So, Jodie Whittaker is the new Doctor Who.
People have been begging me to write a blog post about this. That’s flattering, although I can’t say I know where to start. My brain is currently a mess of overwhelmingly positive emotions, so maybe I’ll just pick up from there: stream of consciousness thoughts. Switch off when it gets a bit too much.
This is such a bloody relief – I’ve had to sit through several elections and referendums in the last few years; the news of Brexit, of Theresa May, and worst of all of Donald Trump. The world seemed to be conspiring against us, throwing up faces no one wants to see. And then, in a distant forest, a woman stepped forward who was just… perfect.
The most important thing to reinforce is that this is absolutely the right time to introduce the first female Doctor. Politically, for obvious reasons – the most powerful political figure in the world is a misogynist. But also for reasons within the show’s own continuity. Even if you’re a knee-jerk sexist, a traditionalist prat, you’ve still got to acknowledge two very important reasons for this happening:
- Continuity – it’s been established over and over again that it’s possible for the Doctor to change into a woman. 50/50 chance, it would seem. At this stage, for that not to happen again, you’d be looking at something resembling a continuity error. Interestingly, the corner of fandom which is anti-female Doctor is also the corner of fandom which seems irrationally concerned with continuity. Bit of a contradiction going on there…
- Consistency – thematically, this last run of Doctor Who has been setting up for this to happen, with various female characters playing the Doctor. For that not to have happened would have been thematically inconsistent – it would have been a diminuendo where there should have bene a crescendo.
I wasn’t ready for a female Doctor in 2013. I didn’t want a female Doctor in 2013. Do I look back in shame, do I regret that? No. I still fundamentally believe it was the wrong time. What we needed was what Moffat gave us: the groundwork for that sort of radical change. Now that’s been established, the show has something to work with. I’m ready for a female Doctor, and so should everyone else be.
At this stage, the opposition is pure misogyny. To go beyond continuity, to go beyond thematic consistency, to go beyond traditional casting methods and still complain about a woman – that is misogyny. To assume that this is “a political statemen” is to assume that a woman couldn’t have just been offered the role because she was the best person for it. Interestingly, another white guy… wouldn’t have been seen as a political statement! Hmmm.
Am I glad that this has upset people? Ultimately… no. I know a lot of my friends are glad, and I hold nothing against them, but this isn’t something I can celebrate, because I just don’t think this sort of thing should generate hatred. It saddens me, really. But I certainly won’t be offering empathy to anyone. The mainstream misogyny in the world right now is disgusting.
Of course, what really goes without saying is that I was mistaken about Chris Chibnall. Utterly, wrongheadedly mistaken – and I’d like to formally take back any snide comments I’ve made about his work and/or his casting methods. The fact is, whatever this era turns in to, this took significant guts. This is a privileged man, who isn’t affected by discrimination, but nonetheless decided to, against the pressure of his superiors, do what he felt was the right thing.
On Christmas Day this year I’ll be bidding goodbye to my favourite Doctor. But that won’t be as hard as it was going to be. Because I’ll know that he’ll have a legacy to be proud of. I’ll know that my vision of Doctor Who is carrying on.
In the face of adversity, this is the sort of message Doctor Who should be putting out. This is a show for people who want to see change. And with a bit of luck, the generation of kids who grow up with this might just be the generation who are inspired to bring it about in the real world.
Also, Jodie Whittaker is a really great actress.
P.S. If you’re anti-Whittaker… I don’t care. I really don’t care today. I’ll happily discuss the merits of a female Doctor with you in a friendly, level-headed chat at some point in the future, and I’ll treat you with respect so long as I get treated the same way. But today, I’m celebrating, I’m avoiding the inevitable cynicism, and I’m going to surround myself with people who are as delighted as I am.