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Doctor Who made history earlier this month when Broadchurch star Jodie Whittaker was announced as the new Doctor, making her the first woman to the play the role in the show’s 54-year history. And as far as showrunner Steven Moffat is concerned, reports of angry fans have been greatly exaggerated.
“There has been no backlash at all,” Moffat insisted at San Diego Comic-Con on Sunday.
The showrunner — who, like current star Peter Capaldi, will step down from the show after the upcoming Christmas special — pointed out that Whittaker’s casting has an 80-percent approval rate on social media. And it seems Moffat has little patience for anyone who would focus on a few angry fans rather than on the “progressive” and “enlightened” majority: “I wish every single journalist who is writing the alternative would shut the hell up,” he said.
Moffat was joined for Sunday’s panel by Capaldi and fellow actors Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas, and Michelle Gomez, as well as by writer Mark Gatiss, who will appear in the Christmas special. And although the casting of the Thirteenth Doctor fell to new showrunner Chris Chibnall, Capaldi was quick to credit the current showrunner for his role in preparing viewers for this sort of shake-up. “The creation of a female Doctor comes really from the creation of a female Master, played so beautifully by Michelle, who has delivered a multilayered, hilarious, sinister, and fabulous performance for which I’m deeply grateful,” Capaldi said.
The star had nothing but praise for his successor, calling it “thrilling” to hand over the role to someone who cares for it so deeply. “I think Jodie’s going to be amazing,” said Capaldi. “I spoke to her the other day, and she’s so full of excitement and so full of passion about the show. She really loves the show. And she’s a brilliant actress.”
But before Whittaker takes over the TARDIS, there’s still the matter of that Christmas special. A teaser for the episode, which debuted during the panel, left fans with plenty to analyze. (For instance: Why does Gatiss’ character looks so much like a certain beloved Brigadier?)
The teaser also confirms that Mackie’s Bill Potts will return, despite that teary farewell she shared with an unconscious Doctor at the end of the season 10 finale. But fans hoping to see Bill team up with the Thirteenth Doctor shouldn’t get their hopes up too high — Mackie says that “Twice Upon a Time” will be fans’ “last chance to see Bill.”
Then again, she added, “it’s Doctor Who, so never say never.”
The Christmas special will find Capaldi’s Doctor teaming up with the First Doctor, played here by David Bradley. Moffat, who summarized the special as “the Twelfth Doctor refusing to regenerate because he wants to stay Scottish,” says Bradley gives a “twinklier, funnier, more engaging” take on the crotchety character William Hartnell originated.
“It’s a lovely way out,” Gatiss said. “It’s a very Christmas-y episode without being on-the-nose Christmas-y.”
The panel was an emotional one at times, as Moffat waxed poetic on the character of the Doctor (“the man who fights monsters yet never becomes one”) and Hall H guests and panelists alike gave the exiting Capaldi a standing ovation. “I never had a standing ovation before,” Capaldi marveled. “Do I stand?”
Capaldi did, indeed, stand, going down the line to compliment his costars. He even spared some praise for his own Doctor: “I love him. He’s my favorite Doctor. He’s certainly the most handsome… and he’s got the biggest hair.”
“Time ran away with me,” said the actor of his three years leading Doctor Who. “I don’t know how we got here so quickly.”
If only he had a TARDIS.
—Reporting by Samantha Highfill