entity, and there’s only two of the former and the latter may not even exist. Is it unrealistic to hope for a well-conceived and genuinely repeatable new monster, akin to the Weeping Angels?
6. Who is Gus?
Seriously, I’m dying to know who or what was behind the events of Mummy on the Orient Express. Was it just a one-off mystery villain, or is Gus connected to something bigger? I’m hoping for the latter.
7. Something to mark the 10th anniversary of New Who
True enough, given Doctor Who just had a big, extravagant celebration two years ago to celebrate the show’s fiftieth anniversary, it might be a bit confusing to then ostentatiously celebrate a tenth anniversary, but it would be nice if the show did something to mark passing 10 years since the show’s revival. Something in an episode would be nice, even some small tribute, but a minisode could work just as well. Perhaps previous Doctors could make a surprise return, maybe even (whisper it) Christopher Eccleston?
8. A new recurring character
I’m thinking about Maisie Williams’ character here. Although I really wanted Maisie to be an old acquaintance of the Doctor (Susan, Romana, Jenny, take your pick), that possibility seems to have been ruled out after Moffat confirmed she wasn’t a returning character. So next best would be for Maisie to be a new recurring character, a new member of the extended Doctor Who family, the next character for whom we fans always clamour to return, à la River Song or Captain Jack. I think I could die happy if the actress who plays my favourite character in Game of Thrones became an integral character in the Whoniverse.
9. Experimental storytelling
It’s already confirmed that Series 9 is going to feature two very different episodes, one written by Mark Gatiss composed of entirely of old film reel footage, and a “one-hander” written by Steven Moffat that features Peter Capaldi as the Doctor by himself for 45 minutes. I am so very excited for both of these episodes, especially the latter, which, given how astounding an actor Capaldi is, surely cannot prove to be anything other than amazing.
10. “Why did I choose this face?”
The goss is that we’re going to find out in this series why the Twelfth Doctor looks like a 1st Century Roman. That should be an interesting revelation, if nothing else. A theme of this series seems to be regeneration, or the nature thereof, given that Karn, where the Eighth Doctor became the War Doctor with the Sisterhood’s assistance, looks to play a significant role in the series’ narrative. The matter of the Doctor’s appropriated face looks like it might tie into the broader theme of regeneration. This kind of dry backstory and mythology-building might be boring to some, but I, at least, find it riveting. Speaking of regeneration…
11. Missy’s origins
Missy’s presence in Dark Water/Death in Heaven at the helm of an elaborate Cyberman conspiracy was a mystery. Missy’s very existence is a mystery. The last time we saw the Master before (s)he appeared again in Dark Water, he (he was a “he” then) was essentially a reanimated corpse in a state of permanent decay, returning to the Time War along with Gallifrey and the rest of the Time Lords. Presumably the Master escaped from the pocket universe in which Gallifrey was trapped, but how? And how did the Master get her new body? Did she come back for a reason? All questions to which I’m dying to know the answer.
12. Clara’s departure
Whatever one thinks of Clara (I’m fairly lukewarm), surely 3 years is long enough for a companion? Any longer and Clara, a companion, will have outstayed most Doctors, and I think fans would reasonably expect Jenna to leave at the end of this series. That said, I’m hoping Clara goes on a high. I want Jenna to make me come to love her character and feel wistful when she’s gone. I’m looking forward to an exciting, energising dynamic between the Doctor and Clara in Series 9 now that the two have worked each other out and are at ease with one another. These should be Clara’s golden days as much as they are the Doctor’s. And Clara’s exit should be big. I want Clara to die. I don’t mean that in a nasty way, but surely death is the only fitting end for a companion as important as Clara Oswald? An understated, “nice” exit, or even a tragic exit that falls short of actual death, like Amy’s, would almost feel like an anticlimactic end for Clara. Clara’s exit should be a momentous occasion, one that deeply affects the Doctor for a long time to come.