Doctor Who as a woman really isn't "controversial," and is kinda cool

Doctor Who, the legendary British TV hero, is now a woman. BBC announced Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor on Sunday, praising her talents as an actress and the “historicalness” of the casting.

Chris Chibnall, New Head Writer and Executive Producer says :

“After months of lists, conversations, auditions, recalls, and a lot of secret-keeping, we’re excited to welcome Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor.

I always knew I wanted the Thirteenth Doctor to be a woman and we’re thrilled to have secured our number one choice. Her audition for The Doctor simply blew us all away. Jodie is an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force of nature and will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role. The Thirteenth Doctor is on her way.”

Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content says :

“Making history is what Doctor Who is all about and Chris Chibnall’s bold new take on the next Time Lord is exactly that. The nation is going to fall in love with Jodie Whittaker – and have lots of fun too!”

Moore’s comment is more about getting as much publicity as possible, much like when Marvel announced Thor was going to be a female in 2014. It’s meant to get people talking, and the words “bold new take,” is typical fare for public relations. If you look at the announcements of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, and Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, the news releases are pretty similar with the Whittaker one. The comments would be made if a guy was named the new Doctor. It’s the nature of PR.

Let’s be honest, it’s really not that controversial that Whittaker was cast as Doctor Who. Yes, she’s the first woman to take on the role, but this isn’t like Bruce Wayne being replaced as Batman by Dick Grayson. Whenever Time Lords regenerate (aka die and come back), they become completely new characters with new personalities, quirks, and methods. Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor was completely different from Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, just like William Hartnell’s First Doctor was different from Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor. Grayson may be a different character than Wayne, but the legacy of Wayne’s Batman will always weigh heavily on him. Time Lords don’t worry about that stuff, so it’s a different situation.

It’s also been established in Doctor Who lore that Time Lords can change genders when they regenerate. Doctor Who’s chief antagonist, “The Master,” was recast as “The Mistress” or “Missy,” a few years ago. It could have been a trial balloon for a future female Doctor, or just a decision to try something different. But it worked. Michelle Gomez had an excellent chemistry with Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi, and did an excellent job in the role. The relationship between the two seemed to become more of a respectful rivalry, as the show progressed, not completely one of bitter enemies, as previous incarnations. It’s another example of the new characters and new personalities in Doctor Who.

Would the show runners have been more gun shy to do a female Doctor if “Missy” was poorly received? Possibly, but that’s pure speculation. It’s possible the fact there were petitions calling for a female Doctor made the decision even easier. Viewers loved “Missy,” so why not try a female Doctor? Nothing wrong with that. It’s honestly kinda cool the new Doctor will be a female. It gives a bit of a different perspective on the franchise, and could also bring more fans in. The change may not even be permanent, and it could be BBC does a couple iterations of female Doctors before going back to a male Doctor. Or changes it every other iteration.

The key is going to be the writing and acting itself. Whittaker has been praised for her acting ability on Who show runner Chris Chibnall’s Broadchurch, which is also pretty well regarded. If the writing is taut, the acting top notch, and the overarching story good, then people will love it. One thing people should not rush to judgment on is whether Whittaker’s casting is a success or failure immediately. Doctor Who fans are pretty particular. There’s an old joke Whovians will pretty much “hate” the new Doctor before falling in love by the time it’s announced a new iteration will take over.

There’s no real controversy to naming Whittaker the new Doctor, and I hope she’s successful in the role. The BBC has had success with female characters, mainly because they’re written well, including The Sarah Jane Adventures, which only ended because lead actress Elisabeth Sladen died of cancer. It’s a bit of a risk, but a well-calculated one which could go well, as long as acting, writing, etc. comes together.

No, the real controversy in the naming of the new Doctor is the fact a ginger wasn’t cast as the lead. THAT is a travesty of the highest order, and shame on BBC for not being willing to take the risk.