Who Is Jodie Whittaker, 'Doctor Who's New Time Lord?

by Mary Kate McGrath
John Phillips/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

When Peter Capaldi announced that he would depart cult sci-fi show Doctor Who in 2017, fans pushed for a change. The series' creators listened, and Jodie Whittaker has been cast as the first woman Timelord in Doctor Who history, as announced by the BBC on Sunday. The announcement comes after months of speculation, and Whittaker was a favorite to take on the role. The star rose to fame on the popular ITV series Broadchurch, and her name has been in the ring to take on the beloved Doctor since Capaldi made the decision to leave back in January.

Chris Chibnall, Doctor Who's new executive producer and head writer, made the announcement early on Sunday. "After months of lists, conversations, auditions, recalls, and a lot of secret-keeping, we’re excited to welcome Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor," Chibnall said, according to The Guardian. "I always knew I wanted the 13th Doctor to be a woman and we’re thrilled to have secured our number one 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. The 13th Doctor is on her way.” The creator need not have stressed the actor's qualifications as Whittaker was already a favorite for the part.

Whittaker was equally thrilled to take on the iconic role, which is one of the most well-known and beloved science fiction characters in the world. “I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey, with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet,” Whittaker said, according to Variety. “It’s more than an honor 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.”

The star is well known for her prior television work, especially as Beth Latimer on Broadchurch. The ITV drama, which is also created by Chibnall, has been a cult hit. It's on this series that the star proved the depths of her acting ability, and won over fans as a potential Doctor. While Beth Latimer might be the actors' most recognizable role, she has a pretty extensive television resume. In the past she's appeared as Izzy Huett in the BBC's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Louise Evans in Wired, and Sandy Grimes in The Assets. She's also appeared in several films. She played Tilly in 2011's One Day, and Chrissy in 2014's Black Sea.

Whittaker isn't taking the opportunity lightly. "I want to tell the fans not to be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one," she told the BBC. "To be asked to play the ultimate character, to get to play pretend in the truest form: this is why I wanted to be an actor in the first place. To be able to play someone who is literally reinvented on screen, with all the freedoms that brings: what an unbelievable opportunity. And added to that, to be the first woman in that role."

The casting comes after the series' announcement that Pearl Mackie would play the first openly gay companion on the series. The show's eponymous Doctor has long been in a constant state of reinvention, but now the series as a whole can boast a similar commitment to change.