Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall to leave in 2022

Jodie Whittaker
Image caption,
Jodie Whittaker will star in a new series later this year, and three specials next year, before she exits the series

Jodie Whittaker is to step down from the lead role in Doctor Who, the BBC has confirmed.

The first woman to play the Time Lord will bow out in Autumn 2022, along with showrunner Chris Chibnall.

Whittaker will star in a new six-part series later this year, and three specials next year, before she exits.

In a statement, Whittaker paid tribute to Chibnall and the Doctor Who team, adding: "I will carry the Doctor and the lessons I've learnt forever."

Chibnall, who appointed the actress to replace Peter Capaldi in the role, has been in charge of the BBC One series since 2017.

It has not yet been announced who will take over from Whittaker in the leading role.

"In 2017 I opened my glorious gift box of size 13 shoes," Whittaker said in a statement. "I could not have guessed the brilliant adventures, worlds and wonders I was to see in them."

Image caption,
Showrunner Chris Chibnall is also exiting in 2022, alongside Whittaker

She continued: "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."

For her final series, Whittaker will once again be joined by Mandip Gill as Yaz, and comedian John Bishop, who will play a new character named Dan.

The 13th Doctor's first episode in October 2018 was watched by 11.5m viewers, in the sci-fi drama's biggest audience for almost a decade. It was also the biggest show of that week, ahead of Strictly Come Dancing and the Great British Bake Off.

But the show's ratings have dropped in recent years. Whittaker's last episode, broadcast in January, attracted a consolidated audience of 6.3 million.

Image caption,
Comedian John Bishop will also appear in the forthcoming series

While many have praised Whittaker's casting, some fans and critics have criticised the show's recent narrative direction.

The Telegraph described recent episodes as "flat, worthy and woke" despite Whittaker's talent as an actress, while The Sun reported viewers were left furious by the show's "unbearable political correctness".

One of the long-running drama's unique features has been regeneration, where the Doctor completely changes their physical appearance, allowing the show to recast its lead role every few years.

Chibnall is currently writing and producing the next series of Doctor Who, which will air later this year. It will be followed by three specials, the first of which will be broadcast on New Year's Day 2022, with another later in spring 2022.

Whittaker's final feature-length special, where the 13th Doctor will regenerate, will transmit in autumn 2022 as part of the BBC's Centenary celebrations.

Speculation will now turn to who Whittaker's replacement might be, as Doctor Who approaches its 60th anniversary in 2023.

Media caption,

'Exterminate!' - Dr Who superfan builds his own Dalek

As well as introducing Whittaker as the first female Doctor, Chibnall also brought in Tosin Cole as Ryan, Mandip Gill (Yaz) and Bradley Walsh (Graham).

Episodes such as Rosa, Demons of the Punjab and Spyfall thrilled audiences, and netted the show two Bafta Must See Moment nominations, along with multiple National Television Award, Bafta Cymru, TV Choice and Critics Choice nominations.

In 2020, Whittaker was voted second most popular Doctor of all-time in a poll of 50,000 fans for the Radio Times, losing out to David Tennant.

'Three seasons and out'

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, and 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."

He added: "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!"

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