The 'Broadchurch' star is the 13th doctor

By Nivea Serrao
July 16, 2017 at 11:31 AM EDT

Fire up the TARDIS, because Jodie Whittaker is the new face of Doctor Who — and the first woman to ever play the title role.

The BBC announced Whittaker’s casting on Sunday morning after the Wimbledon Men’s Final.

The actress will be taking over the titular role when the show returns for its highly anticipated Christmas Special later this year, where the beloved Time Lord will “regenerate,” thus transforming from current series star Peter Capaldi into Whittaker’s 13th Doctor. The Broadchurch actress will be the 13th person to hold the title of the Doctor since the long-running British science fiction series first premiered in 1963.

“I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey – with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet. It’s more than an honor to play the Doctor,” said Whittaker about her casting in a statement. “It means remembering everyone I used to be while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope. I can’t wait.”

The Attack the Block actress continued: “It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you’re told you can and can’t be. It feels incredible… 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.”

Whittaker is the first female to play Doctor Who in the franchise’s history. However, as viewers will be aware, women playing Time Lords isn’t a particularly new concept for the show. Until recently, the latest incarnation of the Master — one of the Doctor’s most dangerous foes, and a fellow Gallifreyan — was female, with Missy being brought to life by Michelle Gomez. And while previous seasons of the show have poked fun at the Doctor possibly having been female in his youth, the most recent two-part season finale saw Twelve comment on it once more, telling his companion Bill (played by Pearl Mackie), “We’re billions of years beyond your petty human obsession with gender and its associated stereotypes.”

“After months of lists, conversations, auditions, recalls, and a lot of secret-keeping, we’re excited to welcome Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor,” said new showrunner and head writer Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch) in a statement. “I always knew I wanted the Thirteenth 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 Thirteenth Doctor is on her way.”

Added Capaldi also had kind words to say about his successor: “Anyone who has seen Jodie Whittaker’s work will know that she is a wonderful actress of great individuality and charm. She has above all the huge heart to play this most special part. She’s going to be a fantastic Doctor.”

Capaldi isn’t the only one leaving. Current showrunner Steven Moffat will also be stepping down, with the upcoming Christmas Special — which sees Game of Thrones‘ David Bradley once again don the familiar coat and scarf of the First Doctor as he joins his older self for his latest adventure — serving as his last episode before Chibnall takes over.

“There’s new monsters, there’s new jeopardy. But what’s fascinating is the First Doctor confronting the superhero he’s going to become, with his supersize TARDIS and all that,” Moffat tells EW of this last episode. “It’s my show up to the point Mr. Capaldi regenerates. Then it passes to Chris, and he worries about the last section.”

With a new Doctor already cast, and a new showrunner in place, the only thing left is the announcement of who will serve as a companion to the latest version of the Time Lord, as both recent companions Bill Potts and Nardole (played by Pearl Mackie and Matt Lucas, respectively) have since left the Doctor — though with enough open-endedness for them to make a comeback, should Chibnall choose to have them. Thus, Moffat has left his successor with as clean a slate as his predecessor Russel T. Davies did for him in 2010.

The Doctor Who Christmas special airs Dec. 25 on BBC America.

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