It was good and bad news for Bill Potts fans at San Diego Comic Con as Pearl Mackie confirmed her departure from Doctor Who. The British actress revealed to Hall H that she would be back for the Christmas Special but that would be her last appearance as the Timelord’s companion, though “never say never” to her returning.
Pearl shared her decision to leave after the teaser trailer for the festive episode – titled “Twice Upon A Time” – was presented to the audience by herself, outgoing Doctor Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Michelle Gomez and outgoing showrunner Steven Moffatt. ”
Pearl’s appearance in the Christmas Special was uncertain until now as her companion, Bill, had left the Doctor for dead in the season finale. She had been turned into a Cyberman but thanks to her oily friend Heather, the former dinner lady was changed into a sentient oil too, with the ability to travel through time and space. Unaware of the Doctor’s regenerative powers, Bill tearfully leaves with Heather. The Xmas Special will give the Twelfth Doctor and his companion the chance to say a proper farewell to each other and the show.
It has been a short-lived run on Doctor Who for Mackie, who only joined the show in 2017 for its tenth season. Her first appearance was in the episode “The Pilot,” having been announced as Capaldi’s companion in April 2016, following the departure of Jenna Coleman. Moffatt said that they had specifically chosen Mackie to portray Bill because he wanted to make the cast more diverse:
“We decided that the new companion is going to be non-white and that was an absolute decision, because we need to do better on that. We just have to. I don’t mean that we’ve done terribly – our guest cast are among the most diverse on television but I feel as though I could have done better overall.”
With Capaldi set to regenerate into the first female Doctor there is going to be a lot of speculation about who will replace Bill as her companion, especially as there was a considerable amount of backlash following the Jodie Whittaker announcement. The companion has traditionally been female, (later both female and male), so it could be a bold opportunity for the new showrunner, Chris Chibnall, to bring in another woman of color to fill the role. A female Doctor and an ethnic companion could also be a way of bringing in a new demographic of viewers, excited by the prospect of a more inclusive Doctor Who, especially as the ratings for the show dropped by over two million from Capaldi’s season 8 entrance and season 10 premiere. It wouldn’t be a popular choice for some Whovians who took issue with Jodie’s casting – god forbid there be TWO women leading the BBC America show – but it would certainly continue the progressive changes Moffatt made during his last season in charge of Doctor Who.
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