The inevitable rumors about the departure of the Doctor have been flying for a while—the typical side effect of a Doctor nearing their third season. Now, we have confirmation: Variety reports that Jodie Whittaker will end her run as the Doctor after the coming season. Showrunner Chris Chibnall is also leaving the series, meaning there’s a lot of change coming when Whittaker regenerates.
Whittaker became the first female Doctor in 2017, when she took over the role from Peter Capaldi. As is pretty much always the case, her casting was met with a mix of delight and skepticism, and every single thing about her was picked over, from her previous work to her costume. But Whittaker has been an absolute delight as the Doctor, leading a trio of regular companions and facing off against enemies new and familiar while putting her own spin on the Doctor’s complicated personality.
At the end of the last season, two of the Doctor’s companions departed the TARDIS for good, and the upcoming thirteenth season will introduce a new companion: Dan, played by John Bishop, whose casting immediately led to a frenzy of theories that he might somehow be the next Doctor. There’s no real reason to think that’s the case, but it wouldn’t be a Doctor Who casting announcement without a lot of wild theories.
Variety‘s report on Whittaker and Chibnall’s departure is somewhat confusing; it says “She will leave after her third season. She will appear in a six-part event serial as well as three specials before her time on the show is up.” This seems to suggest that the six-part serial is something separate from season thirteen, which was reportedly going to be eight episodes, and later revealed to be planned as a single story. Deadline says Whittaker and Chibnall will bring us the next season and three specials, so it seems like the Variety phrasing is just a little vague. It also sounds like the upcoming season might actually be just six episodes.
The three specials will land next year, and the last one will, of course, be our farewell to Whittaker.
BREAKING: Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall to leave Doctor Who in a trio of Specials, culminating in an epic blockbuster Special to air in autumn 2022 as part of the BBC’s Centenary celebrations.
— Doctor Who (@bbcdoctorwho) July 29, 2021
The news of a Doctor leaving is always a little bittersweet, and this is no exception. Fingers crossed they can find someone half as endearing to fill her shoes. Replacing Chibnall is also going to be a challenge; he’s only the third showrunner New Who has had, following Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat, and it’s hard to imagine who might step into that role next.
Doctor Who returns later this year.