Movies & TV / Columns

Who Does the New Female Doctor Who Really Upset?

July 17, 2017 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Doctor Who

Doctor Who writer Chris Chibnall did an interview back in February this year and had this to say when he was asked if the new Doctor could be femail, “Nothing is ruled out but I don’t want the casting to be a gimmick and that’s all I can say.”

The BBC got plenty of attention when they announced that Jodie Whittaker will be the latest actor to take on the role of The Doctor on Doctor Who as the Thirteenth Doctor. Whittaker will replace the current Doctor (the 12th in the series’s history), played by Peter Capaldi, in an upcoming Christmas special before taking on the role full time in the upcoming 11th series of the long-running British science fiction show, which is expected to air in late 2018.

Whittaker did an interview with the BBC and commented that “It’s more than an honor to play the Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope. I can’t wait.”

Why is all this a big deal? Whittaker is the first female actor fill the role of the Doctor, who has previously been played by a male actor in the character’s various incarnations throughout the long history of the show. Whittaker is known to fans as starring as Beth Latimar in the crime series Broadchurch, where she worked with Chibnall, who will be replacing the show’s present showrunner, Steven Moffat. Moffat has been with the show since 2010.

Chibnall made it known that he always planned for a woman to take the part. “I always knew I wanted the Thirteenth Doctor to be a woman and we’re thrilled to have secured our number one choice… The Thirteenth Doctor is on her way,” he said.

With the announcement came the expected backlash. Some from fans but plenty more from a segment who doesn’t watch Doctor Who and were more focused on creating drama. It’s well established that in the Doctor Who universe that Time Lords are able to regenerate as different races and genders. In fact, the latest version of the traditionally male villain The Master was re-characterized as “The Mistress” and played by Michelle Gomez.

This is yet another silly outcry and will quickly blow over as soon as the next “insulting” casting, story change, or what have you gets announced. At this point, backlash to anything is expected and quickly losing its power to create any impact. Any argument over Whittaker’s casting has been weak. The majority of it focuses on the false cries that a woman is the Doctor and it’s a gimmick. One, they need to know their Doctor Who history and two, they were setting this up last season and will back it up with strong storylines.

For me the real story is how Doctor Who has managed to entertain and continue for over 50 years. That’s a tremendous accomplishment and although the quality has dipped here and there, it’s been overwhelmingly popular and carved out its own niche in pop culture.

For any who isn’t well versed on Doctor Who, the show follows the Doctor as he travels through time and space in the TARDIS (a time machine shaped like a 1920s British police box) and encounters an amazing world of aliens and monsters. Some good, some bad. But his mission remains the same: Save the world! As a Time Lord, the Doctor is part of an alien species with the ability to “regenerate” into a new physical form when critically wounded, a power that the show has used masterfully, keeping things fresh and making the announcement of a new Doctor a big deal.

Which brings us back to Whittaker. Anyone who has seen her acting knows she’s a great choice to tackle the Doctor and she most likely open the show up to an even more diverse demographic.

What are your thoughts on the Doctor Who casting and how would you explain how Doctor Who has managed to stay relevant?