Doctor Who? Doctor Woohoo!
A regeneration. Always a nerve-wracking and exciting moment for a Whovian. Last week I sat on my couch watching my Twitter feed to see the first look at the new Doctor. While I was watching the video, my 3-year-old daughter climbed into my lap to watch with me. When she saw the TARDIS she exclaimed: “Look, the Doctor’s house!” Smiling, I rewound the clip to show the image of Jodie Whittaker’s face, pointed to her and replied, “yes and that is the Doctor.” Whittaker’s Doctor will be particularly significant in my household, as she will the be the first Doctor my young daughters remember.
The path to a female doctor has been a long one. A regeneration into a female body has been an idea for the creators of Doctor Who since the mid-1980’s. In 1986, the creator of Doctor Who, Sydney Newman suggested that the Doctor should regenerate as a female. The idea reportedly has been considered multiple times, yet it has taken over 30 years from the original discussion for it to come to pass. Fans will note that the Doctor regenerating as a female has been suggested since Matt Smith’s doctor was first introduced in Journey’s End as he exclaimed “Hair! I’m a girl! No, I’m not a girl.” In the episode entitled ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ it was confirmed that time lords could regenerate as a different gender. Since these hints have been dropped fans have been awaiting a female Doctor.
Now we finally have a female Doctor. Many fans have been worried about the reactions from the community regarding the gender switch. It seems worry was not needed. The vast majority of fans seem to be excited about this change. More fans seem interested in discussing their hopes for the show’s new creative lead Chris Chibnall, than discussing the gender change as that does not seem to be much of a concern.
Indeed, many fans (myself included) were excited, then lamented “still not a ginger!”
I watched several, okay maybe an embarrassing amount, of videos of fans watching the reveal of the new Doctor (My favorites are embedded below). The fan reactions drove something home to me, how much the fan base wanted this. Watching the videos one emotion is seen time and time again, delight. Eyes wide, mouths agape, grasping for words, and unfiltered joy were on face after face. Many noted that they had tears in their eyes after the reveal. The reactions of both men and women showed delight, the women though showed another set of emotions: relief and excitement. It feels as though women have finally been acknowledged and allowed a full place at the table of Doctor Who fandom.
Some of my favorite reactions:
Dr. Role Model
Having role models and icons to look up to is important. Seeing fictional characters that we can identify with helps us expand the idea of what is possible for us to do and to be. In the science fiction world, women have had some role models to include Nyota Uhura, Buffy Summers, and to Starbuck in the remake of Battle Star Galicia. Yet there is no denying that men have always had a greater number and wider variety of characters to choose from. A female Doctor is a big step in the right direction. I noted that Whittaker’s Doctor will be the first my girls remember, and I could not be happier. My girls will be able to imagine themselves as the sonic screwdriver wheedling problem-solving superhero The Doctor. I see the Doctor as a superhero and one of the best. The Doctor possesses two hears and uses a screwdriver to fix things. The Doctor spreads hope and inspires the best in those around him/her.
Progress, but Enough?
I would like to pause here and note that while Whittaker’s Doctor is pushing boundaries by being female, she is still a white actor. Some are stating their disappointment that the show did not push the boundary far enough with this casting choice, and they have a valid point. Though the Doctor’s traveling companions have been a mix of different races and genders most have been shallow and underdeveloped, not exactly the stuff of role models (with a few notable exceptions: Donna Noble, Amy Pond I’m looking at you!).
So while women finally get a chance to see themselves represented more in the show, minorities are still left waiting. I hope that Whittaker paves the way for further boundary expansion.This reveal has been news, and big news at that, I look forward to the day when a female playing such a role is not news.
When it is normal for a man or woman to be in the role of the Doctor that will be a wonderful day. Further, when it isn’t big news that the female actor playing the Doctor will be paid the same as the male she is replacing that too will be a wonderful day.
While we wait for Peter Capaldi’s run as The Doctor to come to an end this December, fans now must sit back and answer another important question: what will the 13th Doctor’s sonic screwdriver look like?