I wish that my first post about Doctor Who here on my blog didn’t have to be sad news. The show has been around since the 1960’s, decades before I was born, but I only just got into it recently – this very year, in fact. Why? Well, partly because I had HBO Max, so the opportunity finally presented itself. But also, more importantly, because Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor was already inspiring to me before I ever watched a minute of Doctor Who. There’s a reason I jumped straight into her seasons without watching any of the others first (sorry to everyone from Hartnell to Capaldi, by the way).
So today’s news was a bit of a gut-punch, even though it was inevitable at some point. Jodie Whittaker will leave Doctor Who in the fall of 2022, following her third season as the Doctor (which airs later this year), and three specials which will air throughout 2022, the last of which will be feature-length and in which we’ll witness the Regeneration of the Doctor into their fourteenth iteration. Whittaker will be accompanied in her departure by showrunner Chris Chibnall, who has overseen and written large parts of her three seasons, and presumably by her last remaining original Companion, Yasmin Khan, played by Mandip Gill.
All of this is customary for Doctor Who. The character’s physical form is by nature impermanent, only a vessel for a timeless message of kindness, empowerment, and empathy which outlasts any single actor. I mean, that’s the whole point, right? But as someone who only got into this fandom recently and had never been attached to any of the previous Doctors, this is my first experience with Regeneration and…it hurts. I don’t even know yet if I’ll be interested in the show post-Whittaker, or if the joy and comfort I found in Doctor Who was solely rooted in how much I loved her Doctor, specifically.
Because if I’m being honest, Chris Chibnall’s writing wasn’t great most of the time. Most of Whittaker’s best episodes weren’t even written by him. So it’s a testament to her strength, talent, and keen understanding of the role that she transcended his failures as a showrunner and still managed to take what she was given and turn it into something special, infusing Doctor Who with a fresh breeze of heartfelt humor and whimsical wonderment. Unfortunately, it’s also a testament to the additional challenges she faced during her tenure as the Doctor because she happened to be the first woman in the role.
Before her first season even aired, bigots were directing misogynistic vitriol towards her character. From her first episode onwards, she was battling lackluster writing and an overcrowded TARDIS that seemed strangely hellbent on surrounding her with male supporting characters who seemed to get more screentime and development than she ever did. After her male Companions left the show, it seemed like there might be an opportunity to explore the dynamic between the Doctor and Yazmin Khan in an all-female TARDIS – but going into her final season, two new male characters have been added to her crew. Simultaneously, her final season has been cut from the usual ten episodes down to just six, further reducing the amount of time Whittaker will have to define her version of the character before she leaves the role.
The BBC is making a big deal out of how Whittaker’s final appearance as the Doctor will coincide with their centenary anniversary in 2022, but even that doesn’t sit right with me. Doctor Who’s own sixtieth anniversary is just a year later in 2023 – they couldn’t have waited one more year? It seems like a small thing, but it would have been a great way for the BBC to support Whittaker’s casting. Instead, her successor will get the huge marketing campaign and media coverage that Doctor Who‘s sixtieth anniversary will entail. I’m not mad at whoever will take her place, because this is a coveted role and it was always going to pass on eventually, but I am mad at the BBC for undermining Whittaker’s legitimacy as the Doctor in this way.
At the same time, though, I’m happy for Whittaker. I hope that, like most of her male predecessors in the role (at least during the modern era of Doctor Who), she gets plenty of work coming off of the show. Tennant’s got Good Omens, Smith’s about to star in House Of The Dragon, Capaldi’s about to have a prominent role in The Suicide Squad – what will Whittaker’s next move be? Whether it’s a big franchise or something smaller, I’m excited to support her no matter what.
And I hope that whoever takes over as the Doctor builds on her performance just as Whittaker built on those who came before her. Countless Regenerations from now, Whittaker will still be an important part of the Doctor’s story, and that’s something the show should acknowledge – even if it’s just through little references and callbacks to her incredible performance. But regardless of whatever happens next with the show, Whittaker is my Doctor, and she always will be.
So what kind of emotions are you feeling, fam? Who do you hope will become the Fourteenth Doctor? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!