More than 50 years after the beloved sci-fi series began, Doctor Who will have a female Doctor operating the TARDIS.
BBC made the announcement after the men’s finals at Wimbledon with a mysterious clip that unveiled Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch, Attack the Black) as the 13th Doctor.
“I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey – with Chris [Chibnall] and with every Whovian on this planet,” Whittaker says.
“It’s more than an honour to play the Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope. I can’t wait.”
Fan reactions to the news were conflicting, with some excited for a new era of the show and others lamenting the change in tradition.
Chris Chibnall, who will be taking over as showrunner next year, has worked with Whittaker before on Broadchurch and describes her as his first choice.
“Her audition for the Doctor simply blew us all away. Jodie is an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force of nature and will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role,” Chibnall says.
The show’s longevity stems from the Doctor’s ability to regenerate after receiving a fatal injury, which allows a new actor to take on the role.
Writers have been hinting about a possible female Doctor for years now, but fans were reluctant to accept the idea that a Time Lord could change genders until 2014.
The Master, a recurring villain in Doctor Who since 1971, had been played by a male until 2014, when Michelle Gomez took over as the first female incarnate: Missy.
Peter Capaldi, who has played the Doctor since 2013, announced his resignation from the series in January. This timeline is in keeping with the structure of the modern series; most actors who have played the Doctor have enjoyed a three- or four-year tenure before exiting.
Capaldi is already a fan of his successor.
“Anyone who has seen Jodie Whittaker’s work will know that she is a wonderful actress of great individuality and charm,” Capaldi says.
“She has above all the huge heart to play this most special part. She’s going to be a fantastic Doctor.”
Capaldi’s decision to leave coincides with the end of Steven Moffat’s position as showrunner.
Fans have largely blamed Moffat for Doctor Who’s dwindling popularity over the last few years, with many accusing him of recycling plots, destroying continuity and introducing companions with little character development.
The 10th season, which concluded earlier this month, took steps towards a fresh new dynamic with the introduction of Bill, the Doctor’s newest companion and the first openly gay main character.
Whittaker will make her first in-show appearance as the Doctor in this year’s Christmas special. She is expected to be included only briefly after Capaldi’s regeneration scene, before taking on the role in full next year.
You can watch the video announcement below: