[NOTE: The following post contains potential SPOILERS for Doctor Who season 9.]
After several years of change (two companion exits and a regeneration), Doctor Who is finally set to let the titular hero (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman), his current partner-in-time travel, enjoy their “glory years” of adventuring together. While season 9 will feature several two-part episodes, Capaldi and showrunner Steven Moffat have promised that the upcoming slate of episodes will see the travelers recklessly bouncing through time and space for a “big and mad” set of stories.
Still, following years of uncertainty regarding how long Coleman would stick with the series, recent reports suggested the actress could finally part ways with Doctor Who at some point in season 9. Given that Coleman had been rumored to leave the show at the end of season 7 and later at the conclusion of season 8, it was unclear whether or not there was any truth to this latest round of Clara tabloid talk. However, BBC and Coleman have now confirmed the news: this time, the Impossible Girl is actually leaving.
The news comes as a result of Coleman’s casting in ITV’s new Queen Victoria mini-series, titled Victoria, that will see the actress take on the ruler’s early years as Queen. As a result, Coleman confirmed her exit to Nick Grimshaw on BBC Radio 1: “I have left the TARDIS—it’s happened.”
You can see the exchange below, where Coleman describes leaving the show as “emotional” and asserts that she has already filmed her last scene:
Out of context, it might sound as though Coleman had jumped ship for a starring role in her own show but the actress made it clear her exit had been in the works for over a year – meaning that those season 8 exit rumors were actually true. Knowing that Coleman was looking to broaden her horizons, Steven Moffat plotted-out a multi-season arc for Clara – with a proper sendoff for the Impossible Girl (while also giving her co-star time to get situated as the Twelfth Doctor). The good news: with a companion set to depart, it’s unlikely that Capaldi will be leaving at the end of season 9 too.
According to Coleman:
“We’re not going to give any details but it will happen at some point this season. We worked out a really good story arc out so hopefully people will love it.
There are not a lot of jobs where you get to have an alien as your best mate and get to run away from monsters… it’s been so much fun, I love it. It’s such a unique beast. It’s been really special. I think I’m in denial. I kind of believe I still have a key to the Tardis – which I might do, because I kind of stole it. And I stole some other bits and pieces!”
The actress also took to Twitter shortly after the radio appearance – to once again express her gratitude for the time she spent as part of Doctor Who.
Adventures to last me a lifetime. Thank you @bbcdoctorwho. But as they say 'It ain't over till it's over'— Jenna Coleman (@Jenna_Coleman_) September 18, 2015
That said, aside from how the actress feels about leaving Doctor Who and moving on to other projects, her announcement opens the door for speculation regarding when exactly she’ll depart. Coleman indicates Clara’s final bow will occur “at some point this season“; though the actress, who has been known to use rumors and speculation to keep the Doctor Who audience guessing, does not provide a specific timeframe.
Since the series is set to premiere in 24 hours (from the time of this writing), Coleman’s comments could, on the surface, sound as though Clara will actually be leaving in the middle of season 9; yet, it’s important to keep in mind that nearly all scenes for the upcoming slate of episodes have already been filmed – meaning that Clara may remain traveling with the Doctor up to and/or including the finale.
Prior rumors have indicated the conclusion to season 9 could see the return of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor to help explain Peter Capaldi’s appearance in the season 4 episode “The Fires of Pompeii” – so, it’s possible Clara might leave a few episodes earlier, and Moffat will instead conclude season 9 with a mind-bending Double-Doctor tale.
While several actors and actresses have pulled-double duty on Doctor Who (including Karen Gillan – who also appeared in “The Fires of Pompeii”), Moffat has previously indicated that he intends to, in some way, tie Capaldi’s prior appearance (as Lobus Caecilius) to The Twelfth Doctor (though it remains to be seen if the showrunner can also explain the actor’s portrayal of Permanent Secretary to the Home Office John Frobisher in Torchwood: Children of Earth). Could “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent retell “The Fires of Pompeii” from the Twelfth Doctor’s perspective – with Tennant back as Number Ten to fill-in new interactions between the two?
Bringing back Tennant, who was seen at the Cardiff studio back in August, to revisit the Mount Vesuvius eruption – and explain The Twelfth Doctor’s connection to “The Fires of Pompeii” would certainly help soften the blow of losing Clara a couple episodes earlier – not to mention stall for time while the BBC nailed down who will replace Coleman as Capaldi’s companion. Now that we know Clara will be leaving, it makes even more sense that we’ll be seeing River Song in the 2015 Christmas Special – another high-profile return from a fan-favorite to fill in the gap while BBC casts season 10’s new co-star(s).
As for how Clara will leave the series, it’s hard to imagine that Moffat will not, in some way, bring Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) back – either dead or resurrected. Moffat has yet to give a concrete explanation for Clara’s season 8 connections to future time-traveler Orson Pink. The showrunner previously indicated that Orson could have been a lateral descendent (for example: a great nephew) to Danny – rather than a direct lineal descendant (a grandson). Still, given that the Clara and Danny romance was a defining part of the Impossible Girl’s storyline, a return of Anderson would be the easiest and most satisfying way to conclude Clara’s arc – albeit one that would require some seriously imaginative (and literally death-defying) explanation.
To that end, the episodes “The Girl Who Died” and “The Woman Who Lived” certainly seem to hint that resurrection isn’t impossible. If Clara dies and then somehow lives, who is to say the same couldn’t happen for Danny Pink?
Of course, fans can’t speculate about season 9 without brining up the mysterious character played by Maisie Williams – who has also been rumored to appear in “The Girl Who Died” and “The Woman Who Lived.” Could the Game of Thrones actress actually turn out to be a younger or resurrected version of Clara? Maybe Williams is the Doctor’s next companion (or a returning companion that has regenerated) after Clara departs? Wibbily wobbly timey wimey stuff will tell.
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 and BBC America on Saturday, September 19th.
Source: BBC Radio 1