The announcement of the next actor to play the Doctor is always eagerly anticipated by fans. It is also always analysed in the aftermath, with some full of excitement, while there will always be some who are critical or sceptical. The announcement of the thirteenth Doctor was bound to catch a lot of attention. With Steven Moffat leaving the show – to be replaced by Chris Chibnall – and a new doctor, the next series could provide the opportunity to revitalise the show. That meant a lot was riding on the casting of the thirteenth Doctor.
I, like many, felt the show begun to go downhill when Steven Moffat became the show’s head writer. Undoubtedly, he has written some amazing episodes for the Doctor Who. The Matt Smith years were enjoyable, though bogged down by some complicated series plot arcs. Peter Capaldi made an excellent doctor, but wasn’t always given the best opportunity to shine, and didn’t gel well with Jenna Coleman. The introduction of Bill provided a spark. A plucky and entertaining companion, combined with some excellent writing, made the latest series a dramatic improvement on the previous couple. Yet, it still felt like the show could be better.
There were many a suggestion – and some not very subtle hints in the latest series’ dialogue – that the next doctor would be a woman. When the announcement trailer aired (ironically, after the men’s Wimbledon final, which is arguably always promoted and hailed more than the women’s final), and the hood was pulled down to reveal the thirteenth doctor as Jodie Whittaker, the internet exploded with a mixture of reactions. From elation, to horror, to deflation, the public gave their judgement through social media. Some said it would stop them watching the show, that Doctor Who was dead to them. This, I felt, was quite an unfair pronouncement. Can’t they at least watch one episode and then pass judgement? Many felt it was about time a woman was cast. Many praised the casting of a woman in the role for the first time as a win for equality.
The headlines – the thirteenth Doctor a woman. This is why there is no victory. The headlines were not – Jodie Whittaker cast as the next Doctor. The emphasis was placed on the fact a woman had been cast. All this does, is highlight that feminism is not finished. Women have far more rights and face less prejudices than they did a hundred years ago. But we are not equal. The Doctor is a regenerating alien and, as seen through the regeneration of the Master into a woman, can change gender as much a matter of course as changing height, or hair colour, or eye colour. The casting of a woman is, to me, undoubtedly a good thing. The issue is that Jodie Whittaker’s credentials as an actor are overshadowed by her gender in the media.
With multiple big changes happening to Doctor Who, the next series could either mark the revitalisation or demise of the show. If throughout the series it is constantly referred to how the Doctor is now a woman, it could be a disaster. It could be like having political correctness shoved down our throats. If it is treated like a normal regeneration (albeit of course with some reference to the change of gender, it is bound to be a surprise to the Doctor!) with another great actor taking the reins, then it could be a great move. Having enjoyed Broadchurch – both Chibnall’s story and Whittaker’s acting – I have hopes for the next series. Let’s hope the number 13 revives the show, and doesn’t cause its demise.