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Musings on Jodie Whittaker as the new lead in Doctor Who

Back in 2013, Matt Smith was playing the lead in Doctor Who. I was writing opinion pieces for Yahoo! and many of them were about the show. None proved to generate more … er … response than one entitled ‘Is it time for a female Doctor?’.

The idea began because I’d been thoroughly enjoying Alex Kingston’s River Song and seeing a woman play not just a companion to the Doctor but an equal was exciting to me.

A few days after the article went live, something happened that I didn’t see coming: Matt Smith announced he was leaving Doctor Who. The article was suddenly home page news!
And that’s when the comments started…

It will come as no surprise, I’m sure, that many of the comments were far from positive. Many attacked the ‘ridiculous’ notion of a female playing the Doctor. Many attacked me for having the audacity to share my opinion, what with me being a woman and all – the horror!

My personal choice was Olivia Colman, simply because I believe the actor playing the Doctor should have the ability to make your stomach hurt from laughing and still sob hysterically, all within the same five minutes. And I couldn’t think of another actor who could do that as well as Colman could.

And then Peter Capaldi was announced as the next Doctor. And the world kept turning.

But then Missy happened. And the Doctor saw a Timelord regenerate from a man into a woman.

And, you know, 2017 happened.

They said Steven Moffat was leaving and Chris Chibnall was taking over. And the discussion began again as to who would take over the TARDIS. And I thought once more about Olivia Colman (after all, they had worked together on Broadchurch).

And then Who fans sat through half an hour of Sue Barker, screaming for her to stop talking about tennis so we could find out the answer to the question… Doctor Who?

When Jodie Whittaker lowered that hood, my eyes filled with tears and I ran downstairs to a room full of 13 other women who didn’t watch the show screaming ‘IT’S A WOMAN!’ and danced around the kitchen in delight. (I was away for a hen do, in case you were wondering.) Judging by the reaction on Twitter, many other women and men had a similar reaction.

Jodie Whittaker has proven her dramatic talents in Broadchurch (thank you Chris Chibnall!) and was a treat in alien invasion comedy/action film Attack the Block. And I’m really excited to see what she and Chibnall will do with the new series.

After all these years, casting a woman in the role of the Doctor – especially when it has previously been occupied by a man – is a bold and daring choice and one that will no doubt see a sea of hate aimed at Whittaker. And, as is so often the case when a female-led story isn’t seen as ‘perfect’, the woman at the centre of it all will likely be blamed and ridiculous generalisations will be made about women in science-fiction. Because men are allowed to make flops and come back and try again. Women are not usually granted the same courtesy.

So, if you’re a fan of what comes next, you’ll need to be as vocal about that as possible in order to drown out the sea of people who have already decided Whittaker is a bad choice just because she wasn’t born with male genitalia.

And remember, the more showrunners, writers, directors and studios make these ‘brave’ and ‘bold’ casting choices (thank you, Buffy!), the less ‘brave’ and ‘bold’ they will become. Because that is the future I want: one where a woman is cast as the lead in a sci-fi TV show and nobody bats an eyelid.

Roll on Christmas…

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