Why it matters that Doctor Who's 13th Time Lord is a woman

Why it matters that Doctor Who's 13th Time Lord is a woman

Jodie Whittaker joins Star Wars' Daisy Ridley and Wonder Woman's Gal Gadot among the ranks of women taking on the sci-fi and fantasy genres


Jodie Whittaker has told fans not to be afraid of the shows changes
Photo: AFP

As soon as Peter Capaldi announced that the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas Special would mark his departure from the show, people began speculating about who would replace him. Plenty, including writer Mark Gatiss, former companions Billie Piper and Karen Gillan, and Capaldi himself, aired their support for a female Doctor. But people made a similar case last time around too, and when it didn't happen, it was starting to seem like pigs, or perhaps Daleks, might fly. 

But now Daleks can fly, so what have we been waiting for? 

Well, lo and behold, the BBC has announced that Jodie Whittaker will be the next actor to take on the role of the Doctor. Naturally, the internet had some things to say about the fact that the Thirteenth Doctor will be played by a woman, with some from the murkiest depths of twitter calling for a boycott against the show.

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But for the rest of us, not only is the change long overdue, it’s also possibly the only thing that can save the series, which has been losing momentum of late. Considering Doctor Who first aired in 1963 and returned to our screens in 2005, we’ve been fairly patient. But if we had been met with the news of yet another actor from the same demographic being cast, it would have been hard not to feel extremely let down. 

Of course, it’s only right to point out that while some have indeed been waiting 54 years for a female doctor, others will have to continue to wait to see an actor of colour taking on the role – that is absolutely a valid criticism. But this is nevertheless a step in the right direction. 

Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie are the show's current Doctor and companion
Photo: BBC Worldwide

One argument against the casting is that having a ‘Time Lady’ - as some are referring to the new Doctor - affects the continuity of the show. But Doctor Who does not need to worry about continuity. It is constantly inventing new loopholes and breaking with tradition. Flying Daleks is just the tip of the iceberg: gone are the days when you could escape them just by running up a flight of stairs (yep, that really was their Achilles’ heel during the show’s first run). My point is, the show has always known how to move with the times, and this should be no different. The doctor’s current companion, Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), is a perfect example of this. A queer black woman, Mackie’s character has been a welcome addition to the show after a slow decline in ratings. The immensely talented Whittaker will equally be a much-needed breath of fresh air.

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Really, there is no reason why within the realms of the show's ‘reality’ the Doctor shouldn’t or couldn’t be a woman. After all, the Doctor is an alien. This is a futuristic sci-fi series where the possibilities are truly endless. If you can suspend your disbelief enough to accept that the Doctor has a police box able to travel through time and space, that he has two hearts and knows how to cheat death, then surely you can come round the notion that he could regenerate into a female form. 

Doctor Who has a staunch (and vocal) fan base, but it’s also a prime-time TV show watched by families. It answers not only to the fandom but to its younger generation of viewers. Everyone has a favourite doctor whom they consider to be their doctor. I personally have never been able to get over David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor (*sobs*). For a new generation, Jodie Whittaker will fulfil that role. She is not a ‘female’ doctor; she is the Doctor. Young viewers won't even question what gender the Doctor ought to be. 

As a kid, I dreamed of being the doctor’s companion. But today’s young girls will dream of actually being the Doctor. They can be Wonder Women, and now they can be Time Lords. 



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