Whittaker Waves Goodbye: Thirteenth Doctor to Regenerate

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:

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.

Found in the TARDIS Closets: Thirteenth Doctor’s Costume Unveiled

Fresh on the heels of the cast reveal for the Thirteenth Doctor’s inaugural season, the BBC has unveiled her wardrobe as well.

The bright colors and whimsical touches (socks peeking from boots, suspenders, rainbow stripe) signal a pleasant departure from some of the more somber sartorial choices that the new Doctor Who series has delivered. Fezzes might have been cool, but the new look calls to mind for me nothing more than the playfulness seen in the Third through Sixth Doctors’ ensembles: puffy cravats and velour smoking jackets, wild scarves and hats, cricket-wear (with celery!), and whatever it was that Colin Baker wore.

It’s a new look for a new era, and I’m more than pleased that the show runners are embracing change—by going back to the show’s roots. For the first time in years, I’m excited about the series to come.

A Surfeit of Companions? New Doctor Who Cast Announced

It’s practically a parlor game amongst fans of Doctor Who: what constitutes a companion? By and large, companions are understood to travel extensively with the Doctor. In the “classic” days, the only real argument concerned Sara Kingdom and Katarina, whose single journeys on the TARDIS made them eligible (in some misguided minds) for that elevated status.

The UNIT era introduced the notion of a standing cast of characters who were demonstrably not companions, if only because the Doctor never invited the Brig and Friends into the blue box, and after that, the Doctor’s adventures tended to the stand-alone, with no fixed location to which he frequently returned and thus no real room for a recurring cast outside the companion(s) du jour.

When the series came back in 2005, however, story arcs and recurring characters became the norm; the Ninth Doctor gained not just Rose Tyler but her extended family and friends. Though I’m hesitant to call Mickey a companion— in the classic sense of a person effectively chosen by the Doctor—and even less so Jackie, the new series has stretched the definition of companion such that they probably should be considered as such.

So the BBC’s announcement of the recurring cast for the Thirteenth Doctor’s inaugural season has me wondering: does the Doctor now have three actual “classic” companions, for the first time since the Fifth Doctor, or are we looking at another friends-and-family plan of people who are in the Doctor’s orbit and enter and leave as the needs of the inevitable story arc demand?

Image via BBC America at https://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2017/10/meet-the-cast-of-the-all-new-doctor-who-series-coming-to-bbc-america-fall-2018
From left to right: Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole. Image via BBC America.

Details on the roles that Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, and Tosin Cole will play are, understandably, under wraps, with the series not resuming until next Fall and much still to be decided on the direction of the storyline. Count me in favor of returning to the old style of companions, though, of people who basically live on the TARDIS full time and come along on the Doctor’s journeys by default rather than being whisked away from their normal lives and returned, after a month of derring-do, a second after they left.

Consider me, indeed, old school in preferring the Stevens and Vickies and Leelas who have nowhere else to go after the Doctor turns their worlds upside down. The contemporary effort of tying the Doctor so tightly to Earth (modern Britain, more precisely), much like the Third Doctor’s exile, certainly makes for more relatable characters and settings. Cybermen and Daleks on the high street are always a bit startling. But it’s past time for the Doctor to get out there again, freed from terra firma, without having to worry about getting a companion home before the kettle boils over.

(Image via BBC America.)

Thirteenth Doctor Announced: Jodie Whittaker Takes the TARDIS Key

The BBC announced the identity of the Thirteenth Doctor today, unveiling English actor Jodie Whittaker as the latest regeneration of our favorite time traveller.

Jodie Whittaker is the Thirteenth Doctor; screencap via https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p058vj2q

As the first woman to inhabit the title role in Doctor Who, Whittaker will undoubtedly come in for much scrutiny, but such retrograde hemming and hawing is par for the well-travelled course. Every change of actor has come with doomsayers, and yet these changes are at the heart(s) of the show.

The Doctor’s only real constant should be an old soul; all else remains quite mutable. Sometimes lost in discourses about the Doctor’s identity is the simple fact of his/her alienness. The Doctor is not human, not familiar, not normal, and every change of actor in the role should cause a bit of discomfort when compared to the prior actors. Certainly moving from an irascible male Scottish actor with significant eyebrows to a female English actor with blond hair provides that vital hint of dissonance that makes the show work.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Whittaker performs in the role, and I hope that the scripts for the forthcoming season treat the transformation with wit and verve and use the enormity of the change to drive the series forward.

(Image via BBC.)