Jodie Whittaker has been great in Doctor Who. Her arrival in 2017 as the first female Doctor reinvigorated a series that looked in serious danger of being put on ice for a few years, or worse, cancelled altogether.
Whittaker immediately made the role her own.
Ratings shot up and have remained well above the perilous low they hit during Peter Capaldi’s tenure.
To be fair to Capaldi, he was fine in the role; the problem was with the needlessly convoluted scripts, which alienated a lot of fans and left casual viewers baffled and bored. Ironically, the scripts for Capaldi’s final season were excellent. By then, however, he’d already handed in his notice.
Doctor Who’s viewing figures will never again be what they once were, but then the same is true of nearly every popular series on the terrestrial channels, which have taken a serous battering from the streamers.
Now, it seems, Whittaker has decided to quit the role this year. If a story in the Daily Mirror this week is to be believed, Whittaker’s next season — her third and the 13th overall since the series was revived in 2005 — will be her last. At the moment it’s just a rumour, yet the fact that the BBC chose not to comment suggests the Mirror report has it right.
If Whittaker has no intention of leaving just yet, the broadcaster would surely have quashed the story with a firm denial. If she really is heading for the TARDIS exit door, however, she’ll be following something of a Doctor Who tradition.
David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi all chose to leave after three seasons. So, during the original 1963-89 run, did Patrick Troughton and Peter Davison.
The question of who will be the next Who always sparks frenzied speculation; this time, though, the stakes could be much higher than usual.
Selecting Jodie Whittaker to be the 13th incarnation of the character wasn’t a routine casting choice. It was a watershed moment.
Being the first female Doctor, the expectations placed on her were huge. So was the pressure. She rose to the challenge brilliantly.
There was no shortage of dire predictions that the series was doomed, because teen and twentysomething fanboys wouldn’t accept a woman in the role and would desert the series in droves.
This never happened. Whittaker’s presence attracted plenty of new, young female fans, but there’s no evidence at all that the series lost its core audience of young males.
In fact, the young seemed to have no objection to a female Doctor. The ones doing most of the misogynistic bleating were sad, pathetic middle aged men who really should have more important things to worry about than whether or not a make-believe alien time traveller with two hearts has a penis.
Whittaker’s departure, if that’s what it is, raises a big question: where does Doctor Who go from here? Will the next Doctor also be a woman, or will the character regenerate into yet another white male?
There’s long been talk of a Black Doctor, and now would be the perfect time.
At one point David Oyelowo was tipped, although the fact that he now lives in Los Angeles and has a thriving Hollywood career makes it unlikely he’d want to commit to Doctor Who, which is filmed in Cardiff and known for its demanding production schedule. Another first-rate Black British actor, David Harewood, is among the names being thrown around by the bookies this time.
Other names touted are Kris Marshall (a hot favourite in 2017), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (like Oyelowo, probably too successful and busy to accept it), Maxine Peake, Tom Rosenthal, Natalie Dormer and Richard Ayoade (can’t see it myself).
As of yesterday, the 4/1 favourite was the brilliant Michaela Coel, who’d be a terrific choice.
It’s entirely possible, of course, that the 14th Doctor has already been cast — and already been seen in the series. In season 12, Jo Martin played a mysterious, incarnation of the Doctor who could well be Whittaker’s future self. Wouldn’t that be sneaky?