In a first for a woman, Jodie Whittaker has been set to take over the lead in BBC One and BBC America’s Doctor Who. Whittaker becomes the 13th Time Lord in the sci-fi series, stepping into the TARDIS to replace the exiting Peter Capaldi.
The actress has most recently been seen in ITV’s Broadchurch, whose creator Chris Chibnall is taking over Doctor Who showrunning duties from Steven Moffat.
Capaldi announced his departure in January and recently wrapped his last regular-season run as the traveling Doctor. Up next is a Christmas Special which will also feature David Bradley as the First Doctor, as well as a farewell appearance at Comic-Con this month. Whittaker is also expected to turn up for that Hall H panel which will include Moffat and others.
Along with the newly-named Time Lord, the next season of Doctor Who will usher in much change with Moffat handing over the reins to Chibnall. And now, certainly, with the first female Doctor.
Today’s casting announcement was made after the Wimbledon men’s final which Roger Federer won in less than two hours — and with previous Time Lord David Tennant (who also stars in Broadchurch) in attendance. Twitter was on the edge of its seat during the post-match chitchat, before the BBC made the reveal.
For three seasons on Broadchurch, Whittaker played Beth Latimer, the mother of young Danny Latimer whose murder spurred the Season 1 investigation led by Tennant’s Alec Hardy and Olivia Colman’s Ellie Miller. Colman was among the names most speculated as a potential new Doctor. Others who popped up frequently were Kris Marshall, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and even Tennant himself in a return.
Whittaker said today, “I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey — with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet. It’s more than an honor to play the Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope. I can’t wait.”
Chibnall added, “After months of lists, conversations, auditions, recalls, and a lot of secret-keeping, we’re excited to welcome Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor. I always knew I wanted the Thirteenth Doctor to be a woman and we’re thrilled to have secured our number one choice. Her audition for The Doctor simply blew us all away. Jodie is an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force of nature and will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role. The Thirteenth Doctor is on her way.”
Although there’s been some overnight ratings erosion for Doctor Who, you wouldn’t have known it by the scores of tweets going out in the lead-up to today’s announcement. Asked about keeping such a big secret, Whittaker said she and her family and agent used a code name for the part, “It was The Clooney. Because to me and my husband, George is an iconic guy. And we thought: what’s a really famous iconic name? It was just fitting.”
As the first woman to helm the TARDIS, Whittaker said, “It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you’re told you can and can’t be. It feels incredible.”
She also told fans not to be “scared” of her gender. “This is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.”
Whittaker’s other TV credits include Black Mirror, Cranford, The Accused and Tess Of The D’Urbervilles. She recently finished shooting feature Journeyman, written and directed by Paddy Considine. Her other film credits include Venus, Attack The Block and St.Trinian’s.
Capaldi said today of Whittaker, “She is a wonderful actress of great individuality and charm. She has above all the huge heart to play this most special part. She’s going to be a fantastic Doctor.”
Capaldi became the 12th actor to play the Time Lord when he took over the role from Matt Smith in 2013. Along with Smith, Tennant and Christopher Eccleston, he’s the fourth Doctor since the Beeb relaunched the series in 2005.