Dr Who’s 13th Time Lord is Jodie Whittaker

Time Lady: “It feels overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human.” © BBC

For over 50 years, wearing 12 different faces, the Doctor has travelled through time and space in a mad blue box. Now Doctor Who has announced its 13th lead actor — and its first ever woman.

Yesterday afternoon, while Britain’s tennis fans anxiously waited to find out who would be crowned this year’s male Wimbledon champion, sci-fi enthusiasts had a very different question. Who will play the next Doctor in BBC’s Doctor Who?

As Roger Federer lifted the trophy, the nation held its breath — and then the moment arrived. A short video showed a hooded figure walking through the forest. Finally, she showed her face: 35-year-old Jodie Whittaker, previously best known for ITV’s Broadchurch.

It is the first time that a woman will take on the role. “It’s more than an honour to play the Doctor,” she told the BBC. “It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope.”

She will make her first appearance during this year’s Christmas special.

Since 1963, Doctor Who has followed the adventures of a time-travelling alien who belongs to a species known as the Time Lords. Using a machine called the TARDIS, the Doctor can travel to any time or place in the universe. When Time Lords die, their body “regenerates” into a new form, and until now the Doctor has always looked like a man — but no longer.

The departing showrunner, Steven Moffat, has been laying the groundwork for a female Doctor throughout the last few seasons. The Master — an old enemy of the Doctor — regenerated into a woman nicknamed Missy.

And in the latest season’s penultimate episode, the Doctor explained to his companion, Bill, that Time Lords are “the most civilised civilisation in the universe; we’re billions of years beyond your petty obsession with gender and its associated stereotypes.”

The reaction to yesterday’s news online was immediate; joy and outrage were expressed in almost equal measure.

Is a female Doctor really a good idea?

Who’s who

“Of course!” cry some. Twelve white men have played this role for more than half a century. Now the show’s ratings are declining rapidly; if it wants to stay relevant for another 50 years, it needs to keep things fresh. A female Doctor is a great start — she will send a message that women can do anything they want, even time travel. And the decision is in keeping with the true spirit of the Doctor: brave, non-judgemental, and willing to take risks.

This is a big mistake, respond others. There are many fans who simply cannot picture the Doctor as a woman — why drive them away when the show is going through such a difficult period? The decision smacks of a show that has caved to political pressure. And as for role models, the Doctor was one of the few male heroes who relied on wit rather than weapons to solve his problems. It will be a shame to lose the example he set for young boys.

You Decide

  1. Was this the right decision?
  2. How important is it for children to see heroes who look like them?

Activities

  1. List the three actors or actresses that you would most like to see play the Doctor. Compare your choices with the person next to you.
  2. Choose your favourite character in your favourite TV show. Then rewrite an important scene by swapping that character’s gender. How might they react differently to their situation?

Some People Say...

“That would be like casting the role of the Queen with a man.”

Steven Moffat, on casting a female doctor in 2013

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Whittaker will step into the role on December 25th, 2017. Peter Capaldi will leave, along with the current showrunner Steven Moffat. His replacement, Chris Chibnall, said he always intended to cast a woman for his first Doctor. The latest season received an average of 5.45 million viewers per episode in the UK, down from a peak of 8.05 million in 2008.
What do we not know?
We do not know how long Whittaker will play the role, who her companion will be, or anything about her storyline. We also do not know whether a female Doctor will hurt or improve Doctor Who’s ratings. On social media, many fans have declared that the BBC has lost viewers. However, many others have said they will now start watching. It is unclear which side will prove larger (or stick to their word.)

Word Watch

Broadchurch
A detective series which was created by Chris Chibnall, the man who will be taking Steven Moffat’s job as Doctor Who showrunner in December. Broadchurch also starred the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant. Chibnall has said that Whittaker was his first choice for the role.
TARDIS
The time machine’s name stands for “Time And Relative Dimension In Space”. It takes the form of an old-fashioned Police Box, and is much bigger on the inside than it appears.
Regenerates
The show originally stated that the Doctor can only regenerate 12 times. However, Moffat got around this in 2013 by making the Time Lords bestow a new cycle of regenerations onto the Doctor.
Steven Moffat
The writer and director took over from Russell T. Davies in 2010, after Davies rebooted the show in its modern format. Moffat is also the man behind the BBC’s popular Sherlock series.
Companion
The Doctor almost always travels with at least one human assistant, or “companion”. These have mostly been women. So far it is unclear whether Whittaker’s Doctor will choose a male companion to travel with her.

Subjects

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