The BBC have announced that 25-year-old Jenna-Louise Coleman has joined Doctor Who as the next companion. She will replace Karen Gillan halfway through the seventh series, who's leaving to pursue other projects, together with screen husband Arthur Darvill. The details of Coleman's character, including her name, have yet to be revealed by showrunner Steven Moffat, but we do know she'll make her debut as a key part of the 2012 Christmas special.
Blackpool-born Coleman played Emmerdale's teenage lesbian Jasmine Thomas back in 2005 (which I vaguely remember her from), and went on to play a schoolgirl in the BBC drama Waterloo Road. She recently had a small role in Captain America: The First Avenger, and can soon be seen in ITV's four-part drama Titanic as cabin steward Annie Desmond.
Coleman's appointment means Doctor Who isn't going to rock the boat over its choice of leading companions, which have been human and female since the show returned in 2005--although there's always scope to have a man tag along, which happened with Rose's boyfriend Mickey, time-traveller Jack Harkness, Donna's grandad Wilfred, and Amy's fiance/husband Rory (to a far greater extent).
"I first went in before Christmas for a meeting with casting director Andy Pryor and then got called back for another meeting with Matt [Smith]. I just had an enormous amount of fun in the room, played around with loads of different ideas, got loads of things thrown at me--it was great. Matt was in the audition with me and he made me feel like we were both in it together, which was lovely. And I just left the room on a massive high, with a feeling of, 'This would be great to do day-in, day-out, on set, together with Matt'.Steven Moffat, executive-producer:
It just felt very spontaneous and fun, and you didn't know where it was going to go next, and we were both playing around. [Then] I went back in for another meeting after and I was excited to get back into the audition--I've never been so excited to go to an audition before!
"[The script] was called 'Men On Waves' and I knew Karen Gillan said hers was an anagram [of companion] 'Panic Moon' so I spent ages trying to figure it out, and I found out this morning that the anagram was 'Woman Seven'."
"We did see a lot of brilliant actresses, because Andy Pryor is a brilliant casting director. There was a moment I remember, I think it was the second time she came in. She and Matt were together and they both looked frightened, doing a Doctor Who scene, it was brilliant.Danny Cohen, Controller of BBC1:
"And then the fact that - which we're going to play a lot with - I think she's possibly the only person I've ever heard go faster than Matt. It was the first time we were going, 'My God, Matt's trying to keep up!'--it came to life as a partnership. We were so excited."
"As we approach Doctor Who's 50th anniversary it's great to welcome a new companion to the TARDIS. I feel confident the Doctor will look after her in his own very unique style."And here's a video of Coleman being interviewed about the role:
What are your thoughts on Jenna-Louise Coleman joining the series? She's another sexy girl in her twenties, but has that become a tedious predictability for nu-Who? (Only Catherine Tate bucked the trend in series 4.) Will the fact Coleman's from the north of England differentiate her from the southern/Scottish choices of late? Are you disappointed we aren't getting a male and/or alien companion in the TARDIS? Or perhaps just someone over-30?
You can get a taste of Coleman's screen presence when she appears in Titanic this Sunday on ITV1. How's that for PR timing? Can ITV now expect a "Whovian bump" in ratings for its big-budget premiere?
In related news from this morning's BBC press conference, Moffat revealed that series 7 will be bisected by the Christmas Special (Coleman's debut, which will be a "a very, very different way for the Doctor to meet his new friend" according to Moffat); with a total of six episodes airing in late-2012 and eight in early-2013.
Moffat also suggested that "more episodes" (i.e series 8) will premiere later in 2013, so perhaps this year's autumn-to-spring schedule will become the norm? We already know that Moffat prefers the show to air when the evenings are darker, as do I.
Steven Moffat, speaking at the Royal Television Society, on the structure of series 7:
"This time we're moving closer to stand-alone stories. At this point, we're not planning any two-parters. So, every week is going to be like a different mad movie. We went quite 'arc' last time and we're going stand-alone this time around. But that doesn't mean that there aren't those things creeping in. You've got to find a way to make the last episode special, and by God that worked ratings-wise last year. We don't want to abandon that idea. Watch out for the title of episode two. I think that's a belter. It's one of my favourite titles ever."
It was also revealed that Amy and Rory will depart in episode 5, which features The Weeping Angels (back for thirds after "Blink" and the "Time Of The Angels" two-parter.) So will Amy and/or Rory die at the hands of the terrifying statues, or is there a twist in store because that's far too predictable? Given Gillan's comments about the finality of Amy's exit, I'm oddly excited to see a companion outright die on-screen, rather than simply decide to end their adventure. In a good way, because of the huge drama that death can provide, especially given the show's status as "family-friendly" and people's attachment to Amy/Rory.
Phew! That's a huge amount for Doctor Who fans to chew on and digest today, so please let your thoughts and feelings known in the comments below.