Something really cool was announced today: Jodie Whittaker has been cast as the thirteenth iteration of the Doctor in everyone’s favourite British science fiction, Doctor Who. This is a pretty historic moment, because in over fifty years of the show’s long (if interrupted) run, the Doctor has only ever been played by men. But now the BBC has decided that it’s time for the much-loved Time Lord to become a Time Lady, and everyone’s been freaking out it.
Many, of course, have been freaking out in a good way. This is exciting shit. Big news for more representative television, hot on the heels of Doctor Who’s first openly gay companion (and Bill was also black and a woman! but most of all she was just a really cool character who gave so much more to the show than just diversity points!). A victory for women who want to see more empowering female characters in lead roles on popular mainstream television. And look, I’m just going to be honest with you, the Moffat-era faux-complex female characters has left us sorely lacking in the empowering women department. We deserve a showrunner who knows how to write women, and we deserve a woman Doctor.
But not everyone was happy freaking. A surprisingly large proportion of the fanbase was actually weirdly pissed off by the decision to make the Doctor’s new regeneration a woman. Insulted, even, seems apt to describe the cries ringing out across the comment sections. “The Doctor has always been a man!” they say, “You’re taking away a positive male role model from a generation of boys!” “Next you’ll come for Superman and James Bond and Sherlock Holmes! It’s PC run rampant! There’ll be no male heroes left!” Is the world ready, then, for the Doctor to be a woman?
In my opinion: fuck, yes.
I have grown up with Doctor Who. I won’t pretend to be a classic Whovian, but I’ve watched it since the very first episode of the 2005 reboot aired when I was around ten or eleven, and I’ve loyally watched every episode that has come out since. Even season six, and the really boring eyeroll Christmas episode where they wrote Matt Smith out. So I get it, the Doctor has always been a man. But within the lore of the show, he has also always had the potential to regenerate into a woman. Which makes me think that all these so-called “loyal fans” proclaiming that the show has now lost their support clearly don’t know Doctor Who that well at all. Throughout the reboot, at least, it has been alluded to that Time Lords can change gender when they regenerate. And why the hell not? They change literally everything else about them, why not gender too?
In 2014, we got Missy, who was the Master regenerated into a female. She was deliciously evil, lovably terrifying, and brilliantly portrayed by Michelle Gomez. In my opinion, Missy was even more scary than her previous iterations. Which had nothing to do with her gender, or theirs, but points to the fact that there’s absolutely no reason for people to fear that the Doctor appearing as a woman will sacrifice any of the character’s charm and appeal. A generation of children will still wish the TARDIS would appear in their back garden and the Doctor will step out of it to whisk them away for an adventure in time and space. It’s just the pronouns that have changed: they’ll be waiting for her to arrive instead.
Of course, this is all a little premature of me to say. We still haven’t seen more than a few seconds of the thirteenth Doctor, and as with any new regeneration, we’ll have to wait until we see her in an episode of her own to pass judgment. We don’t know how Whittaker is going to play the Doctor; we don’t know how the writers are going to write her character. Both of these things could turn out so bad, but they could also turn out so so good. So it surprises and saddens me that so many people have jumped the gun and are trying to stamp out Whitakker’s light before she’s even begun her tenure as the Doctor. It shouldn’t matter this much that she’s a woman! I just wish everyone would wait and see what she brings to the role, and give her a fair chance before dismissing her. It’s time for Time Ladies. The future is female, and it’s almost here.