Response to The New Doctor

Jodie Whittaker becomes first female Doctor

I guess I’m a bit late to the party on this one seeing as she was officially announced as the new Doctor on Sunday 16th July 2017 but I didn’t want to rush to an opinion and frankly I wanted to wait until everyone else has had their say before I reacted and I feel like two months is an acceptable waiting time for everyone else to have their go before I respond. I don’t expect my opinion to be controversial or to really change any minds but please have a read and hopefully you’ll agree with me. 

What made me decide today specifically was the day I wanted to talk about my response to the new Doctor was that I spent last night watching ‘The Thick of It’ and I was thinking that despite being unsure about him initially I felt that Peter Capaldi was a fine Doctor and I was sad that he was leaving. But just because I’d rather he wasn’t it doesn’t change things and so as I said the new Doctor was announced, Jodie Whittaker will be taking over the role from Capaldi during the Christmas Special ‘Twice Upon a Time’ and I’m sure that’s going to be a wonderful Christmas gift for all the people that call themselves fans.

Before I actually talk about my feelings on Jodie Whittaker taking over the role I want to quickly mention that I don’t really like the whole announcement process, I mean I guess it’s good to know in advance because it allows people to shape opinions (which can be good or bad) but I think announcing it particularly months ahead of their first appearance also takes something away from the whole thing because there’s no surprise to it. I’ll tell you what it’s like, it’s like when TV networks run a marathon of an old TV show and show a cliffhanger episode and immediately afterwards its conclusion, sure there’s part of you that’s glad for the resolution of the story but it was designed to be a tease, you were meant to wait for the next part. But as I said I’m sure they have their reasons for telling us way before the fact but for me I’d rather not know and be surprised by the reveal when it actually happens.

I think that this decision has caused a considerable amount of controversy owing to the fact that the new Doctor has the audacity to be a woman. It seems our centuries old alien with a Binary vascular system can be played by a Scotsman or an Englishman, nationality doesn’t matter clearly because it’s the man part that’s important right? But seriously what is the issue with it, Doctor is a gender neutral term and so reasonably anyone should be able to step into the iconic role…as long as they are qualified if you’ll allow me to extend a metaphor. And so what qualifies you to be The Doctor, assuming we’re talking about the acting role and not being a real time traveller with a screwdriver and a box, well all that really matters is the calibre of the person, basically who they are and what they’d bring to the role. In this case all we need is someone who can still do all of the running about and the speeches and is still that mad (wo)man with a box. It really doesn’t matter what gender the actor is, or whether they are black or white because to the character it’s all just variations on a shape.

What I’m trying to get at is that it shouldn’t be a matter of whether or not an actor is a man or woman but rather whether they can actually act and whether they are capable of doing the specifics of the job and in both those cases I think Jodie Whittaker more than meets the requirements. If you don’t agree with me then actually ask yourself the questions…can she act? I’d say yes, take a look at her roles in things like Attack the Block and Black Mirror for a start and you’d be hard pressed to deny that she can handle comedy and drama very well. Now the other big question is could she handle a role on Doctor Who? After all it’s practically a British institution and that will most likely come with additional pressures. Well I think the answer to this one again is yes, her arrival on Doctor Who coincides with another big change, Chris Chibnall taking over as executive producer and head writer and it’s clear from the work they did together on Broadchurch that they work well together and have a good working relationship and Chibnall has made it clear he will be changing things now that he’s running the show so it stands to reason that because they have worked well in the past they will work well together again and so I think, although I may be proven wrong, that she’ll adapt well to working on Doctor Who.

Now I was thinking about the reasons why they decided to go with a female Doctor and it occurred to me that it might have been influenced at least in part by the response to Missy (the female incarnation of The Master) who was a surprise hit for fans and an exciting and interesting portrayal of the old Doctor Who baddie. I might be wrong but I feel that they decided to make The Master into a woman to test the waters and see how people react because assuming it hadn’t gone down well a secondary character is significantly easier to remove and replace or in this case regenerate than a leading character. But since the fan response to Missy was quite good I think that it definitely influenced their decision to put more of the fairer sex in the TARDIS. I do think that was probably a bit of a silly assumption, there is no guarantee that because one woman, also an incredibly talented actress, was good and well received that Jodie Whittaker would be as well, particularly since she was stepping into much bigger shoes and so there’d be far more scrutiny on her but I do feel that it was wise to see ahead of time whether the swapping of a typically male character into a female character would go over well.

Overall though I don’t think it’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a thing and it’s about bloody time but what I do have an issue with is that it might just be a token gesture, what’s almost as bad as keeping women out of jobs because of misogynistic and patriarchal reasons is hiring them exclusively to tick boxes. I don’t think things should be any easier or harder for a woman than a man, the ideal situation should be that everyone’s equal and if this was just a gesture then it serves to perpetuate the idea that a woman can’t do things on their own merits when nothing could be further from the truth. But to sum up I think that Jodie Whittaker will make an excellent Doctor but only time will tell…and with that shit attempt at a joke I’m done.

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