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BBC’s ‘Doctor Who’ Successfully Sends Off Jodie Whittaker in Emotional Special ‘The Power of the Doctor’

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Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for “The Power of the Doctor.”

Jodie Whittaker, who plays the Thirteenth Doctor in the British television show “Doctor Who,” said an emotional goodbye in the Centenary Special entitled “The Power of the Doctor” released on Oct. 23.

The anniversary special marked the final appearance of the Thirteenth Doctor after Whittaker announced her departure from the show on July 29, 2021. Together with her companion Yasmin “Yaz” Khan (Mandip Gill), the duo embarked on their last adventure to save the world before the Doctor’s time ran out. “Old Who” companions Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) returned to the show after almost 40 and 30 years respectively — along with four of the original show’s Doctors — to create a cameo-filled whirlwind of an episode.

Janet Fielding as Tegan (left) and Sophie Aldred as Ace (right) reprising their roles in “The Power of the Doctor.” Photo from the BBC @bbcdoctorwho/Twitter

In a convoluted yet shockingly cohesive plot, the Doctor attempts to stop the Master — another Time Lord whose life-long mission has been to assassinate the Doctor — from teaming up with Daleks and Cybermen to take over Earth. However, through the process of “forced regeneration,” the Master essentially kills the Doctor and takes possession of her body. Through the teamwork of multiple companions —  or her “extended fam” as the Doctor calls them —  she is brought back to life and successfully defeats the Master, except with the consequence of being hit by a fatal energy beam in her escape.

The Thirteenth Doctor yells out “Yaz!” as she undergoes forced regeneration. Photo from the BBC @bbcdoctorwho/Twitter

The story ends on a bittersweet note as the Doctor says her final goodbye to Khan and ends up on a beach cliff for her final “regeneration” scene. In an effort to cheat death, all Doctors regenerate so that every cell in their body is renewed and their form is changed physically and psychologically. In this way, the Thirteenth Doctor transforms into the Fourteenth Doctor, but not before saying a final farewell: “Doctor-whoever-I’m-about-to-be. Tag, you’re it.”

Although the regeneration was expected by all fans of Doctor Who, the ending was still emotionally devastating. The loss of a Doctor always comes with intense emotions, but the high quality of the episode thankfully guided viewers to this ending through a story that brought laughter and tears to our faces. Especially with Whittaker’s Doctor being the first female Doctor, it felt like the end of an era in which feminine-identifying fans were able to truly relate to the Doctor’s struggles and actions. 

For many young boys since the early 1960s when the show first premiered, the Doctor has been a symbol of heroism and intelligence, with even the most famous person to play the Doctor — David Tennant — wanting to be the character in his youth. Whittaker’s involvement, therefore, kick-started an age in which young girls could also be inspired by the Doctor. Since the Doctor is an alien and does not conform to standard societal norms or beauty standards, Whittaker was able to create a female character that is totally in power and unquestionably the smartest in the room, regardless of gender. Additionally, the “Power of the Doctor” has an almost entirely female-led cast, with Khan being the one to lead the charge on saving the Doctor, and Tegan and Ace successfully defeating the Cybermen and Daleks on their own.

Yasmin Khan carrying the Thirteenth Doctor to safety. Photo from the BBC @bbcdoctorwho/Twitter

One letdown of the episode, however, was the lack of a romantic confession between Khan and the Doctor, which had been hinted at in the previous two specials. In the New Year’s special “Eve of the Daleks” Khan explicitly states her affection for the Doctor to past companion Dan Lewis (John Bishop). In the Spring special “Legend of the Sea Devils,” the Doctor acknowledges Khan’s feelings and admits to wanting to date her, but also feels like there isn’t enough time for them to have a truly beneficial relationship. In the end, nothing became of their supposed blooming romance. 

While this does feel like a missed opportunity, it may not necessarily be considered queerbaiting as many viewers accuse; rather, it is a lack of courage between characters to start a relationship that would be doomed to fail from the start, as the Doctor is essentially immortal and Khan is human. Her ending with Khan on the top of the TARDIS is still heartwarming, if platonic, and the fact that she is the only Doctor to ever successfully bring her companions back alive — with all of their memories and to the correct time period — ultimately brings a cohesive end to the Thirteenth Doctor’s story.

Since the 13th season was cut short due to COVID-19 quarantine regulations, this 90-minute special provides appropriate closure to a delicate farewell. The Doctor and their TARDIS stand as a symbol of hope that, no matter how dire a situation, there will always be someone there to help. 

While the Thirteenth Doctor is only a fictional character, she has also been a comfort to countless fans from her introduction in 2017 until her departure five years later. And for that, the Thirteenth Doctor — and Jodie Whittaker — will be greatly missed.

Kaylie Harley is a 2022-2023 Copy Chief. She can be reached at