The regeneration game: Doctor Who sets scene for dual departure

Hannah Ellis-Petersen
Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who and Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts. Photograph: BBC/PA

Doctor Who’s return to TV screens on Saturday night will mark the end of an era for two of the show’s key figures.

This series will be the last to feature Peter Capaldi as the Time Lord and also sees the departure of the head writer, Steven Moffat, who took over from Russell T Davies in 2009.

The BBC may be hoping that Moffat’s final series will revive the fortunes of Doctor Who, whose ratings have been in steady decline. In 2011 it pulled in an average of 7.5 million viewers, compared with just 6 million in 2016. The previous series opener attracted just 4.6 million viewers.

After Moffat’s departure, the task of regathering the lost momentum behind Doctor Who will fall to new showrunner by Chris Chibnall, best known as the creator of ITV drama Broadchurch.

Saturday night’s episode, which features an appearance from Doctor Who’s ever-recurring enemy the Daleks, will also be the debut for new assistant Bill Potts, played by Pearl Mackie.

She is the first gay companion to the Time Lord, though Moffat recently condemned the fuss that had been made over Potts’s sexuality.

Explaining his decision to leave the show after three series, Capaldi described Doctor Who as akin to a “TV factory”.

“I’ve left it while I am still enjoying it,” he said on BBC1’s Graham Norton Show. “Three years is probably enough, because people get wiped out by it.

“Doctor Who is a great job but it is a TV factory with so many episodes and I would worry that I wouldn’t do my best work with the same vigour and fun.”

Capaldi confirmed he had recorded the death of his Doctor but would not give any clues about the actor who would be stepping into his regenerated shoes.

As well as the return of the Daleks, this season will bring back John Simm in his role as the doctor’s nemesis The Master, while Michelle Gomez will also be reprising her role as Missy.

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