So, Broadchurch actress Jodie Whittaker is officially the first female Doctor in Doctor Who history and the internet doesn’t know how to feel about that.

The above comes from the comments section of a Metro.co.uk interview with Whittaker discussing the who, what and when of her casting and future on Doctor Who. When asked what she’d want to tell the fans, she responded, “[Don’t be] scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change. The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.”

Yeah, but not everyone likes change. The transition period between Doctor’s is always a hectic one filled with anxiety and doom-and-gloom proclamations that always look silly in retrospect. That new person coming in to play the role almost always turns out to be better at it than we initially anticipated, but it can take us Whovians a full season with the new person to recognize as much. That’s just how these things go regardless of the actors involved.

Add on top of all the history-making element of the Doctor being gender-swapped and you get a frustrated fanbase, many of whom are now flocking to comments sections and message boards to declare that Whittaker’s casting means the end of their time as a Whovian.

Not that we should be surprised. Back before Peter Capaldi was cast as 12, there was much talk about perhaps casting a female to play the part, and the various  websites which conducted polls revealed the majority of fans would reject such a rmove (60% of Digital Spy respondents indicated “The Doctor should never be a woman”). It wasn’t just angry dudes screaming on the internet. Nearly the majority of women seemed to feel the same way (49% of the female respondents to NewGov.co.uk’s survey wanted the Doctor to remain male). There was also an anecdotal story about Steven Moffat conducting a non-scientific “show of hands” poll at a Doctor Who convention in Cardiff where nearly a quarter of fans raised their hands when asked if they would stop watching the show entirely if the Doctor was made female.

That was long ago enough that Moffat has had plenty of time to better prepare audiences for a female Doctor, using Michelle Gomez’s gender-swapped Master character Missy as a test-run over the past 3 seasons. Then by the end of the most recent season Capaldi’s Doctor was talking about his own gender fluidity in such an open way that it would have actually been more surprising if the next Doctor had been male instead of female. After all, why would Moffat so blatantly lay so much groundwork for the Doctor to switch genders if his replacement, Chibnall, wasn’t going to follow through on it?

Yet that wasn’t enough, at least not for everyone because for some this is non-negotiable: The Doctor has always been male, and that’s the way it should stay:

Of course, if half of the fans don’t like this news that means the other half do, such as these AVClubers:

And pop culture has offered plenty of change lately, particularly in comic books. In recent years we’ve seen a black Captain America, female Thor, female, Muslim-American Ms. Marvel, black, female Iron Man, Asian Hulk. While those moves earned Marvel plenty of press and positive reviews it also coincided with an epic plunge in sales, leading one of the higher-ups to declare that perhaps the actual comic book-buying audience didn’t want so much change so fast. The real explanation is a little more complicated, but that might have played a part.

Such change has not been quite as plentiful for our live action entertainment. For example, we have yet another white guy playing Peter Parker (albeit doing a fantastic job with the role). However, now that Doctor Who has made the brave choice to change things up with the gender of its title character the fear is that it will lead to a steep ratings decline, and it’s not like the ratings have been that great during the Capaldi era.

So, here we are. This is a polarizing decision, and it was always going to be. Personally, whatever resistance I might have once had to this move was eliminated by Michelle Gomez’s brilliant performance as Missy. She remade the character in such a flawless way that I am completely open to the idea of Jodie Whittaker doing the same with The Doctor. My own reaction to her casting is less concerned with her gender and more with my own personal preference for Fleabag‘s amazing Phoebe Waller-Bridge to have gotten the part. I, frankly, need a Whittaker refresher because while I’ve seen her in Broadchurch‘s first season and Attack the Block I don’t recall much about her. Moreover, I have no clue what Chris Chibnall’s version of Doctor Who is going to look like, but I at least know I am more than willing to give Jodie Whittaker a chance. What about you?

Source: Metro.co.uk

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Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

22 Comments

  1. Come on. They have been dropping hints the past few series with one of the officials in galkefrey becoming a women then the master then all the hints at the end of the last series about the future being all woman. I think its a bold choice. Glad its her as she is relatively unknown but was excellent in broadchurch. Makes sense too given the new producers of DW also being producer of sane show. She has a lot to prove and i hope she brings back the wider audience that started to dwindle after Tennant’s departure. And could be worse. The doctor could have been American lol

    Reply

    1. In today’s PC Police world, it’s NOT a bold choice. A bold choice would be to insist that the Doctor will always be a man. That would anger the very vocal minority who are trying to destroy the very concept of gender. It would have been a BOLD choice 5 to 10 years ago when no one would have loved the idea. But, today, it’s more like just giving in to the PC pressure.

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      1. Of course its bokd. Capaldi lost a lot of the fan base and the bbc could have tried to rectify that by getting another tennant type and go backwards but instead it did this. Wasnt PC behaviour as you can only adhere to PC for a short while. To change gender of a central character after more than 50 years is very bold and time will tell (excuse the pun) how the writing and direction improves or deteriorates. I am hoping it will improve. Where else was it going to go? David hasselhoff? Kris marshall? I am more worried about this becoming a cliché. The 14th doctor being asian and the 15th being a dwarf. I hope the writing really supports the change.

      2. It’s no more bold than using your awards acceptance speech in front of everyone who hates Trump to bash Trump.

      3. I use any excuse to bash trump. Not just awards speeches. Just need to wait for the next tweet. Now there’s a role model for women.

      4. “I hope the writing really supports the change.”

        That will be the challenge.

      5. I take your point, and there is certainly a part of this which feeds into the current cultural winds. But, I don’t know. This is still a bold choice to me because they actually did it. There’s been so much talk in other franchises of maybe race-switching or gender-swapping, but outside of the female Ghostbusters movie very few live-action entities have actually followed through on it. Sure, you’ll get a race or gender-changed supporting character in a superhero movie or TV show from time to time, but Captain America is still Steve Rogers, Spider-Man is still Peter Parker, James Bond is still being played by Daniel Craig, etc. There’s been a lot of talk, but very little action, at least in live action.

        Of course, in recent years live action has offered an explosion in female-fronted movies and TV shows, such as Wonder Woman or Wynonna Earp, and now there’s a female Doctor. That can easily seem of a piece with the way things have been going and thus not actually that bold of a choice, but I think that does the show a slight disservice because for all the talk in other franchises Doctor Who actually bit the bullet and made the change with its title character, regardless of how poorly that worked out for Ghostbusters.

        I do agree though that this would have a more genuinely bold choice years ago when the diversity talks hadn’t heated up so much. Now it’s of a piece with a larger cultural story, but it could have been a true trendsetter if it happened after Smith left.

      6. –> “but outside of the female Ghostbusters movie very few live-action entities have actually followed through on it. Sure, you’ll get a race or gender-changed supporting character in a superhero movie or TV show from time to time, but Captain America is still Steve Rogers, Spider-Man is still Peter Parker, James Bond is still being played by Daniel Craig, etc. There’s been a lot of talk, but very little action, at least in live action.”

        I’m all for strong female leads and strong non-white leads. I just feel they should be given their own character; their own show. I hate it when they simply replace an existing character with a new race or a new gender. Steve, Peter, and James should always be white males. If we want a black British Spy, write a story about 008 or 007. If we want a female Captain America, write a story where a woman is given the super serum. Don’t simply swap the character.

    2. With as much work as the show has done to put up the neon flashing sign of “The Doctor CAN BE A WOMAN!” it would have been mildly shocking if they had just cast another dude to replace Capaldi. Whittaker is probably a good choice because we know from Broadchurch just what a good actress she is, but there’s usually a quirkiness to the Doctor which she just doesn’t display any signs of in Attack the Block or Broadchurch. That’s why it was easier for me to picture Waller-Bridge based off of her unhinged work on Fleabag and Crashing. Of course, Whittaker is also a professional actress. Just because she doesn’t seem very Doctor-like in Broadchurch (nor should she considering the character she’s playing) doesn’t mean she can’t be amazing in the role. I just have little frame or reference for what to expect from her unless her Doctor will be emotionally upended by the loss of a child, which seems unlikely.

      Reply

  2. Ps i happened to watch on you tube a couple of interviews about dw 20th and 25th anniversary and they were talking about a female doctor then and all the leads agreed it was senible to do so. It is overdue people.

    Reply

  3. I’m curious, so I’ll check I’ll be there for the first episode. I liked Missy, a lot. I mean I hated her as a villain but I loved the actress, and hope this new doctor can’t be worse. Only vaguely remember her from Attack The Block. I’m more upset at losing Capaldi than upset at her arrival. But then I also really missed Tennant, and eventually moved on with my life, such as it is.
    Then again I’m a relative newcomer (of sorts, since I did watch the show in the 80s) so my life will not be upheaved by staying on as a fan.
    I still do not consider myself a Whovian! Why is that, I wonder.

    Reply

    1. “I still do not consider myself a Whovian! Why is that, I wonder.”

      Probably the same reason I don’t consider myself a Trekkie even though I’m clearly a big Star Trek fan: Because when you label yourself a fan using a name like Whovian or Trekkie it implies a certain level of obsession, as in you almost definitely have an encyclopedia-like knowledge of the franchise and have probably cosplayed at least once in your life. I certainly don’t have that for either Trek or Who, but I’m a big fan of both.

      Reply

  4. I’m closer to the middle on this. I’m not going to stop watching the show unless it ends up being bunk. But, I do agree with those who believe this is just a Political Correctness push and I hate to support that. As others have said, it’s not about not wanting a woman lead or believing a woman can’t handle it.

    For an analogy, I had no problem with Janeway as a Star Fleet captain and I actually liked her quite a bit. But, I would have had a big problem if they simply recast Picard as woman after several seasons.

    Granted, it’s a flawed comparison because Doctor Who has already established a rationale for such a change — and a regeneration from a Matt Smith to a Peter Capaldi is nearly as drastic a change as from Capaldi to a woman. But, the reality is I’ve come to think of the Doctor as a man and I don’t relish the idea of thinking of him as a woman.

    It feels like they’re trying to mainstream the idea the NO ONE is gender fixed and I don’t like supporting that idea, either.

    But as I said in the beginning of this comment, I’m not so upset or dogmatic about it that I won’t give the new season a chance.

    Reply

    1. Just wanted to first applaud your use of the word “bunk.” Now going back to read the rest of your comment….

      Perfectly reasonable argument you’ve made, I think. Simply put, this is a big damn change for a long-standing franchise, and everyone should be allowed to have complicated feelings about it. My best friend is a woman, and she echoed your basic argument as well, namely that she doesn’t love this idea of gender-swapping a character who has been a male for over 50 years but her feelings on it aren’t so strong that she’ll stop watching. That’s why it’ll be on Whittaker to be an especially amazing Doctor to win people over just as it was with Mulgrew as Captain Janeway.

      Reply

      1. –>That’s why it’ll be on Whittaker to be an especially amazing Doctor to win people over just as it was with Mulgrew as Captain Janeway.

        Moresof for Whittaker, I think. Janeway didn’t REPLACE a character. She was simply the first female captain as the lead in a Star Trek series. She merely had to show she was competent. The only detractors here would be sexists who really didn’t believe a woman could be a Star Fleet captain — a really stupid and narrow minded view.

        Whittaker is an actual gender swap of the Doctor and has to do far more than just prove a woman can be a Time Lord. She has to prove she can be The Doctor.

      2. Change.. And not a moment too soon. Whitiker is the doctor whether you like it or not. Colin Baker

  5. Dex: ” I am more worried about this becoming a cliché. The 14th doctor being asian and the 15th being a dwarf. I hope the writing really supports the change.”

    I agree with you, completely, on that.

    Reply

  6. There are two things that could turn me away from Doctor Who.

    The first is if the story telling and acting falls flat.

    The second (and this is a very real possibility) is that they use the idea of a “man in a woman’s body” to explore the Doctor having a romance with a female human. I have no interest in watching that.

    Reply

    1. Well I will be tuning off at that point only as that will be a clear alarm bell about the show. There are plenty of other shows like red dwarf or the lame DW spinoffs for that sort of mekarky

      Reply

    2. If it all goes south the good news is that might consider a paul mcgann 8th doctor spinoff. I would certainly tune in to that. Guy is still presentable to pkay the roke and a lot of time has passed between the (surely its not cannon) 1996 tv movie and the night of the doctor mini episode

      Reply

      1. I get why they’re doing a multi-Doctor Christmas special with Bradley as Hartnell meeting up with Capaldi, pairing the two oldest Doctors togethers and all that, having everything come full circle. So this might not have worked in this particular context, but if you’re going to do a multi-Doctor special why not include McGann (for all the reasons you mentioned and more)?

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