The 12th Doctor has regenerated. After four years and 39 episodes, the final episode of Doctor Who starring Peter Capaldi has aired, ending not only the actor’s tenure on the decade-long running show, but showrunner Steven Moffat’s as well. Above all, though, it welcomes Jodie Whittaker as the latest iteration of the Time Lord.
While Capaldi’s finale, titled “Twice Upon a Time,” is no doubt a sad moment for Whovians young and old, it was the 12th Doctor himself who said in last year’s Christmas Special: “Everything ends and it’s always sad, but everything begins again, too. And that’s always happy.” How appropriate.
Whittaker makes her first appearance in the episode’s final moments post-regeneration, and her introduction is appropriately bumpy. Per “New Who” tradition, the Doctor’s regeneration is explosive, sending the TARDIS into an eruptive, fiery mess, and destroying the interior design that fans have come to know. 12 delivers a touching farewell, doubling as a sendoff to himself, but also as advice for his successor, before his final moments. The change takes over, regeneration energy blasts holes through the TARDIS, and before audiences can barely get a decent glimpse at Whittaker in the role, the captain literally goes down with her ship.
Brief though her appearance may have been, there is a lot to be said for this new iteration of the Doctor. First of all, let’s the get the obvious out of the way: after half a century on the air, the Doctor will – for the first time ever – be portrayed by a woman. But this is old news (and hardly even newsworthy, given the fact that we’re living in the 21st century), so let’s get into the finer details. Notably, the 13th Doctor’s reveal isn’t as instant as Capaldi’s was back in 2013. Here, audiences get a closeup on Capaldi’s eyes as they transform into Whittaker (to avoid any claims she’s not actually the character), and in the same way Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor dropped his trademark bowtie to the floor, 12’s ring falls to the ground (what with it not fitting on Whittaker’s finger). Next, the audience takes the form of Whittaker’s POV as she finally takes a look at herself in one of the console screen’s reflections. The shock of regeneration lingers for a moment, only to be replaced with excitement. Whittaker, appearing to use her natural Yorkshire accent, peels away shock with a mad grin and the 13th Doctor’s very first lines: “Oh, brilliant.”
Then, after pressing a single button on the console, the screen reads, “SYSTEM CRISIS — MULTIPLE OPERATIONS FAILURE,” leading to an inevitable sort of chaos that only Doctor Who regeneration episodes could create. The TARDIS is still airborne as it flips over, severely defeated and noticeably unhappy. Everything from the Doctor’s books and console to the Doctor herself are evacuated after its doors swing open (not outwards, but inwards, suggesting that this time-traveling police box is doing its best to clean house). Either the TARDIS is trying to spit out what it believes to be a foreign entity before teleporting to parts unknown or it’s trying to save her. So, per the show’s principal theme, time will tell.
So, what does this spell for the future of Doctor Who? The Doctor falls from what would normally be a fatal height (obviously, she’ll be fine), and the odds don’t seem to be in her favor come Season 11. Landlocked without her TARDIS, possibly void of her sonic screwdriver, and dealing with the physical and emotional repercussions of a regeneration, what sort of adventures the 13th Doctor will face in her first season are threaded in uncertainty.
As for Whittaker’s character, all we know is she’s retaining her Yorkshire accent and is definitely welcoming of the gender-swap. There’s a lot of freedom left for the actress and new showrunner Chris Chibnall for when the show returns for Season 11 later in 2018. One thing’s for certain, though: in a show that benefits from equal parts reinvention and reminiscence, that’s exactly the sort of spark needed to get this new era of Doctor Who off to an exciting start.
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