Jenna Coleman’s Doctor Who future is once again in question after reports emerged today that the 29-year-old has filmed her last scenes for the sci-fi show and is leaving to star as Queen Victoria in a lavish new ITV drama (a role RadioTimes.com reported she was in the running to play back in June).
Both the BBC and ITV have so far declined to comment on the matter, but with Jenna scheduled to appear on Nick Grimshaw’s BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show on Friday morning, it seems hard to imagine how Coleman will be able to avoid directly answering the question on Grimmers’ (and everyone else’s) lips once and for all…
“Are you leaving Doctor Who!?”
If Coleman, who joined the show three years ago, were to leave she’d need to make it to episode 10 or beyond to overtake Karen Gillan as the longest serving companion of the modern era.
This latest news comes after years of speculation over when the actress would exit the show. Tabloid rumours originally had her leaving in last year’s Christmas special, before eventually flip-flopping to say she would in fact be staying on for series nine. Showrunner Steven Moffat later confirmed that she had indeed originally been due to leave at the end of series eight finale Death in Heaven.
“That was her last episode,” he told Doctor Who Magazine. “And then she asked me if she could be in Christmas? So I said, ‘Okay, I’ll write you out in Christmas.’ She came to the read through and did the ‘write out’ version – and again changed her mind. But the truth is I never wanted her to go… She’s an amazing actress, and she never stops working to make Clara better. I was very happy to go the extra mile to make sure we could keep her.”
When asked about her future on the show, Coleman told this week’s Radio Times, “you never feel you’ve arrived… which is a good thing. It would be quite scary to feel safe. You’re in Doctor Who knowing it will never last. It’s constantly regenerating, so you want to make your time count and enjoy the adventure for the fleeting time you’re here.”
Jenna Coleman made her Doctor Who debut in 2012 episode Asylum of the Daleks, where she popped up as the mysterious Oswin Oswald, the sole survivor of a crashed starship who is later revealed to be a Dalek. Following a second role as Clara Oswin Oswald in 2012 Christmas special The Snowmen, she would make her first proper appearance as the “impossible girl” Clara Oswald in 2013 series seven part two opener The Bells of St John. The mystery of her alternate versions would later be solved in The Name of the Doctor, where she jumped into the Doctor’s timestream, creating various incarnations of Clara spread throughout history.
Her time with Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor is not commonly viewed as Clara’s best, with the ‘impossible girl’ mystery limiting how far her character could develop. Instead, it was with Peter Capaldi’s older, more abrasive Doctor that Clara began to soar; their dynamic was clever and funny, her life and interests were fleshed out. Along with giving her a romance with the sadly doomed Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), it was here that the show put Coleman front and centre, with her cheekily exclaiming at one point, “I’m the Doctor, but you can call me Clara.”
And if it is her last, her fate in series nine, however, is unclear. Will she die? Will she be trapped in a parallel dimension? Have her memories wiped? Get stuck in 1940s New York? Or, more simply, just leave? We’ll have to watch and find out.
And, of course, speculate on who will be her replacement…