After months of rumors and speculation, it's official. Jodie Whittaker will indeed leave Doctor Who following Season 13 and a few specials. What some may not have foreseen is that she's not alone and that showrunner Chris Chibnall will depart as well. The move was said to be planned from the start, but the result is the same. Doctor Who is now free to go whatever direction it pleases after this coming season, but what will it do?
As a longtime fan of the show dating back to the modern reboot era, I can't really say for sure what my idealized version of Doctor Who is. I can certainly say what I don't want to see happen and think that the BBC would be making a grave error if the next person they pick to head the series is planning on doing any of these things.
I Don't Want To See Doctor Who 'Return To Form'
Doctor Who fans are often nostalgic for the best of Russell T. Davies or Stephen Moffat, and I definitely empathize and understand that, but those stories are played out. In my personal opinion, outside of a few bright points, the series had been marching towards a slow death since before its 50th anniversary. Every adventure felt more or less the same up until Peter Capaldi's departure, and it was time for a change.
Chris Chibnall injected some life into Doctor Who when he took over in Season 11, and in a rare twist for recent seasons, managed to pay off a major storyline introduced in that season at the end of Season 12. Provided the news that Chibnall had a three-season plan from the start, he's now set to conclude that arc and give fans something that could very well change the course of Doctor Who. Let's be honest – the franchise needed something more than Gallifrey being destroyed and brought back time and time again.
Doctor Who fans can talk about tradition and legacy, but the truth of the matter is the series was in desperate need of change, especially if there was an expectation it should live to see another decade. Chris Chibnall's run may not be seen as a success by all metrics years from now, but it was an honest attempt to draw in new fans and perhaps inspire a new generation to follow the show. As a fan that wants to see this franchise continue rather than painfully trudge on stuck in the past until it's canceled, I'm all for shaking things up. I can only hope the thought process is to try again.
Doctor Who Shouldn't Walk Chris Chibnall's Run Back
One of the first questions I was asked following the news of Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall's exit was how long I thought it could be before the "Timeless Child" arc is retconned. In truth, I have to admit that retconning Doctor Who plotlines is a foregone conclusion. The series has a habit of ignoring the plots of past adventures when making new ones. That said, given the changes that Chibnall introduced, they're going to be hard to ignore.
Chris Chibnall not only declared The Doctor was not from Gallifrey but seemingly immortal with an untold number of regenerations. The Gallifreyans used their technology to isolate and replicate the regeneration DNA into their own people but gave themselves a capped limit. Basically, they only became Time Lords after The Doctor's arrival, and then blocked The Doctor's memories so that the secret remained hidden. It seems like a big change at first consideration, but isn't it just a creative solution to the issue Doctor Who has faced since its reboot?
I'm sure The Doctor considers Gallifrey their home regardless of whether they were born there or adopted by it. The only real living person from Gallifrey is The Master, so it's not like this is a plot point that will be addressed all that often. As for making the Doctor seemingly immortal (barring Season 13 reveals), that's just a simple fix to a real inconvenience the series has dealt with for decades. You take that away, you create those problems all over again, and burden the next person who takes the show to figure out a new way to explain the regeneration problem away.
The Show Doesn't Need Another White Male As The Doctor Just Yet
I think a lot of fans can raise valid criticisms about the past two seasons of Doctor Who, but one thing I think most fans can agree on is that Jodie Whittaker gave the role her all and was a shining part of the past couple of seasons. She proved a woman is capable of playing The Doctor, as did Jo Martin in Season 12 and Catherine Tate sort of did seasons before. There will be those who try to say making The Doctor a woman was a bad choice, and I think those people couldn't be more wrong.
It was a nice change of pace to see The Doctor portrayed from a different perspective, all while still being very much the character we know and love. That's the magic of the character and how Doctor Who has managed to be one of the only shows on television to frequently recast its lead and still continue. I'd love to see that trend continue, and I'm ready to see the show continue to branch out from the norm when it comes to casting The Doctor.
And by no means am I saying that a white male can never play The Doctor again. I'm just saying we've already seen just about every variation of that combo 12/13 times in the history of Doctor Who. Many people make the argument that the franchise shouldn't do stunt casting just for the sake of doing it, and I agree. I also know there are plenty of capable actors in Hollywood who aren't white men and would be willing to play The Doctor. All I'm asking is that we see some more of them rather than immediately going back to what we've already seen.