Posted by Anandi Puritipati
On the 16th of July, as a huge chunk of the world’s TV loving population sat at their computers or television screens waiting for the new season of Game Of Thrones, I was hunched over my phone refreshing the same page over and over, waiting with bated breath for the announcement from BBC. The thirteenth Doctor was ready to step into the spotlight and reveal himself or herself, and I was beside myself with excitement. Despite having been watching the show for less than a year, I am an ardent fan, and The Doctor is my absolute favourite individual in all of fiction. And I just couldn’t wait to see what The Doctor’s new face was going to be.
Doctor Who is a show about giving everyone a chance and treating every person as an individual.
After about an hour of frustrated waiting, punctuated with excited and anticipatory conversation with my fandom friends, the announcement came. I hit play on the video and watched as The Doctor pulled off a hood to reveal a beautiful face, one that didn’t sit right with the image of The Doctor right away, one that didn’t conform to previous incarnations of The Doctor – the face of a woman. The new executive producer and writer Chris Chibnall had done it. He’d finally, finally done it. The Doctor was to regenerate into a woman, and the wonderful actress Jodie Whittaker was to play the role. I was absolutely delighted!
Doctor Who has had a striking history, sprawling over 50 odd years, with incredible actors and actresses telling the awe-inspiring story of an individual who stood alone, or sometimes with a companion, in the universe, as a beacon of hope, of fairness and of kindness. The story of the Doctor is one that needs to be told and listened to, one that has inspired generations of individuals to be better versions of themselves. There is no denying that it was and will always be an epic. But over this half a century, all the Thirteen regenerations of the Doctor have been male.
We’ve seen other Time Lords regenerate into women, we’ve heard about The Doctor possibly having been a little girl at once, and we’ve seen The Master turn into Missy, but all of The Doctor’s incarnations seen on screen have been men. I didn’t really think there was anything wrong with that, until I found out that the Thirteenth Doctor is going to be a woman. Like they say, you find out how badly you’ve missed out on something only after you get to do it.
I was unreservedly enjoying this bit of news, until I decided to get on the internet and see what the fandom’s reaction was. And boy, was it shocking! While there were a lot of people like me, who were incredibly happy to hear about Jodie Whittaker being the new Doctor, there was also a huge chunk of the crowd that was absolutely against this decision taken by the BBC team.
Like they say, you only find out how badly you’ve missed out on something after you get to do it.
“It’s against tradition,” they said, “to have a female Doctor.” There were accusations being thrown about, about how the show had become all about pleasing the millennials and the leftists, and there was outright sexism with comments like “Is the TARDIS gonna be pink now?” or “She’s going to crash the TARDIS in a day!”
"I just can't picture a female doctor!"
It's a fucking TV show mate, they provide the pictures for you
— Jon (@Kirioth) July 16, 2017
At first, I was horrified and angry. It seemed absolutely disgusting to me that these were the things they had to say. Jodie Whittaker is an amazing actress and everyone knows that, but suddenly it was all very irrelevant to the fans. All they seemed to care about was the fact that Jodie was a woman, and therefore, somehow unfit to play the role of the Doctor.
They could believe that The Doctor was an alien who travelled through space and time in a machine that looked like a blue telephone box that was bigger on the inside, and regenerated into another person when it was time for him to die – but him regenerating into a woman was somehow unbelievable! The irony here, sadly, is that Doctor Who is a show about giving everyone a chance and treating every person as an individual.
Oh great a female Doctor Who. What next? Female real doctors? Female pilots? Female scientists? Female sisters and mothers? Female WOMEN?!
— Ḿå℟₭ (@markhoppus) July 16, 2017
As disheartening as the reaction of these fans was, it felt equally heartwarming to see the previous cast of the show – John Barrowman, Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, to name a few, standing up for Jodie. Colin Baker, who played the role of the sixth Doctor in the classic Who series even put out a blog post in support of this decision where he spoke about how wonderful it is that the show finally has a female lead.
Despite everything anyone might have to say about it, representation matters. Quite a lot. And there is an appalling lack of strong female characters in either literature or on TV. For some reason, we still get stuck with the “damsel in distress” trope – always a sidekick, always waiting to be rescued by the strong and ever powerful man. By making Jodie the Doctor, Chris Chibnall is effectively trying to shift the role of the woman from the rescued to the rescuer in the Who-verse and that’s something!
Doctor Who is a show that has always been adored by children. Generations of little boys have looked up to the character of the Doctor, including actors like David Tennant and Peter Capaldi, and they eventually grew up to play their hero on TV. They’ve spoken, on many an occasion, about how Doctor Who helped shape their dreams and aspirations as kids. With Jodie as the Doctor, little girls all over the world will learn that they can be heroes, too. They’ll know that them being girls won’t stop them from being like The Doctor. They’ll have a wonderful character to look up to, to be like, to act out when they play… to aspire to become. And that, in my very honest opinion, is priceless.
It’s about time we took some advice from The Doctor and tried to get past our petty obsession with gender and its associated stereotypes. I can not wait to see what Jodie does as The Doctor and how this change is going to affect the story to come! I also hope that this shift leads to future incarnations of the Doctor being cast with men and women of colour because PoC representation matters just as much.
With Jodie as the Doctor, little girls will learn that they can be heroes too.
P.S: And while I am definitely against anything anyone might have to say about how Jodie being the Doctor is wrong, there is one argument I can get behind!
Absolutely furious. Can't believe they've cast a human to play the Doctor.
— realmattlucas (@RealMattLucas) July 16, 2017
Alright Nardole, maybe they should have put an audition up for Time Lords only.
Anandi is a fourth year student at IIT Madras, majoring in Biological Engineering. She enjoys reading, writing about reading, and the occasional binge. She blogs here.