Editorial: Unlucky 13–My Problems With Jodie Whittaker

jodie whittakerWell, it happened. A couple weeks ago, the new Doctor was announced. And it’s Jodie Whittaker, the first woman to ever play the role. And what happened? Exactly what I predicted. This is why I didn’t want a 13th Doctor. This is why I said it would kill the show. Many fans are rage quitting, although some don’t care. And Radio Times is saying “If you don’t accept her, you’re not a real fan.” (Real smooth) Some fans like myself are claiming that Doctor Who is once again caving in to pressure from special interest people and giving in to the new gender politics. Some of my fellow Christian fans of Doctor Who have considered this the final betrayal and are giving up on the show entirely. I’m conflicted myself.  As I said, I didn’t want this. But I also said I’d watch to see if I’m proven wrong.

First, let’s refute some arguments. No, I don’t have a problem with a female lead. I currently watch Bones, Supergirl, and Jessica Jones.  And one of my favorite Star Trek spin-offs was Voyager.

I also don’t mind gender swaps when they work. The Doctor Strange movie had Tilda Swinton playing The Ancient One, who was originally male in the comics. That idea wouldn’t have worked in the movie, because he was stereotypically drawn to look like the typical Asian character–Fu Man Chu mustache, yellow skin, you know the look. That would’ve led to more problems, and Swinton was up to the challenge. Voltron: Legendary Defender changed Pidge into a girl named Katie Holt, who now uses Pidge as an alias. This was fine because the original Pidge was an androgynous effeminate boy, so I think making her a tomboy works better.

No, my problem is that I perceived the Doctor’s masculinity as part of his character. To all you women who love this idea, I want to ask you something. Let’s say they rebooted the Alien movies, and had Vin Diesel playing Ellen Ripley. That would be a bad idea because the whole point of those movies is that Ellen, a woman, is saving the day instead of a man. It’d reduce the movies to a generic sci-fi action flick and nullify its significance.

To me, this feels like a stunt. Doctor Who’s ratings haven’t been all that great since Peter Capaldi began his era. The last two episodes lost out to Antiques Roadshow of all things! It’s an attempt to boost the ratings through controversy.

However, I talked with a couple friends who were fine with the change. They reminded me that the Ninth Doctor said he didn’t know what he’d regenerate into. The Eleventh Doctor, upon regeneration, initially thought he was a girl until he checked for an Adam’s apple. And of course, before that we had Missy. If the Master could change genders, why not The Doctor? We have to remember the Doctor’s not human.

Besides, this is NOT a new idea, I’ve discovered. In the 70’s Sydney Newman, one of Doctor Who’s co-creators, suggested a female Doctor after Pertwee stepped out of the role. In the late 80’s after Colin Baker was fired, the idea was proposed again, but because the ratings were so poor, they decided not to break tradition and went with Sylvester McCoy instead.

Hear me out–I have rarely accepted the new Doctor right away. When I was a kid and Peter Davison took over, I was confused because I didn’t know this was a common thing. (My PBS affiliate was years behind the actual show) Colin Baker came in, and his first episode was one I couldn’t get past because he strangled Peri. Sylvester McCoy didn’t work with me until Ace joined. When the show was revived with Eccleston, I was unhappy because I never got to see Paul McGann. Even Tennant and Matt Smith I didn’t like at first. Capaldi was the only Doctor I was 100% on board with. And now I’m thinking Chris Chibnall is more interested in controversy than good story-telling.

I’m not leaving. I’m a fan, and fans don’t leave. I stuck with lots of shows that weren’t doing well, like Heroes. (I wish I didn’t. Ugh, that show went downhill!) Instead, I’m issuing a challenge. Jodie Whittaker, I want you to prove me wrong. I will go into Series 11 with an open mind, as I always have. However, if it becomes what I fear, I don’t know.

Please, Chris Chibnall, and Jodie Whittaker, prove me wrong. Oh, and next time, please make the Doctor ginger, OK?


5 comments on “Editorial: Unlucky 13–My Problems With Jodie Whittaker

  1. Thank you for being one of the few who realizes that a female Doctor is NOT a new idea. I am of course grateful that the Fourth was not a woman, just so Tom Baker would be the classic Fourth, but really around the Sixth Doctor era I myself at least wondered if a female Doctor and male Companion would have been a good way to go.

    Agreed, any real Whovian will give this a chance.

  2. Like you and Daven, Jason, I too am an old-school Whovian who remembers that the discussions over the Doctor regenerating as a woman were happening long, long ago. But that fuels some of my confusion over your reaction–and you and I have even discussed it. But this editorial reads as far more, shall we say, close-minded than our discussions have. How can someone who realizes that the idea of cross-gender regenerations is both not new and completely canonical think this is stunt casting? What it is, is an avenue of storytelling that society, particularly British society, might not have tolerated in DW before now. And it’s also a way to shake up the conventions of the show. Now, as you and I have discussed, if the writing is sloppy and descends into mawkish gender stereotypes, as ‘Missy’ too often has, then I’ll cease to support this, too. But for now, I think it’s a brave idea. Science fiction, at its best, allows an exploration of the human condition in ways that mainstream fiction often isn’t able to do, being trapped in the here and now. But science fiction isn’t rooted to such restrictions, and particularly Doctor Who, since Time Lords are neither bound to human mortality or the limitations of gender. The Doctor, in the form of Jodie Whittaker, may be able both to allow male fans a wider understanding of the feminine and acceptance of larger definitions of what women can be, as well as allowing young female fans a chance to see that they DON’T have to settle for just being the companion of a hero; they can be the hero, themselves. I do applaud you for deciding to give Whittaker a chance, and I do recognize you’re doing your best not to be close-minded, while some people aren’t even missing a beat before condemning this new direction.

    • My reasoning is that they waited so long to do it. She is the first one ever. If there were others before her, then I wouldn’t think it was a stunt. The current political climate is one that would be a good opportunity for it. It just seems too coincidental, even with the history of the idea. This is more doubt than being close-minded.

  3. Also, an afterthought: your observation about ‘the point of the Alien movies being that a woman is saving the day instead of a man’ rings false to me, because in the original screenplay, Ripley was a male. The part was changed to a female when Weaver auditioned because she was the strongest actor (kind of hate the term ‘actress’ even though I use it) Ridley Scott saw for the role.

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