In a rare move for the series, Doctor Who ended Season 12 on a cliffhanger. The Doctor is locked away in a maximum-security prison by the Judoon, the companions have all returned to Earth, and it's not clear if the Doctor will come back for them, or if she even can.
But never fear, there is more to come. "The Doctor Will Return in 'Revolution of the Daleks'" read the end titles as the credits rolled. Showrunner Chris Chibnall confirmed this would be a "festive" special, though no word if it's Christmas or New Year's. But rumors are flying that when the special does finally make it to air, it will change the face of the show.
The good news is fans don't have to worry about a new Doctor taking over the role. Both Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker have announced they signed for another season of the series. Nor is the show going anywhere anytime soon. Despite the mighty whines of fanboys and the declining ratings (which are on par with the decline of scripted series on broadcast in general), the BBC has no plans to retire the show any time soon either.
But when it comes to the companions, fans should wonder how long the TARDIS will continue to support such a crowded house. Chibnall's decision to move away from the wide-eyed female ingenue for a companion was not only laudable but well past time, and Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) are fantastic. (Ryan's especially done well in taking that ingenue position in the ensemble.) But the last time the show had this many companions on the regular was 1981-1982, during the transition period from the Fourth to Fifth Doctor, and by the end of Season 19 (the Fifth Doctor's first season) it had killed off Adric to reduce headcount. That Doctor Who has kept all three current companions for two full seasons makes this the longest-running ensemble cast in the show's history.
But that may be coming to an end. Cole has been cast in a lead role in AMC's newest series 61st Street, which was greenlit for two seasons right out of the gate. Now the Radio Times is suggesting that Cole won't be alone when he goes. Walsh, who has been balancing multiple series, will exit as well, especially with news he will be taking the role of Pop Larkin in the remake of Darling Buds Of May.
One small relief: If the rumors are correct, both will leave in such a manner that guest appearances will be possible. If so, this signals the show may return to the Classic Who tradition of companions who voluntarily exit the TARDIS, going back to their lives once the ride is over. But it also means Yaz will be staying on, and not joined by anyone else.
If that's true, Chibnall will add to his growing list of historical firsts on Doctor Who. First woman Doctor, first Doctor of color, and now, first all-female Doctor Who main cast.
The show has already been pushing in this direction. Moffat hinted at the idea when Clara (Jenna Coleman) and Me (Maisie Willaims) took off in a diner-shaped TARDIS at the end of Season 9. Chibnall also had notable scenes pushing gender equality. In "Fugitive of the Judoon," the climactic standoff between the Doctor, the Timelords, and the Judoon was an all women scene. (The Judoon captain was deliberately gendered female in a previous scene, just to drive it home.)
If this is Chibnall's plan to start Season 13, with a Doctor whose entire canon has been opened wide, an all-female crew of her and Yaz, saving the universe, it could be the best season of Doctor Who ever created.
Doctor Who's next episode is "Revolution of the Daleks," airing in time for the holiday. Season 13 begins filming this fall.