Jodie Whittaker became the Thirteenth Doctor at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the virus almost ended the beloved franchise.
Beyond the obvious public health crisis and the tragically gigantic number of deaths that it caused, we have a lot of reasons to side-eye the COVID-19 pandemic. The time-stopping virus would make its way onto the sets of Hollywood, where it flipped productions like Supernatural upside down and almost caused the early retirement of Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who. During an interview with Radio Free Skaro, showrunner Chris Chibnall revealed that not only did Whittaker almost lose the chance of rounding out her time as The Doctor, but the entire revamp of the beloved franchise made famous once again by David Tennant was one step away from being completely wiped from the BBC’s slate.
Like many of us, Chris Chibnall says that the early days of COVID took a toll on Jodie Whittaker and the rest of the team behind the thirteenth season of Doctor Who, aka Doctor Who: Flux, with the overwhelming possibility that BBC studios would be unable to afford the production. As Chibnall put it, “where’s the money coming from? How are we going to do this? Is it too difficult?” adding that things got so iffy that they were “down to the wire” and even believing that the show “was done.”
Stepping up to the plate to make sure that all Jodie Whittaker and the Doctor Who cast and crew had done was not in vain, Chibnall says that there were “certain things I had to do to get that season made.” While he didn’t name what those sacrifices were, he added that without them, there was no chance the project would take flight for another season. “They couldn’t find a way to do it,” the showrunner said, citing the cost for a mega project like Doctor Who as the main reason behind the slowdown.
Out of everyone involved, Chibnall knew he had to do right by the show’s star and Thirteenth Doctor. An award-winning actress who previously stole and broke the hearts of audiences around the globe in Broadchurch, where she appeared opposite Doctor Who alum David Tennant and the celebrated Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker had already dropped several opportunities to be involved in the Doctor Who: Flux. Chibnall explains that due to the production halt and late pickup, schedules were thrown out of whack with Whittaker being forced to either push her next roles or back out of them altogether.
Singing the praises of not only Jodie Whittaker but also the rest of the team involved in the show, Chibnall said that everyone behind Doctor Who: Flux “sacrificed a lot” to make sure the series delivered. Rounding out Whittaker’s run as the Time Lord was an especially important one, with the actress appearing as the very first woman in the role. First stepping into the TARDIS in 2018, she starred for over three seasons with her final appearances arriving in the fall of 2022 by way of three specials.
While Doctor Who almost met its demise because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fans have Chibnall and the dedicated production staff to thank for pushing through every problem hurled at them and making sure that this wouldn’t be the end of the Doctor’s famed sci-fi travels. After some confusion and a shakeup surrounding who would step in after Jodie Whittaker took her final bow on Doctor Who, audiences were surprised and excited to see their beloved David Tennant in a brief return as the Fourteenth Doctor. Now the role has settled on the shoulders of Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education), who will appear as the Fifteenth Doctor under the vision of Russel T. Davies, who replaces Chibnall as showrunner.