'Doctor Who': How Jodie Whittaker Was Always Planning on Leaving After Three Seasons

Jodie Whittaker is set to leave the role of The Doctor behind, stepping down from Doctor Who in 2022.

The Broadchurch star has portrayed the Time Lord since 2018, taking over the role from Peter Capaldi, and she is the thirteenth full-time iteration of the character.

Whittaker is the first woman to play the alien in the show's almost sixty-year history, with actors Matt Smith, David Tennant, and Christopher Eccleston also playing the character in the program's "new era."

Despite' fans shock over the news, it was revealed by the BBC that Whittaker had always intended to leave after three seasons, as she and showrunner Chris Chibnall—who is also departing—agreed on that number.

Jodie Whittaker always intended to leave after three seasons

In a statement released on Thursday, Chibnall said: "Jodie and I made a 'three series and out' pact with each other at the start of this once-in-a-lifetime blast.

"So now our shift is done, and we're handing back the Tardis keys. Jodie's magnificent, iconic Doctor has exceeded all our high expectations.

"She's been the gold standard leading actor, shouldering the responsibility of being the first female Doctor with style, strength, warmth, generosity and humor."

The showrunner added that he couldn't imagine a "more inspiring Doctor", so he wasn't "going to" and would therefore leave with her.

Whittaker is not the only actor to leave the role of The Doctor after just three seasons, as Tennant, Smith and Capaldi did the same.

Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who
Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor in "Doctor Who" BBC America

What has Jodie Whittaker said about her departure?

Whittaker also released her own statement following the announcement of her departure, where she gushed over how much she loved the character.

She said: "My heart is so full of love for this show, for the team who make it, for the fans who watch it and for what it has brought to my life.

"And I cannot thank Chris enough for entrusting me with his incredible stories. We knew that we wanted to ride this wave side by side, and pass on the baton together.

"So here we are, weeks away from wrapping on the best job I have ever had. I don't think I'll ever be able to express what this role has given me. I will carry the Doctor and the lessons I've learnt forever.

"I know change can be scary and none of us know what's out there. That's why we keep looking. Travel hopefully. The universe will surprise you. Constantly."

How long will Jodie Whittaker remain in the role?

Whittaker will appear in a six-part third season that will be released in late 2021, and she will also be in three specials set to air in 2022.

In the forthcoming season, Whittaker will be joined by series regular Mandip Gill, who will reprise her role as Yaz, and comedian John Bishop, who is set to portray new character Dan.

Her debut episode "The Woman Who Fell To Earth" was one of the most-watched in the show's history, drawing in 11.5 million viewers.

While viewership remained strong it did dip, as the latest series of the show received a consolidated 6.3 million viewers.

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Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole and Bradley Walsh in "Doctor Who" British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

Who could replace Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor?

Although Whittaker is the first woman to play The Doctor full-time, she is no longer the only one, as Jo Martin became the first Black person to portray the character when she appeared as the fugitive Doctor in "The Timeless Children."

Speculation has been rife on who could replace Whittaker, and as it was not revealed what time period Martin's character came from it stands to reason that she could be her replacement.

Other names that have been thrown into the ring include Olly Alexander, Richard Ayoade, Jodie Comer, Michael Sheen, and Michaela Coel.

However, it's unlikely that Doctor Who fans will know who will take up residence in the TARDIS and pick up the iconic sonic screwdriver until the end of Whittaker's tenure in 2022.

2023 will mark the show's sixtieth anniversary, so it may then that the Fourteenth Doctor is given their debut.