Jodie Whittaker recalls how she felt filming the Thirteenth Doctor’s emotional regeneration scene during her final episode of Doctor Who. Whittaker took on the role of the wandering Time Lord in October 2018 in season 11’s « The Woman Who Fell To Earth ». Whittaker will leave the show alongside showrunner Chris Chibnall following a final 90-minute episode that celebrates the BBC’s centenary.
Whittaker’s Doctor helped usher in a new era for the long-running sci-fi television series. With a new showrunner and lead, Whittaker’s first Doctor Who season was intended to be a fresh start for potential newcomers to the franchise, focusing on defining her Doctor and companions while featuring mostly new enemies and unexplored historical settings. However, Whittaker’s tenure would also see a shift in Doctor Who’s lore in her later seasons with the mystery of the Timeless Child, a storyline that revealed that the Doctor was not born on Gallifrey, and had in fact been experimented on by the Time Lords to create their regeneration abilities. While certain story decisions of her era were met with mixed responses, the July 2021 announcement of Whittaker’s departure came as a surprise to many viewers.
In an interview with Empire, Whittaker promises that dedicated fans will be pleased with her final Doctor Who adventure, « The Power of the Doctor ». The star then recalls filming her regeneration, explaining that Chibnall’s dialogue and the production crew’s reactions led to an emotional reaction from her. Check out Whittaker’s full response below.
“It’s one for the Whovians. It’s a huge treat if you’re a proper fan. It’s got all the iconic things that you associate with Doctor Who. It’s massive.
« I love the dialogue Chris wrote for my regeneration. It captures my Doctor beautifully. It’s simple, epic and beautiful. When I could see the crew was happy with that last shot, that’s when my bottom lip started going, I was like, ‘Well, they can’t say they need another take now because I’ve fucking lost it!’”
As the first canonical female incarnation of the Doctor, Whittaker’s casting broke new ground for a franchise that until that point had always been led by white male actors. While the Thirteenth Doctor did come under fire from toxic trolls in the Doctor Who fandom throughout her tenure, prior Doctor Who stars such as Sylvester McCoy and Christopher Eccleston voiced their support for Whittaker, and her debut season received the fifth overall highest viewership average across the 11 seasons that had aired at that time since Doctor Who’s revival in 2005. Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor also took steps forward in regards to the show’s LGBTQ+ representation, with 2022’s Easter Special « Legend of the Sea-Devils » confirming that the Doctor has feelings for companion Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill).
With David Tennant returning to Doctor Who to lead the show’s 60th anniversary celebrations before Ncuti Gatwa takes on the role, the future of the show is clear once again. Despite loyal viewers having many things to look forward to in the years to come, Whittaker’s departure is promising to be an emotional but ambitious experience for audiences. Whittaker’s own feelings on her exit suggest good things for the episode. Between taking strides in terms of on-screen representation and forming a genuine connection with fans, Whittaker’s Doctor will be a cherished and vital incarnation in Doctor Who’s long, storied history, and her final moments are sure to be as emotional for dedicated viewers as it was for the star herself.