I have no intention of commenting on the various misogynistic assholes screaming about the fact that an extraterrestrial alien who has the ability to change themselves entirely in a process called “Regeneration” and is over 2000 years old, as the main character in a science-fantasy television show, is now being played by a woman. Except perhaps a sort of perplexed lack of understanding of the women who aren’t happy about it. (In fact, over on Gallifrey Base, it seems more men are excited about the change than women are… why would that be?)
I do have a bit to say though.
To start, I will admit that I am seriously sad that Peter Capaldi is leaving. He is my Doctor, and I had really wanted him to be the Tom Baker of the new era (that is, stay on for at least five seasons, if not more). I will grant that many of Capaldi’s stories were… not great. But even in the worst stories of his run, he was beyond phenomenal. His acting, his poise… everything about him was exactly what I’ve always seen as the Doctor. So yeah, I will be ugly crying during the Christmas special, because… well… I don’t want him to go.
First, I don’t really know Jodie Whittaker. I never watched Broadchurch, and I haven’t seen Attack the Block, nor have I seen anything else with her. So, I genuinely cannot say anything about her as an actor. And, to be entirely honest, I’m quite happy with that. I was also equally ignorant about Peter Capaldi, and I consider him to be my Doctor. So I’m very excited to see what Jodie does with the role through fresh eyes.
Second, if I have any reservations, they’re all on how she’ll be written. I also don’t know anything about Chris Chibnall (except that he wrote some episodes of Doctor Who that I apparently forgot about… I’ll need to watch them again; oh, and he also was the showrunner for Broadchurch which, again, I’ve never seen), so I don’t feel comfortable enough predicting what kind of showrunner he’ll be for Doctor Who.
What I want is for them to continue writing The Doctor. In “World Enough and Time”, the Doctor said the following about Time Lords to Bill:
“We’re the most civilized civilization in the universe. We’re billions of years beyond your petty human obsession with gender and its associated stereotypes.”
(To which Bill hilariously responded “but you still call yourselves Time Lords“.)
I really want them to keep it in that vain. But I worry that they’ll end up writing in sexist stories and bits like has often happened, but this time with the Doctor as the target. And that won’t be good.
Third… well… this isn’t a recent idea. In fact, back in the 80’s, when Doctor Who (with the Doctor then being played by Colin Baker) was on the verge of being cancelled, the BBC called back Sydney Newman, the original creator (along with Verity Lambert), to get his advice.
What was it?
Sydney Newman, who devised the long-running science-fiction show when he was head of BBC drama in the 1960s, was asked to help after the show suffered a slump in ratings in the 1980s and was taken off air temporarily.
He told Michael Grade, then the controller of BBC One, that the ailing series could only be saved by regenerating the Time Lord into a Time Lady.
Mr Newman criticised the direction the show had taken, but insisted that it could be revived by turning the lead character into a heroine.
In a written pitch dated Oct 6, 1986, the Canadian-born television executive delivered a scathing verdict on the show’s populist, dumbed-down drift and called on Mr Grade to “engage the concerns, fears and curiosity” of young viewers.
He implored: “Don’t you agree that this is considerably more worthy of the BBC than Doctor Who’s presently largely socially valueless, escapist schlock!”
Mr Newman urged the controller to temporarily reintroduce Patrick Troughton, a former Time Lord, to steady the TARDIS and pave the way for the most radical change in the show’s 23-year history.
He wrote: “At a later stage Doctor Who should be metamorphosed into a woman.
The BBC did not take his advice, obviously, casting Sylvester McCoy as the next Doctor… and in 1989, the show was taken off the air for 16 years, before Paul McGann starred in the 1996 television movie (and he was the only good part of it, sadly). Because the movie was received pretty badly, the show stayed off the air, until Russell T. Davies and Christopher Eccleston revived it in 2005 with “Rose”.
So the idea of a woman playing the Doctor can actually be credited to one of the show’s original two creators. And under Moffat’s tenure, we’ve had The Corsair (from The Doctor’s Wife… only mentioned), Missy (my favorite Master, by the way), and the General in Hell Bent.
And we know that Chris Chibnall himself has wanted a woman playing the Doctor for a long time.
So what do I think?
I’m cautiously ecstatic. I’m so happy that, finally, a woman is playing the Doctor. I’m hoping that this will be a stepping stone to a more diverse set of actors playing the Doctor in the future (could you imagine Laverne Cox as the Doctor? OMG!). My caution is only in terms of what I discussed in my second point above… how will Jodie’s Doctor be written?
However, I want to show you the main reason I’m excited about this. Jenny Trout shared, on Twitter, a video of her daughter reacting to the reveal of Jodie Whittaker as the next Doctor. I think this says it all.
— 🏳️🌈Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) July 16, 2017
If you’re still mad that a woman is playing the Doctor after seeing that, I feel sorry for you.
Oh… and one last thing… if you do decide you want to play Whiny Whovian Man-Baby Bingo, here’s your card (I first saw it on We Hunted the Mammoth)…