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Is Jodie Whittaker Actually Leaving Doctor Who?

Doctor Who isn't what you'd call a cozy, life-long gig for an actor. Though the basic premise about a rogue Time Lord in a "borrowed" time (and relative dimension in space) machine has stayed virtually unchanged over the years, the show's famous longevity is made possible by its central character's ability to regenerate into a fresh, new version of themselves whenever the lead actor departs for one reason or another. The iconic British sci-fi franchise hasn't been afraid to use this plot device, either. Doctor Who was relaunched in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as the good Doctor, and after he departed after one season, the show has gone through no less than four Doctors — plus a couple of fringe ones that exist outside the commonly accepted chronology. It's all very complicated and timey-wimey, and it also means that at some point during an actor's tenure in the Tardis, there will be rumors that they're about to depart.    

Jodie Whittaker, the 13th and incumbent Doctor, now finds herself in the middle of such a rumor. But what started it, and is there any truth to it? Could we see another regeneration on the show soon? Is Jodie Whittaker actually leaving Doctor Who?

The start of the speculation

The speculation about Whittaker's time as the Doctor possibly coming to an end soon started on January 3, 2021, courtesy of an exclusive report by Nicola Methven of The Daily Mirror. According to Methven's report, an insider source revealed that Whittaker wants to take other roles; as such, she reportedly notified the powers that be that she intends to depart after her third season of Doctor Who, which will premiere in the UK in fall 2021. "It's all very hush-hush, but it is known on set that Jodie is leaving and they are gearing up for a regeneration," an insider reportedly stated, per The Daily Mirror. "Her departure is top-secret, but at some point over the coming months, the arrival of the 14th Doctor will need to be filmed. It's very exciting." The report also mentioned that showrunner Chris Chibnall will remain with the series. 

Though there's absolutely no certainty about Whittaker's reported departure from the role, Doctor Who is a major pop culture juggernaut, so it's not surprising that the report has started making waves — especially considering the fact that Deadline pointed out Methven is generally rather well-connected, lending potential weight to her report. Some outlets have even started lining up potential candidates for the next Doctor. The Guardian suggested names like Michael Sheen, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Ben Whishaw. Meanwhile, The Daily Express named Death in Paradise star Kris Marshall as the frontrunner for the next Doctor.

Many Doctors have left Doctor Who after three seasons

Should Whittaker truly exit after Doctor Who season 13, she would follow the time-honored tradition of Time Lords leaving the show after three seasons aboard the Tardis. Many different actors – William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy, Matt Smith, and Peter Capaldi — have given up the mantle after their third season. In fact, even the fan-favorite David Tennant technically hung up his striped suit after three season, though he also did several special episodes thereafter.

If you think this seems to indicate that three seasons is the mental time limit that an actor can dedicate themselves to a role as all-consuming as the Doctor, Capaldi has actually kind of confirmed this. The real reason the 12th Doctor actor left the show was the immensely intense shooting schedule. "I love this show, but I've never done anything where you turn up every day for ten months," Capaldi told Radio Times in 2017. "I want to always be giving it my best, and I don't think if I stayed on, I'd be able to do that." 

Of course, people are different, so there's no telling whether Whittaker feels the same way. It remains to be seen how much the assumption that she'll follow the "three seasons and done" trend factors in the current rumor mill. 

The BBC won't comment on Jodie Whittaker's future

In the entertainment industry, until something is officially confirmed or denied, it remains a rumor. However, the BBC seems content to let the rumor mill spin when it comes to Whittaker's potential departure after Doctor Who season 13. 

When Digital Spy reached out about the subject, the BBC's response was simply, "We won't be commenting on any speculation around Jodie's future on the show." The actress herself isn't much help, either. Way back in January 2020, Whittaker told Entertainment Weekly that she planned to film at least one season after her then-upcoming second one — but also noted that she'll no doubt have to move on one day. "At some point, these shoes are going to be handed on, but it's not yet," Whittaker said at the time.

All of this could mean that Whittaker will leave after the upcoming season — which, incidentally, will be that "at least one more season" the EW article referred to. Of course, it could just as easily mean that she isn't departing from Doctor Who and that she's willing to stay on the series for longer but no one's ready to announce it quite yet. It could even simply mean that everyone's too busy actually making the show to bother commenting random reports, especially when they create buzz around the show. 

For now, there's simply no telling whether Whittaker will depart after her third season of Doctor Who, so it looks like fans will have to wait and see until the BBC or the actress herself outright confirms or denies the rumor.