When the BBC announced showrunner Chris Chibnall and star Jodie Whittaker would be moving on from Doctor Who after three seasons, there was a question of when exactly Whittaker's tenure would end. Of the Doctors in the modern reboot, only Christopher Eccleston exited in a regular-season finale episode at the end of Season 1. David Tennant departed at the end of a two-part special that was the capstone of a year's worth of special installments after the fourth season; Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi left as part of Christmas specials. With an already foreshortened season in 2021 and showrunner Russell Davies not taking over until 2023, would Whittaker exit in a New Years' special, or something else?
The question was also driven by 2022 being the centenary of the British Broadcasting Company, which started with radio in 1922. It seemed deeply unlikely that there would be zero Doctor Who episodes during the centenary period. The series is one of the longest-running programs in history. For lack of a better word, it is the flagship series of the current BBC alongside the popular but far more recent reality series Strictly Come Dancing. (The two air currently air back to back on Sundays.) Surely there must at least be a special of some sort?
The BBC has now confirmed that there will be a special as part of the centenary celebrations and that it will be Whittaker's last outing with the sonic screwdriver. In a statement posted across social media, the announcement read:
As part of the BBC Centenary celebrations, Jodie Whittaker's final episode playing the Thirteenth Doctor is set to air next autumn. Having been in charge of the TARDIS since filming began in 2017, Showrunner Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker are set to leave the most famous police box on Earth – and the Universe. Having faced many perilous journeys battling some of the most feared monsters throughout space and time, it's the final installment for the Thirteenth Doctor. This epic blockbuster special will see the Doctor fight evil across the galaxy one last time but just who will she come up against in her final battle before the Doctor regenerates once more…
It remains to be seen if both current companions Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Dan (John Bishop) turn up for the final episodes. (Yaz is almost assured, Dan is not.) Fans are also wondering if Graham and Ryan (Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole) return in cameo appearances. It is somewhat traditional when Doctors regenerate that their former companions make an appearance. When showrunners leave, it's a little murkier — for example, when Davies left, he got everyone to come back, even the characters in his spinoff shows. When Steve Moffat left, there was not nearly the same level of cameo appearances.
That’s a wrap! Jodie Whittaker and Mandip Gill have finished filming pic.twitter.com/g8d1XpuKzK— Doctor Who: Flux (@bbcdoctorwho) October 13, 2021
But fans can at least be assured that there will be one significant Doctor Who special next fall where everyone will get to say a proper goodbye to the Thirteenth Doctor, and perhaps hello to the Fourteenth as well. Whether or not the special is at least a bit more straightforward than the current season also remains to be seen, but we live in hope.
Whether or not it airs on Nov. 23, 2022 (which will be the 59th anniversary of Doctor Who) is also not yet known. The date is a Wednesday, so perhaps not, since Doctor Who is traditionally an early hour weekend night program. But it would also be the day before the Thanksgiving holiday in the states, so maybe?
Meanwhile, Doctor Who Season 13, aka Doctor Who: Flux, continues (to puzzle the hell out of us all) with new episodes on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on BBC America.