Doctor Who: Becoming a woman

Emer Handly

Credit: Wikia

Doctor Who has been around for centuries. Its fans, young and old, are very particular and protective about the character of The Doctor, who since the show’s beginning in 1963, has always been a man.

Last July, Jodie Whittaker was announced as the 13th Doctor. For the first time in history the new Doctor is a female. This has drawn a lot of attention and a lot of mixed opinions. Some ‘Whovians’ were outraged, some were thrilled.

The big question is; is this a step forward in symbolising gender equality or is it a mistake that will rip out the roots of one of the best TV shows ever made?

There are many arguments for each side, but really it comes down to your own personal opinion.

Some fans cannot imagine the Doctor to be anyone other than the male hero that shaped their childhood. To them The Doctor is and will forever remain a man, and this new direction in the character may lead to them no longer watching the show.

You can’t blame them. If something has been a part of your life for years, something you have loved for so long and something that has taken up a lot of your time suddenly changes in a dramatic way, it can be hard to adjust and let go.

Yet, The Doctor is never the same after a regeneration and a lot of fans are used to it. There was absolutely no one who wanted David Tennant to stop being the Doctor. He was extraordinary and no one would ever be able to replace him. Then along came Matt Smith who won the hearts of every single viewer and fans no longer resented the change. The next Doctor came in the shape of Peter Capaldi, who was nowhere near as phenomenal as Tennant or Smith but still did the character justice. It is also worth mentioning that the doctors companions change all the time too.

So how can you be annoyed about a change in a show that is constantly changing? Some people are acting like Whittaker becoming the Doctor is as bad as Trump becoming president.

Another thing to note is that we kind of saw it coming. Or at least if you were smart enough to catch the writers foreshadowing. The Master, The Doctor’s best friend and worst enemy, became The Mistress. The only other living Timelord (that we know of), became a woman. Michelle Gomez who played the role played it exceptionally. It worked for the Master. It could work for The Doctor.

The argument that this decision is an example of feminism ‘taking over’ is pretty ludicrous. It is not like the show is going to be pushing some hidden agenda for feminism. It is about a show evolving and challenging itself. In the most recent season, fans have been disappointed by the storylines that were written for Capaldi. This completely new version of the Doctor could be a way to give the show’s characters and stories a new lease of life.

“Doctor Who has an amazing future, and I’ve seen part of it. I’ve seen Jodie’s first scene as the Doctor, and trust me we are in for a thrill ride. She is already brilliant,” said show writer Steven Moffat.

If anything, the success of this dramatic change will heavily rely on the writing and on Whittaker’s performance. Some fans are extremely sceptical. But with roles in TV hits such as Broadchurch and Black Mirror, many have faith in her acting abilities.

“Anyone who has seen Jodie Whittaker’s work will know that she is a wonderful actress of great individuality and charm,” said her predecessor Peter Capaldi.  “She has above all the huge heart to play this most special part.”

In over 50 years of the show it has never been written in any episode or spoken about in any interview that The Doctor cannot become a woman. So he can, and he has.

Doctor Who is and always has been absolutely bizarre. The Doctor is an alien who travels through time and space in a time machine that is disguised as a police phone box, has two hearts and can regenerate instead of dying, has had multiple faces and personalities over 50 odd years on screen and the part you cannot come to grips with is the fact it can be a woman. Really?

No matter what their opinion on Jodie Whittaker becoming the new Doctor, every Whovian will be turning on BBC One on Christmas day to see this new beginning for an old legend.

The generic but honest answer to whether or not casting a female Doctor was the right decision is; we will have to wait and see. Jodie Whittaker could take Doctor Who to amazing new heights or, simply put, she could destroy a legacy.

Emer Handly