It took over 50 years, but the BBC science fiction show Doctor Who is finally getting a female lead! If you’ve never heard of or seen Doctor Who, here’s what you need to know in a convenient list (be prepared for nerdiness):
- The Doctor is an alien called a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey.
- The Doctor travels throughout time and space in a time machine called the TARDIS.
- Usually, the Doctor travels with a companion or two.
- Time Lords can’t die, and instead they “regenerate.” They change everything about themselves, from appearance to personality. Also, the Doctor’s time lord nemesis, the Master, has regenerated from a man to a woman on the show. In an episode in season five, the Doctor himself thought he had become a girl, proving that in the canon of the show, such a feat is possible.
Confused yet? If you aren’t, you’re about to be!
The thing that makes Doctor Who unique is that it first premiered in 1963 and is still going strong. Because the Doctor can never die, whenever the actor playing the Doctor is ready to leave the show and pursue other projects, a new actor can easily be casted in the role. Every few years, the Doctor (and the show) gets a complete makeover. Fans differentiate between the many different actors who have played the Doctor by numbering them. The current Doctor is the 12th Doctor, played by Scottish actor Peter Capaldi.
Okay, now that the background information is finished, we can get into the good part.
In July of this year after the Wimbledon Men’s Final, it was announced that the next Doctor was going to be played by a woman. This is a huge deal, because until now, the Doctor has always been played by a man. Of course, it’s a science fiction show about an alien who can basically shapeshift, so people shouldn’t be too surprised that the Doctor is now a female.
The actress stepping into the Doctor’s shoes, and replacing Capaldi, is Jodie Whittaker. You may recognize her from detective drama Broadchurch or episode 3 of Black Mirror. Not only is the Doctor changing, but previous showrunner Steven Moffat is stepping down. Chris Chibnall, who also worked on Broadchurch, will be replacing Moffat as the show’s head writer and executive producer.
On being cast as the Doctor, Whittaker says, “I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey – with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet. 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.”
Fans, however, are divided about Chibnall’s choice to cast Whittaker as the Doctor. According to an article on the BBC website about fan reactions to the announcement, people who are against the new Doctor feel the Doctor has always been a man and it should stay that way. Even Peter Davison, an actor who played the 5th incarnation of the Doctor, is not supportive of the decision. He said young boys are losing the Doctor as a role model.
Colin Baker, who played the 6th Doctor, called out Davison’s negative tweets about boys losing a role model by saying, “They’ve had 50 years of having a role model. So sorry Peter, you’re talking rubbish there – absolute rubbish. You don’t have to be the same gender as someone to be a role model. Can’t you be a role model as people?”
A lot of celebrities have tweeted in support of the new Doctor, including actors who have been on the show in the past themselves.
Arthur Darvill, who played companion Rory Williams in seasons 5-7 and starred in Broadchurch alongside Whittaker, simply tweeted: “Yes, Jodie.”
Sylvester McCoy, who played the 7th incarnation of the Doctor, said: “Congratulations Jodie Whittaker!!!!! One small step for Women, one Giant leap for Womenkind!!”
Freema Agyeman, who played companion Martha Jones in seasons 3 and 4, tweeted: “B O O M. Change isn’t a dirty word!!!!”
Even Peter Capaldi himself showed his support for Whittaker, and after speaking to her said, “She’ll be fabulous. It was lovely to speak to her and see how much affection and passion she has for the show. She’s going to be brilliant.”
Even though some fans are disappointed, just as many (if not more) people are excited about the show’s new direction and can’t wait to see Whittaker on their television screens. Parents are glad that their daughters will have a female Doctor to look up to. Until this point, the woman characters on Doctor Who have only been the Doctor’s companions, who are sort of the Doctor’s friends, but also glorified sidekicks. Now that Jodie has taken on the role, little girls will be able to see themselves in the Doctor too.
To finish, I’ll leave you with Colin Baker’s tweets and a quote from the final episode of Season 10:
“Is the future going to be all girl?”
“We can only hope.”
Tumblr post courtesy of tea-and-shoelaces on Tumblr.
Cover photo courtesy of unsplash.