In The TARDIS
!!!SPOILER ALERT!!! There was an extremely huge announcement the other day about the newest incarnation of the Doctor from Doctor Who. Stop now if you haven’t heard/don’t want to hear about who the next Doctor will be!!!
Unless you’re the type of Doctor Who fan that avoids the series like the plague, you probably heard a major announcement on July 15, 2017.
Full disclosure: I personally haven’t watched the last two series of Capaldi’s run as the Doctor. The stories have been terrible in my opinion and I just lost interest. With that being said, even I know that a new Doctor has arrived. There has been a lot of speculation as to who would become the newest face of everybody’s favorite Time Lord. Numerous actors and actresses were rumored to be taking over the role. Tilda Swinton and Kris Marshall were two names that popped up more often than others. Neither one of them was chosen, though, and fans learned on Sunday that the new Doctor would be:
Now, I must admit that I am not familiar with Whittaker’s work in other programs. Her most prominent work appears to have been on Broadchurch along with another former Doctor, David Tennant. I never watched that show, so I can’t gauge how she’ll do in her new role.
What I can say is that as is typical with every single Doctor that has ever been announced (even before the age of the internet), there is a lot of controversy surrounding the newest actor in the role. Of course, the internet makes reactions to the announcement immediate, and in many cases, extremely nasty. I remember quite well how people ranted that Matt Smith was too young for the role and that Peter Capaldi was too old. The same holds true with Whittaker, but not because she’s too old or too young or too attractive or too unattractive.
It’s because she’s a woman.
In all honesty, I’m neither here nor there about the announcement. I hope that Whittaker does a good job. More importantly, I hope that the writing improves. Matt Smith was saddled down with some terrible stories near the end of his run, but I enjoyed him in the role enough to stick with the show through the bad times. Capaldi never captured me and his stories were atrocious. I quickly lost interest in the show during his first series and have only sporadically watched it since that time.
With that being said, the thing that bothers me most about the announcement of Whittaker isn’t that a woman has taken over the role, it’s that so many people lash out against those who are negative about the change.
Some of the complaints come from men. Some of them come from women. Many men who complain that the Doctor shouldn’t be a woman are often on the receiving end of nasty comments that call them misogynists, bigots, “broflakes,” and male chauvinists. The reaction to women with negative opinions of the casting weren’t as harsh, but still pretty nasty.
There’s also a lot of positive reaction to the announcement. Many men and women are happy to see a woman in the role of the Doctor. People are saying that a gender change in the character has long been overdue. Others say that it’s about time that a female was placed into the lead role of a science fiction franchise. Star Trek: Voyager fans have been very vocal about the fact that their franchise had a female lead first with Kate Mulgrew’s portrayal of Captain Janeway.
Outside of the series revival, I am not aware of any precedent set about the character changing gender. It has only recently been mentioned with characters such as the Corsair and with Missy, who was once the male Time Lord known as the Master. The General also regenerated into a female form. There’s also mention of the Doctor being able to change gender in the Paul McGann short, The Night Of The Doctor, in which the eighth Doctor is told by the Sisterhood of Planet Karn that the regenerative powers of the Time Lords is enhanced on their planet, allowing one to choose what they regenerate into, including man or woman.
In the classic series, females from Gallifrey were referred to as Time Ladies. Romana was prominently featured in the show and was portrayed by Lala Ward and Mary Tamm. Another Time Lady, the sinister (but oh, so wonderful) Rani, portrayed by Kate O’Mara, never regenerated on the show, but showed no inkling of becoming a male that I’m aware of. There were a few other Time Ladies that popped up in episodes as well, but no hints were made about their gender in past regenerations.
Here lies the problem.
While many people have no issues with Whittaker taking over the role of the Doctor (including myself), especially since the revival of the series has made the gender changing regeneration canon, I do see the point that many people, men and women, are making about why the Doctor should remain male. Yes, I’m pretty sure that there are a bunch of broflakes out there who simply can’t stand seeing a woman in the role, but I also believe that many men and women are standing behind the basis of Time Lords and Time Ladies that was established during the classic series.
It seems that many people are too caught up in the man versus woman scenario and do not want to listen to legitimate reasons from some fans for keeping the Doctor male. I would really love to see these people take a step back and simply listen to the reasons that some are against the gender change. I hated John Simm as the Master, but I got over it. I hated Michelle Gomez in the role as well (what little I saw of her). He was too hyper and psychotic. She was annoying. Does that make me a misogynist? No, it just means that I didn’t like either actor in the role and/or the way the character was written.
It’s true that we haven’t seen Whittaker in action in the role yet, and after an episode or two, many opinions will change. Some men might like her more than they did when she was announced. Some women who loved the announcement will be screaming for a change. Basically what I am saying is that it’s okay to love the new Doctor and it’s okay to dislike the new Doctor. If you dislike the change because you can’t stand a woman in a prominent role then I really can’t defend you. However, if you dislike the change due to the precedent established in the classic series, I fully support your opinion.
Don’t let people push you around. If they bring up other gender swaps in characters, remind them that the character of the Doctor hasn’t been rewritten. The character has regenerated. One popular argument is that of Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica. While the character was male (portrayed by Dirk Benedict) in the original series, the reimagined series made the character female (portrayed by Katee Sackhoff). The problem with this argument is that the new series didn’t pick up where the original left off. It was basically a reboot of the old series with different actors in the classic roles. Yes, the gender changed (as it did for other characters in the show), but Benedict’s character didn’t morph into Sackhoff’s character. They are essentially two different characters in different timelines. Fans of the classic BSG might not have liked the gender change, but they had the option to look at the new Starbuck as a different character engaging in different stories. Fans of the new version of the character could simply ignore the classic series.
With the Doctor, however, the character regenerates into a wholly new being that carries with it the baggage of its past lives. Each time the character regenerates, the dynamic changes but the history is still there. Add to that the fact that the first two showrunners for the revived Doctor Who, Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat, added a little romance and/or flirtation between the Doctor and some of his companions, and you really have a changed dynamic. Will the new Doctor fall for male companions? Female companions? Alien companions? Will the new Doctor be stand offish with new companions? “Who” knows?!?!?
Oh, and that whole argument where Tom Baker made a joke about wishing his successor in the role good luck no matter who he or she is doesn’t fly because it’s his opinion, and not canon. As much as I enjoyed Tom Baker in the role, he definitely cannot change canon at will.
Imagine Whittaker’s Doctor interacting with Tegan and Turlough. Would Tegan be as snappy with a female Doctor as she was with Peter Davison’s Doctor? Would Turlough decide not to kill the Doctor because he grows to admire her as a protector of the innocent as he did with No. 5 or does he decide not to kill her because he is attracted to her or possibly believes that she doesn’t deserve to be the leader of their traveling party because she’s a woman (I can totally see Turlough being threatened by the fact that a woman is in charge)? The dynamics can and probably will get crazy, and I have to admit that I’m pretty excited to see what direction this new regeneration will take the character and the series as a whole.
In conclusion, I welcome Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor. I can’t wait to see where the show goes from this point. New showrunner Chris Chibnall definitely has a mess to clean up with Moffat’s work in my opinion.
Here’s to better stories and a good run as the Doctor for Whittaker. Let’s play nice, folks, and hear out all opinions before we judge people for disliking a change. Remember that change is always difficult, and we need to be understanding with each other.
As always, thanks for reading. Let me know what you think about the new Doctor in the comments section.