First woman to play role will depart next year, while Chris Chibnall’s exit also announced after three series
Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor Who. Photograph: BBC
The Guardian-Martin Belam
Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker and showrunner Chris Chibnall will both leave the programme in 2022, the BBC has confirmed.
Whittaker, 39, was the 13th actor and the first woman to regularly play the main character in the long-lived series.
Whittaker paid tribute to Chibnall and the Doctor Who team in a statement saying: “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. I will carry the Doctor and the lessons I’ve learnt forever.”
Chibnall said: “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, 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.”
In social media posts, the BBC said the pair leave “in a trio of specials, culminating in an epic blockbuster to air in autumn 2022 as part of the BBC’s centenary celebrations.”
Whittaker will also be seen in one more series later this year before she departs. The 13th series of the show that was revived by Russell T Davies in 2005 is expected to air in the autumn, and will consist of eight episodes filmed amid Covid restrictions. Comedian John Bishop will be joining the regular cast as new character Dan, alongside Mandip Gill reprising her role as companion Yasmin Khan. A trailer was revealed at the weekend.
Whittaker’s casting was first announced in 2017, when she was chosen to follow Peter Capaldi as the Time Lord by incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall. Chibnall and Whittaker had worked together on the acclaimed ITV drama Broadchurch.
The change to a female Doctor caused a ratings surge when Whittaker first appeared, but also upset a vocal minority of fans who objected to the time-travelling face-changing alien having a different gender. Viewers have fallen away during her two series so far. Nevertheless, the 2021 New Year’s Day special – Revolution of the Daleks – which featured the return of popular character Captain Jack Harkness, played by John Barrowman, was the BBC’s most watched programme on the day. Barrowman has subsequently become embroiled in controversy over his behaviour on the set of Doctor Who between 2005 and 2009.
Piers Wenger, director of BBC drama, said: “Over the last four years Chris and Jodie have made Doctor Who history and their time on the show is indelibly marked on our memories.
“From Rosa Parks to Ascension of the Cybermen, Chris and Jodie have given Doctor Who some of its most life-affirming and tear-jerking moments to date, and we are beyond excited to see what they have in store for us in the new series this autumn.
“Jodie’s final adventure to mark the BBC’s centenary in 2022 is set to be a Doctor Who special to remember. I’d like to thank them both for their incredible work on the show.”
Whittaker hasn’t been the only woman to play the iconic role on screen in the show’s history. Joanna Lumley appeared as the Doctor in a 1999 Comic Relief skit that saw Rowan Atkinson, Richard E Grant, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Grant also give their takes on the Time Lord. Jo Martin appeared in the most recent series as the first Black person to play Doctor Who, with the storyline casting her as a “fugitive Doctor” and leaving it unclear as to where exactly she fits into the show’s timeline. Some fans have speculated that she may ultimately turn out to be Whittaker’s permanent replacement.
Jo Martin’s Doctor Who at the controls of her Tardis Photograph: James Pardon/ BBC
Doctor Who is the longest-running sci-fi/fantasy show on television, having first been broadcast with William Hartnell as Doctor Who in 1963. Sales of DVDs and merchandise have made it one of the BBC’s most valuable international properties, and there is currently an immersive theatrical production called Doctor Who: Time Fracture running in London.