Film TV News

Rumor Analysis: Doctor Who Casting Shake-Up Has “Impossible Girl” Quitting, Thick Of It & Game of Thrones Stars Moving In

The Rumor: Jenna Coleman (Clara) is leaving Doctor Who after the 2014 Christmas special.

The Source: The Daily Mirror, a UK tabloid who claims to have gathered the information from an inside source

The Exact Quote:

 “The conversations about Jenna’s exit have started, and a plan is in place which is being ironed out.  By the time she leaves she will be one of the longest-standing companions ever.  She has been absolutely brilliant in the role, but everyone agrees it is a part that should change after a period. It was very much a mutual decision […] it’s important to keep the series moving and fast-paced, and the time is just starting to feel right and the feeling is that it could be a perfect Christmas storyline.”

Should We Really Trust Them?: Probably not.  We are talking about a tabloid, after all.  Then again, back when everyone was reporting that Rory Kinnear had been cast as the new Doctor, replacing Matt Smith, The Mirror was the one who popped up and officially called bullshit on that noise.  Plus, The Mirror was one of the very first sources to report that Hayley Atwell had departed from the UK to the States to film the Agent Carter TV show, a show which was but a mere rumor at that point but will now hit ABC by the end of the year.

If It’s True, Are We Really That Surprised?: Not really.  It doesn’t take an anonymous source supposedly talking to a UK tabloid to help us guess that Jenna Coleman is probably on her way out.  Why?  That’s just what companions do; they leave the show, eventually.  Historically, the best case scenario for a Doctor Who companion is usually 2 seasons, with very few extending into 3 or 4-season runs.  Ever since the show re-launched in 2005, we’ve had Billie Piper (Rose) exit after 2 seasons, Freema Ageyman (Martha) and Catherine Tate (Donna) limit their full-time journeys in the Tardis to one season, and Karen Gillan (Amy) and Arthur Darville (Rory) beat the odds by sticking around for 2 and a half seasons.  That makes Amy the current show’s longest-tenured companion with 33 episodes followed by Rose with 27 episodes, not counting her many return appearances.  By the end of the 2014 Christmas special, Clara will have appeared as the full-time companion in 24 episodes as well as her extended cameo in the season 7 opener “Asylum of the Daleks.”  So, this is around the time that you’d expect her to start plotting her exit, if not after this season then definitely after the 2015 season.

Beyond practicality, it would also roughly mirror what Billie Piper did, helping audiences transition from one Doctor to the next by having a familiar companion stick around.  Here, Coleman will hopefully help us to adjust from the adorable goofball Matt Smith to the grumpier, less user-friendly Peter Capaldi.  But at this point Coleman’s got to be looking at what Gillan is up to – Guardians of the Galaxy, Selfie – and thinking, “Um, I could totally do a Marvel movie!”

Coleman Cap
Heck, Coleman was already in Captain America: The First Avenger, albeit for just a couple of minutes

Personally, there was something so unique and special to Gillan’s Amy Pond that Coleman simply can’t compete with.  Gillan got to come in at a time when the show was undergoing a top-to-bottom revamp not just with the cast (brand new companion and new Doctor at the same time) but also behind the scenes (new executive producers, head writer/show-runner) and even in the way the show was marketed (new logo, re-vamped theme song).  It was with this era that the show began its explosion into America, the seeds of which, of course, had been planted by the David Tennant era.  The fact that Matt Smith’s Doctor first met Gillan’s Amy when she was a little girl made their emotional connection so sweet and immediate.  So, for as charming as Clara was she was never going to be the girl he most wanted to see before he regenerated, as evidenced by ghostly Amy walking down the steps and breaking every Whovian’s mother-freakin’ heart in Smith’s final episode

Goodnight Amy Doctor
Raggedy man, goodnight. Odd side-note: both Karen Gillan and Matt Smith are wearing wigs in this picture.

Of course, Coleman still managed to completely steal the entire show from Smith, Gillan, and Darville in her first, surprise appearance in “Asylum of the Daleks.”  The challenge Moffat threw down for himself with Clara was he had to write 3 great origin episodes for her as a by-product of his plan to center season 7 around Clara as the impossible girl who keeps dying as different women throughout history.  The problem was that by the time we got to the real Clara we’d already been treated to two so thoroughly entertaining versions of the character in “Asylum of the Daleks” and “The Snowmen” that the modern-day Clara of “Bells of St. John” seemed to slightly get the short straw.  She also had the misfortune of coming along as the show was preparing its prolonged back-patting 50th anniversary, ultimately using Clara as a plot device to bridge the gap between the second half of season 7 to the 50th anniversary special.

It was actually in that 50th anniversary special that I fell in love with her, though.  Actually, I adored her in The Snowmen, but that wasn’t really the same Clara we got in season 7b.  Who we got had fantastic comic timing with Matt Smith, but the show was so focused on holding her at arm’s length to maintain its big mystery (is she secretly a villain without known it?  is she the Rani?) that it was hard to completely form an emotional connection with her.

By the time of Day of the Doctor that was all thankfully in the past, and they were able to use Clara as the heart of the episode, the one who simply cannot allow her Doctor to give into overwhelming odds and commit mass genocide.  This specific exchange near the episode’s climax as Clara is watching the 3 Doctors prepare to annihilate all of the Time Lords and Daleks gets me every time:

  • 11th Doctor: What?  What is it, what?
  • Clara: Nothing
  • 11th Doctor:  No, it’s something; tell me.
  • Clara: You told me you wiped out your own people.  I just never pictured you doing it, that’s all.  These are the people you’re going to burn.
  • 10th Doctor: There’s nothing else we can do.
  • 11th Doctor: He’s right.  There isn’t another way; there never was.  Either I destroy my own people, or let the universe burn.
  • Clara: Look at you – the 3 of you.  The warrior, the hero, and you…
  • 11th Doctor: And what am I?
  • Clara: Have you really forgotten?
  • 11th Doctor: Yes; maybe, yes.
  • Clara: We’ve get enough warriors, any old idiot can be a hero…
  • 11th Doctor: And what do I do?
  • Clara: What you’ve always done – be a Doctor.  You told me the name you chose was a promise.  What was the promise?
  • 10th Doctor: Never cruel or cowardly
  • War Doctor: Never give up, never give in

And, of course, they don’t give up, and they don’t give in, needing a human companion like Clara around to inspire them to refuse to concede defeat.

Huh.  I started out writing this article feeling very “blah” about the idea of Jenna Coleman leaving the show, giving into the inevitability of it all.  However, I’ve come to realize, hey, I really like Clara, more than I maybe even realized.  If she does leave I’m going to really miss her.

Busy life.  Moving on.

So, who might replace her?  Well, we don’t even know for sure that Coleman is in fact leaving, but the odds makers are already at work in predicting her replacement.  Right now, Chris Addison and Games of Thrones’ Rose Leslie are the two leading candidates.  Why them?  In Addison’s case, he is actually already playing an unspecified role in the final 2 episodes of the upcoming season, and has a history with new Doctor Peter Capaldi, having worked alongside him in The Thick of It and In the Loop.

Capaldi and Addison from In the Loop. This could be how the Doctor treats his next companion.

As for Rose Leslie, um…wait, hold on.  Which one is she from Game of Thrones?

Ygritte!!!!  You do know nothing, Jon Snow.

Oh, her?  She could be a fantastic companion, but as of right now she only seems to be a name which is being thrown about by UK bookies who seemed to know absolutely nothing about Capaldi as the new Doctor until like a couple of days before he was announced.  Maybe they’re just picking her name because we know she’s not going to be showing up on Game of Thrones anymore, and she’s a Scottish redhead (how very Amy Pond of her).

These are tomorrow’s problems.  For now, we still definitely have 12 episodes and a Christmas special left with Jenna Coleman, with it all kicking off this weekend with the season 8 premiere.

What about you?  Are you ready for Clara to leave?  Deeply bummed to see her go?  Actually find her to be a better companion than Amy Pond?  Let me know in the comments.


1 comment

  1. Ambivalent. I agree with most of the things you said… Loved the first two versions, but never connected with the “real” Clara. I really just have no emotions about her going or staying right now, but all that may change with the whopping 12 episodes we’ve got coming up!

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