It's the end of an era (again!) on Doctor Who. The BBC has confirmed that Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker will be departing the TARDIS in 2022 after a three-season run as the Time Lord. Showrunner Chris Chibnall, who joined the show alongside Whittaker in 2017, will also be leaving with her, setting the stage for a full turnover behind-the-scenes at the iconic sci-fi series.
On the plus side, we have quite a bit of Whittaker's run still ahead of us, with the promised Season 13 set to debut later in 2021 and a trio of specials planned for next year, which will culminate in a "blockbuster" episode planned to coincide with the BBC's centenary celebrations in Fall 2022.
“Jodie and I made a ‘three series and out’ pact with each other at the start of this once-in-a-lifetime blast. So now our shift is done, and we’re handing back the TARDIS keys," Chibnall said in a statement “Jodie’s magnificent, iconic Doctor has exceeded all our high expectations. She’s been the gold standard leading actor, shouldering the responsibility of being the first female Doctor with style, strength, warmth, generosity and humour. She captured the public imagination and continues to inspire adoration around the world, as well as from everyone on the production. I can’t imagine working with a more inspiring Doctor – so I’m not going to!
“For me, leading this exceptional team has been unrivaled creative fun, and one of the great joys of my career. I’m so proud of the people we’ve worked with and the stories we’ve told. To finish our time on the show with an additional Special, after the pandemic changed and challenged our production plans, is a lovely bonus. It’s great that the climax of the Thirteenth Doctor’s story will be at the heart(s) of the BBC’s centenary celebrations. I wish our successors - whoever the BBC and BBC Studios choose - as much fun as we’ve had. They’re in for a treat!”
Whittaker, as most likely know, made history as the first woman to play the Doctor in the show's six-decade run. And, to be honest, she's done a fairly remarkable job of it, endowing the character with warmth and humor. (Though, equally honestly, I've personally often wished she'd had better stories to work with.)
Her departure from the series has been rumored almost since her arrival, but that's sadly par for the course for any actor playing the Doctor these days. (And, unfortunately, the segment of the fandom that never accepted the idea of a female Doctor will be over the moon that this time the rumors turned out to be true.) But Whittaker herself seems at peace with her choice, and thankful for the experience.
"In 2017 I opened my glorious gift box of size 13 shoes. I could not have guessed the brilliant adventures, worlds and wonders I was to see in them. My heart is so full of love for this show, for the team who make it, for the fans who watch it, and for what it has brought to my life," Whittaker said in an official statement. "I cannot thank Chris enough for entrusting me with his incredible stories. We knew that we wanted to ride this wave side by side and pass on the baton together. So here we are, weeks away from wrapping on the best job I have ever had."
To be fair, her three-season run is about what every modern Doctor has chosen to take on (David Tennant, Matt Smith, and Peter Capaldi all did the same) and multiple classic era actors did as well. This isn't unusual or anything, it's just sad for those of us who thought the Chibnall era would perhaps use the franchise's first female Doctor to push the boundaries of the sorts of stories the show was most comfortable telling. To his credit, Chibnall did bring back the historical in a big way, which has proven the source of the best episodes of his run ("Rosa," "The Witchfinders", "Demons of the Punjab"). Fingers crossed that's a trend from this era that sticks around into the next.
Season 13 is set to premiere on a to-be-determined date this Fall. The first of Whittaker's final run of specials will be broadcast on New Year's Day.