'Doctor Who' Star Jodie Whittaker and Showrunner Chris Chibnall Are Officially Leaving the Show in 2022

Jodie Whittaker is turning in her sonic screwdriver. The star of Doctor Who is confirmed to be leaving the beloved BBC sci-fi show in 2022, after a trio of “specials” which follow the upcoming 13th season. Leaving alongside Whittaker is showrunner Chris Chibnall, who took over the mantle from Steven Moffat in 2018 and introduced the world to the first female Doctor.

It feels like only yesterday that Jodie Whittaker stepped into that old police box, but it’s been three (!) years. Three years and two (increasingly short) seasons, with a third about to hit the airwaves later this year. And while three seasons seems like a short time for any star of a popular TV series to stick around, it’s actually the average time for a star of Doctor Who, which has frequently changed its lead actor in the 50-plus years that it’s been on the air. Which meant that speculation had been rife for the past few months over whether Whittaker would stick by that three-season average and leave the series, allowing a new actor to take her place. And BBC has now confirmed that Whittaker is officially leaving the show after three seasons — and some change.

Both Whittaker and Chibnall, who has been showrunner for the entirety of her tenure as the Thirteenth Doctor, are leaving Doctor Who in 2022. The duo will be leaving following a trio of specials set to air in 2022, following the six-part 13th season set to premiere in fall 2021. Per Doctor Who‘s official website, two specials had already been planned for 2022, but BBC One has added a third special to turn Whittaker’s regeneration (the process by which the Doctor dies and transforms into a new body) into a “feature length adventure.”

Whittaker and Chibnall made history when they joined the show in 2018. Chibnall cast Whittaker as the first female Doctor in the show’s 50-year history, and brought on board a historically diverse writer’s room. While there was chatter that Chibnall had a “five-year plan” in place for his tenure on Doctor Who, he revealed that he and Whittaker 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.”

Chibnall expanded in his statement:

“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!

“For me, leading this exceptional team has been unrivalled creative fun, and one of the great joys of my career. I’m so proud of the people we’ve worked with and the stories we’ve told. To finish our time on the show with an additional Special, after the pandemic changed and challenged our production plans, is a lovely bonus. It’s great that the climax of the Thirteenth Doctor’s story will be at the heart(s) of the BBC’s centenary celebrations.

“I wish our successors – whoever the BBC and BBC Studios choose – as much fun as we’ve had. They’re in for a treat!”

Whittaker has inarguably made history, though fans have wished that she could have had better material that would have helped her make a stronger mark on the character. But it makes sense that she would leave with Chibnall, who cast her in the role and had worked with her previously on Broadchurch. (Still, there goes our hopes of having the first female Doctor ring in the 60th anniversary in 2023).

Whittaker added in her statement:

“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.”

What Could Be Next for Doctor Who?

Reports of Doctor Who‘s death have been greatly exaggerated, and — like it has for nearly 60 years, the show will go on. That’s the conceit of Doctor Who, that it reinvents itself every few years with a new star and a new showrunner/head writer, so even if fans had fallen off the beloved show over the past few years, there’s always a chance that a new direction will bring them back.

And, to be honest, a new direction would be hugely welcome. Whittaker and Chibnall were greeted with open arms after the 7-year reign of Steven Moffat, but their first two seasons failed to impress — less Whittaker’s fault as it was Chibnall and his writer’s room, who seem to be striving to make important sci-fi and making…something else.

I don’t have a strong suggestion for who I’d like to see behind the helm next — either in the TARDIS or behind the camera — but I do hope that at least they’ll pick up on the promises that Chibnall’s era gave us, before falling short.

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