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“She’s not a female Doctor, she’s THE Doctor”

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By Tiffany Bowman

“Is the future all girl?”

“One can only hope”

No need for hope – now it’s a reality. Jodie Whittaker was unveiled as the new Doctor last week, much to my delight. The Broadchurch star will take over from Peter Capaldi after the Christmas special this year and I honestly can’t wait.

I used to be sceptical about the idea of a “female Doctor”, simply because it’s never happened before. Unless you count Joanna Lumley’s brief stint as The Doctor in a 1999 Comic Relief sketch, which was penned by Steven Moffat himself (current Doctor Who showrunner) which you can view here if you don’t believe me.

It’s also really hard to think of the right person to play The Doctor. They have to be able to play serious, funny, young and old, all at the same time, which is a lot to ask. With the most recent series making many references to women and gender, casting a woman for the next Doctor started to become a likely possibility. So of course I started making casting choices in my head. Katherine Kelly who played Miss Quill in Doctor Who spin-off Class was one of my first choices. I’ve always liked her as an actor and her character in Class always reminded me of The Doctor. Then there was Julie Hesmondhalgh (yes, I seem to go for Coronation Street actors for some reason), who recently starred in Broadchurch alongside Jodie Whittaker. Having seen her both onscreen and onstage (she’s amazing, let’s cast her as Doctor number 14 now), I also thought she might make a good choice. However, Jodie Whittaker is definitely worthy of the role – an unexpected, lovely surprise and going by the mini preview we were shown at Wimbledon, her Doctor is going to be great!

Whilst the majority of Whovians have welcomed the casting with open arms, some people are unhappy with the choice. The decision had sparked a debate online over whether The Doctor should be played by a woman, as male actors have always occupied the role until now.

As a massive Whovian, I’ve been taking any opportunity to speak to as many people as I can about this. And whilst most people in my social circle are happy with the casting, I have encountered some sceptics – which is fine, everyone’s allowed an opinion. In fact, it encouraged some interesting discussion and I thought I’d share some of the things that came up when I explored their issues with the casting:

“The Doctor has always been a man”

I guess this is the most obvious reason for why some people might find the casting of Whittaker jarring. But can we be sure? The most recent series hinted that The Doctor might have been a woman in a previous incarnation. In World Enough and Time, The Doctor talks to his companion, Bill about his years in the Time Lord Academy with The Master:

“She was my man crush. I think she was a man back then. I’m fairly sure that I was too.”

So perhaps this argument is invalid. I mean, The Doctor is a shape-shifting extra-terrestrial being so I don’t think our gender rules apply anyway.

“There won’t be any role models for boys”

Peter Davison, who played the fifth Doctor, expressed this concern recently at a Comic Con event.

But the thing is that women can be role models for men just as men can be role models for women. The Tenth Doctor (played by David Tennant) was my role model growing up – the fact that he was not the same gender as me didn’t make any difference.

Also, companions can be role models as well. What’s to stop there being a male companion this time round? We’ve had Captain Jack, Mickey Smith, Rory Williams – all perfectly good role models for boys and girls alike.

If not, there are plenty of other male role models onscreen – far more than female, for sure.

“What if it doesn’t work out?”

Jodie Whittaker is a great actress, with some impressive roles to her name. As well as starring in the ITV series Broadchurch, which was penned by the new showrunner, Chris Chibnall and starring Doctor Who alumni David Tennant and Arthur Darvill, she has appeared in films such as St Trinian’s, Spike Island and One Day. She has also starred in TV series including Cranford and Black Mirror.

I think it’s important to wait to see what she’s like before we judge her. It’s okay to be sceptical; as is always the case whenever a new Doctor is announced. I remember feeling like this when Matt Smith was declared to replace David Tennant and I thought his shoes would be impossible to fill – turns out he was great after all, and now he’s now confirmed for a starring role in The Crown on Netflix.

But most importantly, I think this is the perfect time for the show to be experimental. With Capaldi and Moffat bowing out at the end of the year, it means that the show can once again rejuvenate itself. I’ve been dipping in and out of the show since Series 7 so it would be great to get hooked again.

Overall, I’m really excited about the casting of Jodie Whittaker. Not because she’s a woman in a man’s role – because let’s face it, writers still need to write more strong lead roles for women rather than casting females in existing roles originally written for men. But because it’s something which might evolve the show further, and that’s something I’m looking forward to. The show is all about change – it’s constantly evolving, hence why it’s managed to stick around for so long. And I can’t wait to see what direction it goes in next.

As sixth Doctor Colin Baker put it: “Change my dears, and not a moment too soon – she is The Doctor whether you like it or not”

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