Next Sunday Jodie Whittaker makes her final appearance as the Thirteenth Doctor in Doctor Who - The Power of the Doctor.
But though the 40-year-old actor is clearly sad at saying sayonara to the TARDIS after nearly five years, she’s also thrilled to be exiting in an episode that will celebrate, in her words, “the old, the present and the new” of Doctor Who.
“I would say that Whovians are in for an absolute treat,” she enthuses.
“It’s a wonderful homage to the legacy that Doctor Who has had. It encapsulates all the things the fans love about Doctor Who – whether it be old monsters, returning characters, new elements, everything that unites Whovians is in this episode.
"If you haven’t seen Doctor Who before this special will be sure to hook you in for your new Doctor.”
What’s The Power of the Doctor about?
“Who is attacking a speeding bullet train on the edges of a distant galaxy? Why are seismologists going missing from 21st century Earth? Who is defacing some of history’s most iconic paintings? Why is a Dalek trying to make contact with the Doctor? And just what hold does the mesmeric Rasputin have over Tsar Nicholas in 1916 Russia?”
These are the only clues we have as yet, via the BBC’s press department, on what to expect from this 90-minute special. But what else do we know for certain about this hotly-anticipated episode…?
It’s Jodie Whittaker’s and Chris Chibnall’s farewell
Jodie Whittaker’s casting as the Thirteenth Doctor was announced on 26 July 2017, with her first appearance, as Peter Capaldi regenerated into the show’s first female Doctor, airing on Christmas Day ‘17. The feature-length The Power Of The Doctor will be Whittaker’s swansong in the role, before Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa steps into the Time Lord’s shoes. Not only that, but it’s also the final episode for writer Chris Chibnall, who took over the showrunner reins from Steven Moffat in 2018.
“Writing [the Thirteenth Doctor’s final scene], I always knew where we were going so I knew what I was writing towards,” says Chibnall, who joined Doctor Who fresh from his stint as creator/writer on Broadchurch. “I knew what the final words were going to be, and where everything was going to happen and finish. So I wrote those quite early on and sort of just put them to one side.”
Adds Jodie Whittaker: “We shot the last moment and it was one take and once the camera team were happy, I could see everyone nodding and making eye-contact and my bottom lip went and I knew it was the end.”
“I'm really looking forward to not knowing anything, I’m already enjoying it.” says Chibnall, who has passed on the showrunning keys to the returning Russell T Davies.
“And in fact, I had to say to Russell on a couple of occasions, ‘Please don't tell me!’ I'm lucky enough to have seen the full ending of The Power Of The Doctor and even the tiny bit of the end just made me thrilled about and excited and desperate to see more about what comes next.
"It’s a delightful prospect!”
There are returning companions…
Those that have seen the episode describe it as a “love letter” to the series’ past. We know that former companion Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding) is back for the first time since 1984’s Resurrection Of the Daleks, alongside Ace (Sophie Aldred), who was last seen in the final story of the show’s original run in 1989, Survival. But will there be even more cameos in this nostalgia-fuelled special? Will we be seeing more appearances from characters from the series’ long past?
“We’re bringing back characters like Tegan and Ace, also there are lots and lots of easter eggs,” teases Chibnall.
“Some are visual, some are verbal, some are so deeply buried that only few people will recognise them! But there are so many references to the past of Doctor Who in there that it’s got its own crazy movie length identity for the BBC centenary, whilst also saying goodbye to a very beloved Doctor.”
...and returning foes
Never before has the Doctor faced the combined might of the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Master, but with this episode being feature-length as well as being the Thirteenth Doctor’s farewell, Chibnall wanted “the biggest threat the Doctor has ever faced.”
“What you have with the three villains is separate plans and multiple threats for the Doctor,” he explains. “So the Doctor is really having to contain separate attacks on multiple fronts and it's incredibly overwhelming. She's running from pillar to post to try and sort all of these things out.”
Returning as the Master is Sacha Dhawan, the ninth actor to play the Doctor’s long-time nemesis. Introduced in 2020’s Spyfall, he last appeared in Series 12’s The Timeless Child, and the actor admits he was nervous about returning for Jodie Whittaker’s last ep.
“You want to do the episode justice for Jodie, the rest of the cast, and for the fans,” he says. “So it was a case of being excited to come back, but also wanting to offer the fans something different. I think that’s something we’ve certainly achieved.”
“I love Sacha, he’s amazing,” enthuses Whittaker. “An incredible actor and a phenomenal force of nature on set. His detail and level of commitment to The Master is inspiring. A lot of my favourite scenes throughout my tenure have been with Sacha. So being told he would be part of my final episode was an absolute joy for me.”
At 90 minutes, The Power Of The Doctor is one of the longest episodes of Doctor Who ever screened (even the 50th anniversary story, The Day Of The Doctor, only clocked in at 77 mins), and Chibnall is promising an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink blockbuster. Avengers: Endgame, eat your heart out.
“Every sequence is massive,” he says. “So even the pre-credits - which is the longest pre-credits we've ever done - is like a mini movie in itself. And this episode has more visual effects shots than any episode in Doctor Who history. It was a huge demand on the visual effects team. There is a lot of action, there are a lot of locations, there are a lot of monsters, there’s a lot of things exploding! Really from the get go it had to feel constantly on the move, constantly exciting and I think it does.”
Doctor Who - The Power of the Doctor will air at 7:30pm on Sunday, 23 October on BBC One.