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As far as Doctor Who fans are concerned, Jodie Whittaker still has some time left to inhabit the Thirteenth Doctor. Two more specials starring Whittaker's incarnation of the legendary Time Lord are on the way later this year, following the New Year's special "Eve of the Daleks," which aired over the weekend, so it's not quite time to say goodbye. Behind the scenes, though, Whittaker has already completed work on her time as Doctor Who's star — which means she's also already filmed a regeneration scene.
The tradition of regeneration, created by Doctor Who's writers as a way to keep the show going even as actors moved on from the role, is a fascinating piece of sci-fi storytelling history, and it makes Doctor Who unique. We don't see James Bond flat-out turn into another guy when an actor decides he's done playing 007, but on Doctor Who, you can actually tune in to watch one version of the Time Lord literally turn into the next version in a seamless passing of the show's baton.
Though Whittaker couldn't say who is inhabiting the other side of her regeneration scene just yet, she did open up to Entertainment Weekly about the strange feeling that comes with shooting such a moment.
"I've shot my version of regen, and it was singularly the most emotional day on set I think I've ever had," Whittaker said. "It's a really bizarre feeling, because it's the best time I've ever had on a job, and I made the decision to leave it, so it's a really strange thing to do to yourself. It feels like you're giving yourself stitches — like, 'Why have you done it?' But… it felt right."
Last year, Whittaker and showrunner Chris Chibnall announced simultaneously that they'd be leaving the series this year with a trio of new specials, which completed filming in October. "Eve of the Daleks" was the first, and the teaser at the end of the special confirmed that the second will be "Legend of the Sea Devils," a special arriving in a few months featuring Who creatures who haven't been seen since 1984. The third and final special remains untitled at the moment, but Whittaker is relishing the fact that, as far as TV viewers are concerned, she does get to be the Doctor a bit longer.
"It was a wonderfully-celebratory-slash-grief-ridden day that I could spend with the family that I'd made," Whittaker said. "I suppose the best thing about it is that the episodes are still on. So until they're off, I don't have to really get my head around the fact that it's not my part!"
While we still don't know who will play the Fourteenth Doctor, we do know that Chibnall's job will be filled once again by Russell T. Davies, the showrunner who revived Doctor Who in 2005 and shepherded both the Ninth and Tenth Doctors through their adventures. According to Whittaker, Davies has already handed over his phone number, giving her a direct line to Doctor Who's creative leadership should she ever wish to make a cameo somewhere down the line.
"I'm very lucky he allowed me to have his number," Whittaker said. "For all the people to pass the baton to, I mean it's an absolute honor and joy. It's certainly in the safest and most exciting hands, and what a wonderful time for the show. Once you're in [Doctor Who] you never want to leave. I suppose it gave me a bit of hope — like, 'Oh, when you do leave, it doesn't necessarily mean you leave forever.'"
Doctor Who: Legend of the Sea Devils will air later this year.