The BBC announced today that Jodie Whittaker intends to step down from the role of the Thirteenth Doctor after three seasons on Doctor Who, the final season airing later this year and her run concluding with with a trio of specials in 2022:
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
Much like with Peter Capaldi’s exit as the Twelfth Doctor, the BBC has made this announcement a good year ahead of Whittaker’s last scenes on the series being aired. News like this, though, would be nearly impossible to keep under wraps in this day and age. The set of specials to end the run calls to mind David Tennant’s departure, and while his specials were uneven at best, being freed from any running arc or companion linkages kept the focus on his Tenth Doctor, as befits a farewell.
Jodie Whittaker deserves no less. Her performance thus far, though hindered at times by the writing just like Capaldi, has kept Doctor Who both fresh and resonant. She has embodied an infectious joy and curiosity in her iteration of our favorite time traveller, with just a bit of the Second Doctor’s cheek and Fourth Doctor’s wit always lurking in the background.
Show runner Chris Chibnall also departs at the end of the specials, marking all change on the series. I frankly haven’t been terribly impressed with his overall impact on the show. While I love Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor, and would happily watch a full series of her pre-Hartnell exploits, the wholesale reconfiguration of the Doctor Who canon that accompanied her revelation takes some getting used to, even as someone who accepts the Morbius Doctors without much complaint. Change in general is fine, canon being a secondary consideration to good storytelling, but the story that accompanied the changes here just didn’t earn the right to such wholesale revision.
Jodie Whittaker was, of course, the first woman to play the role of the Doctor, and ideally not the last. One hopes that the BBC continues to expand the definitions of who the Doctor can be.