This is the first official photo of new "Doctor Who" companion… (BBC America )
Doctor Who has found his new companion. Jenna-Louise Coleman will replace Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill in the long-running series when their characters make a "heartbreaking departure" later this year.
BBC and BBC America announced the casting of 25-year-old Coleman on Wednesday, saying she will join series star Matt Smith for "Doctor Who's" 50th anniversary year. Six episodes of the 14-episode season will air on BBC America sometime this fall followed by the annual Christmas special, which will be Coleman's first appearance on the show.
"I'm beyond excited, I can't wait to get cracking," Coleman said in a press release. "Working alongside Matt I know is going to be enormous fun and a huge adventure."
American fans can check out the "Emmerdale" and "Waterloo Road" actress in the "Titanic" miniseries that premieres April 14 on ABC.
The announcement ends months of speculation about the new companion. Earlier this month, I jokingly asked head writer and show runner Steven Moffat if the new companion might be fan fave character River Song, or perhaps a crossover with Moffat's other show, "Sherlock," and that series' star, Benedict Cumberbatch, might step aboard the TARDIS.
"You're really not expecting answers, are you?" Moffat said, laughing. Moffat also promised big things for the 50th anniversary.
"Don't worry," he said. "We're going to do good stuff. Obviously I know a certain amount about what's coming, and I promise there will never be a better time to be a 'Doctor Who' fan."
At a Wednesday press conference in central London announcing Coleman's casting, Moffat said that Amy Pond (Gillan) and Rory Williams (Darvill) will leave the series in the fifth episode of the upcoming season when they and the Doctor once again face the Weeping Angels, those killer statues that move only when people, usually their victims, stop looking at them.
"Not everyone gets out alive," he said, according to several reports. "And I mean it this time!"
Again, Coleman's first appearance will be in the Christmas special. Niether Moffat nor BBC America release gave the name of Coleman's character, but Moffat said this in the release: "Jenna is going to lead [the Doctor] his merriest dance yet. And that's all you're getting for now. Who she's playing, how the Doctor meets her, and even where he finds her, are all part of one of the biggest mysteries the Time Lord ever encounters."
During today's new conference, Moffat was asked how long Smith would stay on as the Doctor. He gave pretty much the same answer when I asked him how long he would run "Doctor Who."
"We take a year at a time. I really do, as does Matt," he said. "People are always asking us those questions. But it's a big, big show, especially when you've got two of them. So it's a year at a time, and, when you feel your time is up on a show, it's not an ambiguous feeling. You're saying, 'I can't do this anymore. I can't write it anymore. I've got nothing left in the tank.'
"But, at this moment, I'm loving doing it, enjoying it hugely, so no immediate plans to quit."
Digital Spy has the complete news conference transcript here. Below is BBC America's press release on the casting of Coleman:
Jenna-Louise Coleman has beaten hundreds of hopefuls to become the new companion to Doctor Who, it was announced Wednesday by Steven Moffat.
Twenty-five year old Jenna from Blackpool, England will star alongside the 11th Time Lord, Matt Smith, to mark the biggest year in the show's history.
Best known for her roles in Emmerdale (Jasmine Thomas) and Waterloo Road (Lindsay James), Jenna will replace Karen Gillan when she and Arthur Darvill bow out of the show in a heartbreaking departure after one final series of rollercoaster voyages later this year on BBC AMERICA.
Jenna says: "I'm beyond excited, I can't wait to get cracking; working alongside Matt I know is going to be enormous fun and a huge adventure."
The Doctor will meet his new friend in a dramatic turn of events as the show builds towards its enormous, climactic 50th anniversary year - full of thrills, adventures and big surprises. Season seven is currently filming and comprises 14 big, blockbuster-movie episodes - each a brand new epic adventure featuring new monsters and some familiar foes as you've never seen them before.
Lead writer and executive producer, Steven Moffat, says: "It always seems impossible when you start casting these parts, but when we saw Matt and Jenna together we knew we had our girl. She's funny and clever and exactly mad enough to step on board the TARDIS.
"It's not often the Doctor meets someone who can talk even faster than he does, but it's about to happen. Jenna is going to lead him his merriest dance yet. And that's all you're getting for now. Who she's playing, how the Doctor meets her, and even where he finds her, are all part of one of the biggest mysteries the Time Lord ever encounters. Even by the Doctor's standards, this isn't your usual boy meets girl."
Danny Cohen, Controller, BBC One, adds "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."
In 2011 Jenna made her big screen debut in Captain America: The First Avenger and is soon to star as Annie Desmond in ITV1's Titanic. She has just finished filming on Stephen Poliakoff's Dancing On The Edge for BBC Two.
Doctor Who is a BBC Cymru Wales Production for BBC One.