So the word on the street is that Jodie Whittaker is going to finish up her time in the TARDIS after three seasons…which if true means after the current series, which is intended to air, I gather, later this year.
(Daily Doctor Who #46)
And given that the season is only eight episodes long (the shortest season ever–though potentially not in the number of minutes), this might mean there’s not a whole lot more of the 13th Doctor left for us.
Ever since this rumor surfaced (and make no mistake, it is only a rumor) there has been loads of “who should be the next Doctor?” posts on Facebook, and so on.
I don’t really have an opinion about that. Jodie Whittaker is actually the first Doctor that I was actually aware of prior to her taking the role (Broadchurch, specifically)–all the others I’d never heard of before.
So I’d be plenty happy for the next Doctor to be some super-talented British actor that I’ve never heard of before (like was the case with Matt Smith or Peter Capaldi). If I’d have to guess I’d imagine it’ll be a non-white male actor, but we’ll see.
What I’m thinking about today is my disappointment in Jodie Whittaker’s rumored departure. If it’s true, than I’m sorry to hear it.
I was also really sorry to say goodbye to David Tennant and to Peter Capaldi and especially to Matt Smith. But when Tennant did go and Matt Smith turned up asking for an apple, I was totally hooked on the new Doctor almost instantly.
When Matt Smith left and Peter Capaldi burst onto the scene talking about his eyebrows, it took me a bit longer. I could see things I thought were brilliant from the first episode, but like Clara in the program I needed a little bit of time to adjust to the new incarnation. But by the time we were halfway through the season, I was on board.
So when Peter Capaldi left and Jodie Whittaker made her much-publicized debut, I wondered if I’d have the same response.
Sadly, I have not.
It’s not that I actively dislike her–I think her Doctor is fine and I think she herself is a great actress…but that’s only because I’ve seen her in Broadchurch. In Doctor Who, I feel like she always keeps me at arm’s length, given broad strokes of personality and emotion, but never really connecting me with the character’s inner life.
It’s like I’m watching a children’s character.
Like, I know Doctor Who is largely made for children, and all of the Doctors have had a great child-like appeal to the young and the young at heart. But unlike with pretty much every other star of the series, with Whittaker I feel like I’m watching somebody who is dumbing themselves down a bit to play the role.
She might still be fun at times, but not especially interesting to watch. And this is disappointing of course, because I love Doctor Who and want to love everything about it.
So having said all that, why do I take the rumors of Jodie Whittaker’s departure with the sadness that I do? It’s because it means, I suppose, that she’ll probably come to the end of her tenure as the Doctor without me ever really feeling like I’ve gotten to know her. She’ll have always felt distant and remote, and I’ll never have gotten to see her at her best, with just three seasons of forced, surface-level characterization.
Of course, that could all still break through in this last year, but I don’t feel hopeful about it. I think the problem is not Whittaker’s talent (I hope I’ve made that clear) but more to do with Chris Chibnall’s habit as a showrunner to regularly write and produce stories that are not developed properly, resolve with little satisfaction, are populated by figures who are never developed beyond the broadest strokes, and seem more focused on making their point than engaging their audience.
(Disclaimer: obviously this is all my opinion, I understand that. And I’m not saying that there haven’t been strong moments in the last couple of years of Doctor Who, just not enough of them in a row to result in any really outstanding episodes.)
My hope is that Chibnall’s approach to Doctor Who show will be more satisfying with the benefit of both hindsight and the wide-angle view. That means I hope the story that he is telling will make more sense and be more satisfying when it’s all over. And so I hoe that he has enough time he need to actually tell it fully and tell it well. With the rate that things are moving, I’d guess we need about five seasons to give it a full shot. So I hope we eventually get to see that and I’d prefer if it Jodie Whittaker were around for the long haul.
Because given Chibnall’s weaknesses with character, the idea of starting all over again, with another Doctor, while we’re is still in the midst of this thing…that just feel exhausting.
Of course, the result of my wish coming true could be that after a five years Chibnall-Whittaker era of the show, things never get any better and the show’s story all crash into the ground (because remember, the Dreamstone always demands a price whenever it grants a wish). And then where will we be?
But until we know, I choose hope…a very Doctor-ish thing to do, right?