Sunday marked the crowing of a new Men’s Wimbledon Champion but maybe more importantly the newest individual entrusted to take on the glittering yet heavy mantle of becoming the next ‘Doctor Who‘. This BBC national treasure has run since 1963 with a break in 1989 then a unsuccessful attempted return in 1996, and then eventually a thoroughly successful regeneration (ha, nice one me.) of the franchise in 2005. As most of all humanity will be aware the show revolves like a collection of planets around the blazing sun that is one rebellious Time Lord. An alien armed with a TARDIS, a contraption which enables the Doctor to travel through time and space. Quintessentially British hi jinks ensue and the Doctor defends Earth and elsewhere against galactic villainy. Usually in the most gloriously camp and contrived way possible.
One of the most genius aspects of our space-dwelling saviour is their ability to regenerate when faced with death. This allows the series, legacy and character to continue and it birthed the tradition of the new actor being cast. This casting process in geek circles rivals that of a new Pope being appointed or announcing a new James Bond. A more manic, inhuman James Bond who is in space and possible armed with jelly babies. The ability to completely rewrite their looks and personality is such a creative part of the Doctor and one most of us probably wish we could apply to Katie Hopkins. Geeks, freaks, ‘normal’ adults and children alike, all gathered to see who our new televised hero would be. Then we got our answer, Jodie Whittaker. The Doctor became anew, the actor became an actress. And we are here right now to look at why that is, as the 9th Doctor would say, “fantastic”.
Jodie Whittaker will be known to some for her appearances in cult, furious chav-fest ‘Attack The Block’ or the bleak, beach drama ‘Broadchurch‘. In ‘Broadchurch’ Jodie plays the bereaved Mother and has one of the most focal and difficult roles. Potentially just a weepy part, Jodie and the writers make Beth into a sweeping range of believable and endearing emotions. Jodie showcased her acting spectrum displaying heartbreaking agony, destructive rage and even comedic timing in such a bleak setting. All of these aspects are main ingredients to a successful Doctor cocktail….Doctail? No, sorry. Oh and the ‘Broadchurch‘ writer Chris Chibnall is also about to become the executive producer for Doctor Who so Jodie and her abilities are being guided by a man who has utilised and steered her skills before to great effect. Jodie Whittaker is clearly a talented, varied actress more than equipped to strengthen and carry a beloved television series, as she has done before. Also she’s from Yorkshire, so instantly blessed and ordained from on high.
Now we have the facts and that should be enough but sadly i must keep typing instead of eating tea, and you have to keep wading through my opinionated ramblings a while longer. This is due to the tragically vocal minority who have welcomed the news of the first female Doctor Who with anger and disdain, many even threatening to stop watching the show. I’m not angry with you world, i’m just dissapointed. Actually, can i be both? Yeah, i’m fairly sure i’m a little bit of both. Not only are these reactions disappointing, they are wayward and baseless knee-jerk reactions made by people either scared of change, casually sexist or a bitter, curdled mixture of the two. Now being scared of change is a documented part of the new Doctor mourning period so let’s give some people the benefit of the doubt. The opinion though that The Doctor should never be a woman is like many of the show’s episodes, from a time long gone. Yes the character can be a woman, and to say Jodie Whittaker shouldn’t have the role purely because she is a woman, is just plain sexist.
Cries that the Doctor “shouldn’t” be female are frankly ridiculous. There are no limitations placed on regeneration except in people’s minds, which sadly unlike the TARDIS appear not to be bigger on the inside. The Doctor once joked he could come back with “two heads” or even “no head” at all. Also The Master has already been a female incarnation for a while and to great success, another Time Lord from Gallifrey. The fact we’ve had 12 Doctors without a single one being anything but a white, British male is if anything, more unbelievable! For a show based around time, this change actually feels late. Also to claim their objections are founded in lore are wrong and a bit desperately silly. This is a show built lovingly on child-like acceptance of a wonderful show filled with plot holes the size of worm holes. Of all the things to try and challenge the lore on, people have chosen this muddy and sad hill to die on. This pains me like a Dalek plunger to the face. I agree casting should be made on merit and not out of fear and being overly politically correct but Jodie Whittaker is clearly a gifted, accomplished actress and people who claim “a woman can’t be as dark” obviously didn’t even glance at half a synopsis for ‘Broadchurch’.
I’m happy and proud to be in the generation where this finally happens and i’m relieved it’s at a time when the show seems ready. The last series was one of the most consistently well written series in the new era, unremarkable maybe but good throughout. They also dipped their writing toes into the icy waters of change with Missy the female Master, an astounding success thanks to the rip-roaringly insane Michelle Gomez. The show should also be lauded for it’s brilliant handling of companion Bill’s sexuality, disarming any prejudice with their careful and heart warming inclusion of how accepted and normal her attraction to women should be viewed.
Basically the reason we need a female Doctor Who is because we have had this negative reaction. The fact the reaction exists at all is against the point of the show, this may sound cheesier than dipping Tom Baker’s iconic scarf into molten cheddar but it’s true. The show is filled with monologues about exploration, new things and the beauty of a varied humanity. How the Doctor has chosen this planet and humanity because of it’s capacity for kindness. Christopher Ecclestone said he accepted the job because it was a character who saw a lady who was also a tree and met her with wonder and excitement instead of fear, how this is a powerful message especially for children. We should have a female Doctor because without sounding too dramatic, we should want the next generation to be more open minded than us. David Tennant wrote at school as a child how he wanted and wished to become the Doctor. With a show so highly regarded and viewed by children, I only hope there are now millions of young girls worldwide who can now wish the same with no hesitation.
Whether it will be done well is yet to be seen, but the fact it’s being done at all is the right thing. The best of luck and all my support to Jodie Whittaker. Welcome to the Who-niverse, it’s about time.