Let’s not beat around the police box here: The most recent iteration of Doctor Who has not been great. The long-running BBC sci-fi staple underwent a major shake-up in 2018 when Broadchurch and Torchwood’s Chris Chibnall took over showrunning duties from longtime franchise lead Steven Moffat, and – even more importantly – cast his Broadchurch actress Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor. And then it all went wibbly-wobbly, as she show failed to live up to its potential, and especially not when compared to what came before.
And now, just days after Whittaker headlined her second New Years Day special – titled The Revolution of the Daleks – following two very bumpy seasons, British publication Mirror is reporting that the actress has called it quits. According to the report, Whittaker will finish up the upcoming thirteenth season of the modern era of the show – which started production this past November and will see its episode count reduced from eleven to eight due to COVID-19 restrictions – before having her Doctor regenerate into somebody new. Mirror’s sources indicate that “It’s all very hush-hush but it is known on set that Jodie is leaving and they are gearing up for a regeneration. Her departure is top secret but at some point over the coming months the arrival of the 14th Doctor will need to be filmed. It’s very exciting.”
When reached out to for comment by Digital Spy, the BBC responded by saying that “We won’t be commenting on any speculation around Jodie’s future on the show.”
With the exception of Christopher Eccleston who kicked off the modern Doctor Who in 2005 with a single season, all Whittaker’s predecessors (David Tennant, Matt Smith, and Peter Capaldi) have all also only stuck around for three seasons each, so her departure now makes sense. However, you can’t help but think there’s more to it than just tradition.
Despite Chibnall being an award-winning TV writer and lifelong Who fan, and Whittaker being an immensely talented actress with serious dramatic chops, nearly none of that was present when their Doctor Who run began. The show initially tried to do a soft reset from the continuity-heavy Moffat era with more standalone episodes, and even brought in three companions for the Doctor to play off, but Chibnall’s extremely lacklustre writing marred it all. Whittaker’s Doctor seemed to solely consist of running around flustered and calling her companions her “fam” (criiiiinge) with little else to her. Hell, Jo Martin’s brief two-episode appearance as the “Fugitive Doctor” had more substance to it than two whole seasons of Whittaker’s Time Lord.
And out of the three companions, Mandip Gill’s Yas offered almost no development, Tosin Cole’s Ryan was a charisma black hole (not helped by terrible acting), and Bradley Walsh’s Graham… well, actually Graham was awesome and was the best thing about the show through two seasons who often upstaged the Doctor herself with better writing. It was as if Chibnall just didn’t know what to do with his leading lady.
The showrunner upped the stakes in the latter half of Whittaker’s second season though, by going bigger and introducing more serialized stories that gave the Doctor more meat to chew on. But even a massively divisive paradigm-shift plot twist revealed in the season finale couldn’t erase the feeling that Whittaker’s talents were being wasted with sub-par material overall. We were talking about it around the Critical Hit virtual watercooler this morning, and she’s gotten almost none of those fantastic big speech moments the Doctor has always been known for. Where was her “Hello, Stonehenge!” moment?!
And now, on top of all of that, the recent New Years Day special has seen the exit of Ryan (yay!) and Graham (boo!) from the show as well. It’s already been announced and teased though that brilliant British actor/comedian John Bishop will be joining Whittaker’s Doctor and the remaining Yas in the TARDIS in the new season, which, to me, feels like moving all the pieces in place for a whole new cast. Hopefully with a new showrunner to boot as well as Chibnall has really sunk my enjoyment of one of my favourite shows.
Or they can just bring back the Fugitive Doctor in a permanent role and make me very happy.
Last Updated: January 4, 2021