Will she stay or will she go? Since August, that’s been the question on the lips of Doctor Who fans, as rumours swirled that Jenna Coleman was intending to leave her role as companion Clara – and, then, that she had changed her mind.
Well, now we know the truth – Coleman is staying, and for another full series (which will make her the longest-serving companion since the show returned in 2005) but there was indeed “a certain amount of to-ing and fro-ing,” before the decision was made.
Viewers watching the Christmas Day special were told in a message in the end credits that ‘Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman will return in The Magician’s Apprentice’, and speaking at the launch of the seasonal episode a week before, Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat confirmed “Jenna is in all of the next series, which we’re delighted to reveal,” before explaining that Coleman had kept him hanging on just like everyone else.
“There was a certain amount of to-ing and fro-ing, wasn’t there Jenna?” Moffat asked his star at the post-screening Q&A. “I always think I’m quite good at winding up people on this but Jenna completely outplayed me when she said in an interview ‘I’m not telling you if I’m staying or going because it’s just more exciting’. And it occurred to us all that we don’t start shooting until January so we could actually keep it a secret.”
Coleman said she was looking forward to filming the new series and that her blossoming chemistry with new Doctor Peter Capaldi had played a large part in her decision to stay.
“It’s wonderful – a whole other series of stories with the Doctor. I couldn’t walk away with the story being unresolved, there’s so much more to do and I think [Clara and the Doctor] have finally just reached a point where they really understand each other.
“The arrival of the 12th Doctor has just dropped this bombshell and allowed the dynamic to totally, totally change so I think, just when Clara was feeling more comfortable in the relationship, it’s suddenly thrown something totally new up and I think the comeuppance of that and the story that we got to tell over the season has been thrilling.”
Capaldi echoed his co-star’s enthusiasm. “I think Jenna’s been just fantastic and it’s been such a pleasure to work with her – and especially for me as the new person onto the show, she’s just been fantastic – and so I was so excited and delighted when she finally [agreed to stay].”
Until the closing moments of the episode, viewers were none the wiser that Coleman was continuing. Seen as an old woman nearing the end of her life (in make-up and prosthetics so convincing that one of the younger audience members at the screening had to ask whether it was really her), Clara looked to be on her way out.
Only then was it revealed that the scene was yet another layer of the mind-bending dream-within-a-dream created by insidious monsters the Dream Crabs. Enter the Doctor, to save Christmas – and make sure Clara will get to see in the New Year…