Image shamelessly borrowed off a news site – hope no one minds.
She is Jodie Whittaker.
She is the Doctor.
And what exactly is the problem with that?
Well according to a lot of the internet, most particularly the white male population on the internet – quite a lot, but let’s have a look at the situation with just a touch more critical analysis, shall we?
Right I suppose I should start with an admission – when I heard talk of possibly having either a black or female Doctor, I was uncertain if it would work. This was back before Capaldi was picked – and on that topic, have to say Capaldi was brilliant, he was everything and more than a classic Doctor or a Nu-Who should be. He rivals both Tom Baker and David Tennant in my affections for who is the best Who. I also don’t want Capaldi to leave, I think he has way more to give to the role and has been hampered by some damp squib scripts this last season, but I’ve digressed enough and there is a reason why I’ve stated this here.
Yeah, so point was, I’m a middle-class, middle-aged (hate that), white woman and I wasn’t sure about a radical change in the nature of the Doctor. Then I thought about it for five minutes and realised I was the one being stupid.
The Doctor is a regenerating, time-travelling alien. His world is much bigger than ours. He travels to worlds even Hubble can’t see. He goes to times we will never live to number. He is way beyond anything of human existence. He’s allowed to be – after all – he’s not real!
But let’s bring a little reality into this anyway. Do that, then you start to think about the scientific world and the nature of evolution. The reason that we have different races on Earth with huge variations in nothing more important than skin colour from ebony to porcelain, is because human skin reacts to the amount of UV it receives. But that is only skin deep, i.e. surface level, i.e. it doesn’t matter.
So what if the Doctor did become a black man? Would it matter to me? Did it matter when I was disappointed to hear Matt Smith had got the role? Yes, but I kept watching and soon realised that he was still The Doctor and his youth wasn’t a barrier to me enjoying the series. At the time Idris Elba was being talked about as a potential Doctor, but I didn’t know who he was, hadn’t seen him in anything at that point, but now I have, and he’s a good actor and he could fill the role. And that’s what matters, can the actor act? And if the answer is yes, then skin colour is not a barrier.
But I’m not leaving the scientific yet. Evolution is not and Earth Science, there are plenty of theories about how life might evolve on other planets, and despite what we see on fictional TV, most of these theories do not result in bipedal humanoid species. So why should the Doctor who can travel anywhere, any when, be bipedal humanoid? If he’s going to move freely among the two headed, why shouldn’t he have two heads? Or three legs or be a quadruped? Or a blog in a spray painted bubble-wrap costume? We put up with that for villains, why not for heroes?
The reason – budgets and availability – and the bubble wrap burst with every movement, so much so even with the shaky sets you have to feel extra sorry for Tom Baker and Elizabeth Sladen in that one. Also, humans are the only actors other humans can understand. Why not bung the Doctor under a load of prosthetics? Well, heat, discomfort, time and money all jump to mind. And even though motion capture and CGI are utterly spectacular these days – a dotted up Andy Serkis for the next Doctor! Or even undotted, he’d be dotty either way – and brilliant. But again that is still a very expensive way to go.
Let’s dip now into cannon. Twelve (the great Capaldi) started his tenure with the line:
“Kidneys! I’ve got new kidneys! I don’t like the colour.”
Now that should tell the astute listener that the internal organs can change. So if the internal organs can change, why can’t testicles become ovaries? And don’t get hung up on the idea either, there is a precedent. In human babies we all start female, then something changes and roughly 50% turn male and that’s when what would have been ovaries become testicles. So if it can work that way in humans, why can’t it go the other way in Time Lords?
And if we are going to talk about cannon and precedent, we have to have a look at Missy, as played wonderfully by Michelle Gomez. I was uncertain who this mad woman was to start with, we all were, but when she revealed herself, it wasn’t a shock, was it? And there again, didn’t she just make the most marvelous Master ever? And yes there were some grumblings about how the Master wouldn’t change sex, but that was a mere blip on the radar compared to what’s been happening with the idea of a female doctor. So what are we effectively saying here? It’s okay for a woman to be the villain, but they can’t be the hero? You might want to have a word with Diana Prince about that one, or Sue Storm, or Kitty Pride, or Emma Peel, or – you know what, the list does go on, but hopefully everyone’s getting the point. Even the guy grumbling in his mother’s basement.
So, it would appear that both according to cannon and logic, a female Doctor is acceptable. So what other arguments are there?
The English language. Eh? Yep, the English language itself has been given as a reason not to have a female Doctor as it means we can no longer say every time ‘he’ regenerates. Well, I have to say, that there is a bit of failing in the English language that we have no gender neutral – oh wait – we do. It’s ‘it’. Now, to take another SciFi classic, in Star Trek, specifically in the books about The Excalibur, they have a character who is both male and female, who is referred to as ‘s/he.’ No, I’m not sure how you pronounce it either, but it gets over the issue. The Doctor is an alien who doesn’t conform to our rigid ways of thinking so why can’t we call the Doctor, it or s/he? Perhaps that is too ‘out there’ thinking. Well here’s a thought, why not call The Doctor, The Doctor? After all, that is a gender neutral term. Oh and just one clarification – the gender neutral term is – as much as I hate to say it – ‘he’. So get over it.
That’s language, so what about numbers? Chronologically, Jodie is way past the 13th actor to play the Doctor, but that, cannon-wise, will be her regnal number. 13. Unlucky for some. Is 13 going to be unlucky for being a woman? Oh get real, it’s just another number and let’s face it, she couldn’t make the series crash and burn any faster than Sylvester McCoy did. Loved Ace, but let’s face it, the only decent Dr McCoy is on the Enterprise.
To recap, there’s no good reason why the doctor can’t be female. As long as the actor can act, why would colour or gender make a difference?
Which leaves a very specific question – is Jodie Whittaker the right woman for the job? I have seen Jodie Whittaker do both comedy (St Trinians) and drama (Broadchurch) and I think she was good in both, so why wouldn’t she be good as the Doctor? There is a question as to why not cast a complete unknown? Well, that’s easy too, Doctor Who is a huge role. It makes a major impact on the actor’s career, and you need to have an actor who can deal with that, i.e. one who is established and isn’t going to crash spectacularly out of the show for some reason.
Last question – am I uncertain about Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor? Of course I am. But not because she’s a woman, not because the Doctor can’t be a woman, I’m worried because if there is any problem with the next Doctor Who series the blame will land solely on Jodie Whittaker’s shoulders even if the truth is that the writing is shite. (Chibnall, I’m making a point not accusing you of anything!)
Well here’s the one thing all the fans should remember; we don’t control this series, the series makers do. The decision has been made and all we can do is wait to see what happens. Only time will really tell if this was a good or bad decision and isn’t that just what Doctor Who is about? Regardless of who plays the Doctor?
So, she is Jodie Whittaker
She is the Doctor.
And I, for one, am looking forward to seeing her.