Ladies and gentleman – a break from my focus on classic (and missing Doctor Who) to comment on the social media breaking news that Broadchurch actor Jodie Whittaker is to become the first female incarnation of Doctor Who.
First of all, let’s give Jodie a massive amount of credit and respect. Being the Doctor is an absolute massive and lifechanging job in any circumstances. To become the first female incarnation of the iconic character is a challenge comparable to the one Patrick Troughton faced in 1966 when he had to persuade a new generation of fans that he was the Doctor. The scrutiny and pre-judgement will be even higher than usual, and from the start we must recognise and applaud the fact that Jodie is prepared to face that.
I also have to take a moment to lecture myself, amongst other sections of Doctor Who fandom. Despite my well documented reservations regarding Time Lord genders (read here and here for example) Jodie deserves to be given a chance to show what she can do with the role. Tuning in next year determined to find flaws is entirely unfair to her, and to the production team; they deserve the chance to wow us, and to demonstrate that a female Doctor can work. I am 100% sure nobody would have believed that Troughton becoming Doctor would work before it happened, and equally 100% certain fans are very glad that the BBC took the risk.
That said, I still confess to feeling sad. I really cannot get past reconciling grandfatherly Hartnell, mad uncle Pat, or gentlemanly Jon, with a female lead. As I had said with Michelle Gomez as Missy, the issue is character continuity – Missy is brilliant, but I really don’t see the same character as Roger Delgado in her. I’m hoping for the best, hoping to be surprised, even to be delighted; but I am not expectant.
I will try to finish on a positive and uplifting note however – which is to appeal to people to heed what Peter Capaldi advised in the final episode of Series 10: Be Kind.
There’s a horrible amount of nastiness flying around at the moment – whether old-fashioned fogeys (like me!) grumbling about the TARDIS being filled with bras; feminists gloating at the discomfort of men; accusations and counter-accusations that ‘It’s not your show’ or ‘If you refuse to watch it, then we’re better off without you!’ People! Get over yourselves! If you allow yourself to treat other people horribly, however egregiously stupid the other person is behaving, you’re forgetting that it’s only a TV show, and that one of the fundamental defining characteristics of the show’s lead is his (and shortly, her) fundamental regard for kindness and compassion.
So whether you’re celebrating or commiserating, let’s at least agree on three things: Jodie Whittaker deserves our congratulations; the 13th Doctor deserves a chance; and fans deserve to be treated kindly.