Well finally, after 53 years the BBC had the guts to pull the trigger. Jodie Whittaker is the Doctor, the first female to play the Timelord, the original you might say. A wonderful performer who has been effortlessly exuding excellence for a fair while now, starring in the Attack the Block, Black Mirror and of course Broadchurch (written by new Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall). A fine choice, Whittaker seemed near perfect in the few seconds she was on-screen for her big reveal, and points to a bright future for the show.
The reveal has become a lightning rod for reaction, depressingly (and unsurprisingly) not all of it good. That great disturbance in the force you felt on Sunday afternoon was the sexually frustrated cry of thousands of white men who are still irked about the world only pandering to their every whim for 95% of the time rather than entirely.
These are the same kind of people who were happy to engage in or at least fan the flames of abuse during Gamergate or force Leslie Jones off social media for a brief time with horrendous abuse. All because it was apparently unrealistic that women can be fictional scientists that use plasma guns to capture ghosts.
This will very likely result in a number of longtime fans switching off. Good-riddance I say. In an age where vile and violent discrimination is right in our faces, Who’s new showrunner Chibnall can get to work happily in the knowledge he doesn’t need to oblige the whims of those outdated dinosaurs who can’t accept we’re in the 21st century. The future is now, it’s time to get with the program.
Still, at least Jodie Whittaker will be well versed in fighting the menacing, obstinate Cybermen come day one of production as she’ll have had to deal with thousands of the homogenous critters via the internet. If they desert the show that should be seen as a plus, it already appears the casting of Whittaker may have attracted a whole new raft of fans. Morons being replaced is something to be celebrated.
And to those who don’t think the gender of the latest incarnation should be so important, then they haven’t been paying attention. It’s important because for the last 53 years, in all the stories of a time-travelling, wizard in a flying box that can reconfigure its physiology to cheat death, it has unfailingly reconfigured itself in a white man every time. All fine actors of course but after this length of time, the notion of merely changing sex shouldn’t be much of a stretch at all. If the BBC really wanted to be different, they could have cast a Border Terrier Dog in a beret, or a Nicolas Cage.
All of this of course overlooks that women have played a key role in the history of the show, beginning with Verity Lambert, the genius who was the first executive producer of the show and the reason it even exists to begin with.
It’s the small victories that give us sensible folk the energy to keep on carrying the fight towards true parity between men and women. The lack of women given proper lead roles in major TV and film productions in front and behind the camera is still depressing, it’s a man’s game, specifically a white man’s game. This needs to improve in the future.
Casting Whittaker will not be enough with that context, the show needs to redress the balance behind the scenes too with just THREE female writers since 2008. Indeed between 2008 and 2014 not a single woman sat on the writing team, reflective of wider diversity issues within the industry.
To that backdrop, Whittaker’s casting feels like a shifting tectonic plate. Doctor Who has been a staple of British culture for over half a century, The Doctor in, now HER, blue box just passing through, is as British as the grey slate of the sky, a cup of tea and competitive moaning. Now a whole generation of young girls, marginalised by fantasy and sci-fi can smile, point at the television screen and say “That’s my Doctor.” Now that is fantastic.
What do you think? Is this the right step for the future of Doctor Who?