The TARDIS is about to touchdown in Victorian London for the Doctor Who season 8 premiere – where the Doctor and his friends will face a rampaging Tyrannosaurs Rex. Still, while the trailer for the episode, titled “Deep Breath,” along with the season 8 teaser promised plenty on interesting new adventures for the Time Lord, anticipation for the premiere episode is especially high – given that Peter Capaldi will make his first full appearance as the Twelfth Doctor. Of course, the introduction of a new Doctor is always met with a mix of apprehension as well as excitement and, just like every other iteration of the Gallifreyan traveler, fans will have plenty of time to warm to Capaldi as the actor hones his Doctor.
That said, just as the Twelfth Doctor is set to make his public debut, fans are already looking ahead to what changes could be in store for season 9. Last week, a report surfaced suggesting that the Doctor’s current traveling companion, Clara Oswald (played by Jenna Coleman) will be leaving the show at the end of the upcoming season – specifically in the 2014 Christmas Special. Now, Capaldi and Coleman are weighing-in on the rumor.
Following the Doctor Who World Tour, the series’ stars have returned to the UK for “Deep Breath” press – and, in two separate interviews, Capaldi and Coleman both address the report. Considering that season 8 is just kicking off, fans shouldn’t be surprised to hear that neither actor is willing to give a concrete answer but, reading between the lines, their comments definitely suggest that further casting changes may once again be en route.
Discussing the possibility on BBC One’s The One Show, Capaldi played coy about the possibility that his Doctor will say goodbye to Clara by the end of 2014 – suggesting that, if Coleman is leaving the show, no one has told him yet:
Well, I’m not looking for a new assistant. I don’t know where these rumours have started. I mean I’ve read that she might be leaving at Christmas but I don’t even know if she’ll get to Christmas. You’ve just got to watch and wait and see what happens!
In an interview with iTV’s This Morning, Coleman took a similar “you’ve just got to watch and wait and see what happens” approach:
The truth is … I don’t want to tell you the truth because I quite like these rumours. I think it’s really interesting because, suddenly, people don’t know what’s going to happen in the series, people don’t have any idea, so this speculation is quite good. People can now watch the show not knowing if I am or not, and that is quite exciting.
With only 1 day left before “Deep Breath” debuts, it makes sense that both stars are focused on their current objective – promote the upcoming season. Announcing/admitting to a companion exit 24 hours before a premiere would be a major distraction and shift the discussion away from why viewers should be excited for season 8 (and a new Doctor).
Yet, whereas Capaldi seems to suggest that nothing is set in stone (and that he hasn’t heard anything official), Coleman’s choice of phrasing (I don’t want to tell you the truth because I quite like these rumors“) seems to suggest that a decision has been made – specifically that, despite what Capaldi is saying, there is a finite “truth” the actress is choosing to withhold. While we can’t be sure, it would seem the “truth” is that Coleman has decided to leave the show at Christmas.
After all, the stars are in pre-premiere PR mode right now – if Coleman was going to stick around longer, wouldn’t it be in Doctor Who‘s best interest for her to come out and say that? Especially in a time when some viewers are reluctant about a “ruder” and “more alien” Doctor? No doubt, the rumor adds “uncertainty” (as Coleman puts it) in what is going to happen this season but the suggestion that “people can now watch the show not knowing if I am or not” comes across like a silver lining on otherwise disappointing news.
Coleman’s character was designed around a flirty and chummy relationship with Matt Smith’s quirky Eleventh Doctor and it’s certainly possible that the writers and stars are having trouble finding a satisfying way for Clara to interact with this older and darker take on the Doctor. If season 8 truly is going to take the Doctor and his companion “into darkness” then it would also make sense that the character might, at some point, decide she didn’t sign up for this type of adventure in space and time. After all, the series has already announced an additional companion for season 8, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), who will travel with both the Doctor and Clara for a time. Should Coleman actually be leaving, Anderson could help the Doctor (and the show) soldier on until the next full time companion is brought in.
Compared to Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), Clara’s exit might seem like a hasty departure but, assuming that Coleman is leaving in the 2014 Christmas Special, her total Doctor Who filmography should reach roughly 25 episodes. In fact, that count would actually place her in the middle of the modern series companion pack – appearing in more episodes than both Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) as well as Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) but still slightly less than Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill).
Nevertheless, given that episode lengths have varied throughout the half-century since Doctor Who debuted, it’s harder to compare Clara’s on screen time with companions in the classic series – not to mention whether or not the Impossible Girl will have enduring impact on Doctor Who fandom going forward.
For now, we’ll just have to take Peter Capaldi’s advice and “watch and wait and see what happens!”
Doctor Who season 8 will premiere August 23rd on BBC and BBC America.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for any future updates on Doctor Who, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.