The BBC has confirmed that Jodie Whittaker is to step down from the lead role in Doctor Who. She was the first woman to play the character. Also exiting the show will be showrunner Chris Chibnall. They will both depart in Autumn 2022 when the next season ends.
That will be a six-part series later this year, and three specials next year, before the regeneration occurs. In a statement, Whittaker said:
“In 2017 I opened my glorious gift box of size 13 shoes, I could not have guessed the brilliant adventures, worlds and wonders I was to see in them. My heart is so full of love for this show, for the team who make it, for the fans who watch it and for what it has brought to my life.
And I cannot thank Chris enough for entrusting me with his incredible stories. We knew that we wanted to ride this wave side by side, and pass on the baton together. So here we are, weeks away from wrapping on the best job I have ever had. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express what this role has given me. I will carry the Doctor and the lessons I’ve learnt forever.
I know change can be scary and none of us know what’s out there. That’s why we keep looking. Travel hopefully. The universe will surprise you. Constantly.”
When Doctor Who returned from decades off-screen with Christopher Eccleston in the leads role it was a smash-hit and every season contained some must-see episodes. Viewing figures were astonishing and overseas sales made it one of the BBC’s most profitable shows.
However, the show’s ratings have dropped in recent years. Whittaker’s last episode, broadcast in January, attracted a consolidated audience of just 6.3 million. Much of fandom has criticized the direction the show has taken under Chibnall, being described by the Telegraph as:
“…flat, worthy and woke…”
Doctor Who approaches its 60th anniversary in 2023. Speaking of the decision to depart the show, Chris Chibnall had this to say:
“Jodie and I made a ‘three series and out’ pact with each other at the start of this once-in-a-lifetime blast. So now our shift is done, and we’re handing back the Tardis keys.
Jodie’s magnificent, iconic Doctor has exceeded all our high expectations. She’s been the gold standard leading actor, shouldering the responsibility of being the first female Doctor with style, strength, warmth, generosity and humour.
She captured the public imagination and continues to inspire adoration around the world, as well as from everyone on the production.
I can’t imagine working with a more inspiring Doctor – so I’m not going to!”
That is all very well, Chris, but a couple of generations of Doctor Who fans are breathing a sigh of relief right now that a new showrunner is coming onboard.