Jodie Whittaker – the first female Doctor Who – has said she will be “filled with a lot of grief” when she hands over the role to the show’s next star.
The actor has played the Time Lord since 2017 and in July announced she will be leaving the BBC sci-fi drama following the upcoming series and three specials next year.
Speaking during an online Q&A, Whittaker, 39, shared her emotions over her departure, as showrunner Chris Chibnall is due to be replaced too.
She said: “This Doctor is Chris’ Doctor so for me it is right, but if everyone comes up to you forever going, ‘I’m a Doctor Who fan’ then that is an absolute joy because it has been such a pleasure. But it is also letting go of it.
It will be very… I feel like I will be filled with a lot of grief for it because I kind of… Even thinking about it, it makes me upset. But this show needs new energy.”
Whittaker remembers crying during her final days on set, saying: “You know what I’m like – I’m a crier. I had to do my final [backstage interview] today. We haven’t finished filming so I can avoid the thoughts a bit more.
“But obviously with the behind-the-scenes stuff, it was in that slightly concluding way and, ‘Can you tell us how you feel about the crew?’ and then I just lost it.
I was just crying my eyes out, absolutely gone. I always knew this is the best time I will ever have on a job. I have felt like that from the start of it.”
While some jobs are harder to leave than others, if you’ve worked somewhere for a significant period of time, it’s totally normal to feel a sense of loss and even grief when it’s the right time to move on.
Dr Paul McLaren, consultant psychiatrist at Priory explains: “Grief is the price we pay for loving someone, or investing our feelings heavily in a job or a business. It’s part of the deal. If you gain from being heavily invested in something, then you grieve when that is taken away.”
We can’t let a fear we’ll feel grief or miss parts (or all) of a job stop us from taking risks and taking on new challenges, though.
Grief, McLaren says, is just the “natural process of psychological adjustment to the loss of a significant part of our lives”.
But while it might be sad to leave work or colleagues, you love behind, making changes and continuing to grow, rather than staying stagnant, is important – most likely for your career and certainly for yourself.
“Change can sometimes leave us feeling overwhelmed or out of control,” says Dr Elena Touroni, consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic. “But it’s important to remember that this can happen even when that change is a positive one. It’s simply the body’s way of protecting us from the ‘unknown’.
The key is to recognise this and move through it anyway.”
Priory psychotherapist, Pamela Roberts, agrees: “Uncertainty is a difficult thing for human beings to navigate. We often want absolute certainty.” But “living to your own true values sometimes means embracing change.”
Anyway, change can be very good for us, she says. “Change can mean we rethink habits, routines, thought processes, actions, even our diets. It can mean personal growth and regeneration.”
This reappraisal can be hugely beneficial, she explains. “We can ditch what really wasn’t working – even if we thought it was – and replace it. We can move in new circles of people and learn new skills and become more motivated.”
It’s natural to feel fearful that what you move onto might not be quite right either, but that may only make you more resilient.
“If what we have chosen doesn’t work out, we might be less fearful about more change – because we have already cut the ties,” Roberts says.
Essentially, it’s about feeling comfortable in not knowing what the future might hold.
“Change is the only constant,” muses Touroni. “For this reason, we need to find peace with it. When we’re open to change, we more easily move with the flow of life.”
When we “make decisions and see how they benefit us in the long-term, it builds inner confidence too,” she says.
The new series of Doctor Who begins on October 31. The first special will air on New Year’s Day 2022, following the second and third in spring and autumn – forming part of the BBC’s centenary celebrations.