They didn’t announce it at Comic-Con over the weekend, but the BBC just made it official: Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker and showrunner Chris Chibnall will be leaving the show next year. Whittaker’s departure was at least expected, since most of the actors playing the Doctor have only stuck around for three or so seasons since the BBC rebooted the long-running sci-fi show in 2005, but Chibnall leaving is more unexpected. The previous two showrunners, Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat, were both around for significantly more episodes, with both of them writing for two separate Doctors. A new showrunner has generally meant some stylistic changes for Doctor Who, so it seems like more than the Doctor’s face will be changing sooner than expected.
But, Whittaker’s regeneration is still a ways off. There’s a season coming up later this year that Chibnall has teased will be very big and exciting while also abandoning the modern show’s traditional “monster of the week” format for a more serialized narrative. After that, though, there will be three feature-length Doctor Who specials in 2022, presumably with one airing right at the beginning, another somewhere in the middle, and the third—where Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor says goodbye—coming closer to the end (which a press release notes will also line up with the BBC’s centenary). That means we’re still at least a year out from having any idea who will replace either Whittaker or Chibnall, with Chibnall implying in his statement about leaving the show that he won’t have any say in who the new Doctor is.
As for Whittaker, she has always seemed genuinely thrilled to be zipping around in the TARDIS, and in a statement of her own she thanked the people who work on the show and its fans for their support. She also added, in a very-Doctor Who message about the future: “I know change can be scary and none of us know what’s out there. That’s why we keep looking. Travel hopefully. The universe will surprise you. Constantly.”