Firstly, can Doctor Who please stop making major announcements in the middle of sport? If a one minute clip is all we’re getting, just announce a five minute time slot, give it a bit of build up, show the clip and a short interview with the relevant people. Waiting for tennis to finish and then the clip being dismissed as if it never happened makes the show out to be a nothing.
Ok, so Jodie Whittaker. The first female Doctor. In the last year or so, I’ve began to warm to the concept of a female Doctor. This is pretty much entirely down to Michelle Gomez and Steven Moffat. To keep the integrity of the Master’s character after a gender change was a phenomenal achievement from Gomez, and not only that, she’s probably up there with Roger Delgado as my favourite incarnation. She convinced me that she was playing the same character that Delgado, John Simm et al. played, so a talented enough female actor could easily portray the Doctor just as convincingly. Onto Moffat, and the accusations of sexism that are slung his way are laughable. He’s arguably been the driving force for Whittaker’s appointment. From casting Michelle Gomez as the Master, to the Sisterhood of Karn offering the eighth Doctor the choice of gender of his next regeneration, Moffat has made it clear that gender changes are feasible for Time Lords. Perhaps nothing made that more plain than the wonderfully written and acted scene in World Enough and Time, where the Doctor told Bill that Time Lords were much more civilised than humans and didn’t worry themselves about gender. Moffat has made the Doctor’s future completely flexible, and has dismissed any doubts that Time Lords have the capability to change from male to female and vice versa, so he deserves credit.
Jodie Whittaker herself is someone I’ve seen very little of, to be truthful. I’ve watched Broadchurch in its entirety, where she plays Beth Latimer. Her performance is strong, she’s plays a grieving mother excellently well. From that, her talent as an actor can’t be faulted. However, she didn’t really display any of the characteristics you’d expect from the Doctor, but she wasn’t really given the chance to. Beth and the Doctor are two completely different characters, but I’m excited to see how she’ll manage the change. Of course, she has played other characters. Maybe some closer to the Doctor which I’ve not seen, but I can only comment on what I know. It would be wrong to speculate. Her appointment does make me look forward to the future of the show. It’ll undoubtedly be different to what we’re used to. Will the companion be male? Will the character of the Doctor change much? Will she be more forgiving, or even more ruthless against her enemies? I’m truly fascinated to see where Whittaker will take the character. She wasn’t my first choice for the role, or even my first few female picks, but I’m certainly not disappointed.
There is one thing that’s nagging me about this casting, and it’s Chris Chibnall. While I’m looking forward to seeing Whittaker at the helm of the TARDIS, I can’t help but think I’d be so much more excited by the news if she was going to be working under a different showrunner. It seems as though Chibnall is trying to play this very safe and just keep a small band of people close to him who he trusts. He’s already made noises that Broadchurch director, James Strong will be joining him, as well as writers from the show. This appointment only adds to the argument that he’s not willing to experiment with new people in the industry. Broadchurch is a very different show to Doctor Who, and trying to replicate a similar formula is in no way guaranteed to work. One of the best aspects of Moffat’s tenure, was his willingness to experiment and try new formats. The season structure barely remained the same, new writers were always coming and going, as well as directors. It kept the show fresh and kept Moffat on his toes too. Going into season nine with its new format of nearly every story being a two parter, I remember him saying something similar to: “If you keep doing something until you’re perfect at it, it gets boring”. This is true. If Chibnall just sticks to what he knows, the show will quickly become stale, and the fact he has worked closely with Whittaker for a few years, is the only thing that’s worrying me about the casting.
Overall, I’m pleased. Doctor Who is a show about change, and this will be arguably the biggest change the show has embarked on in over fifty years. If you’re unhappy with the appointment, you have every right to be, but just remember: this is better than the show being axed, and there will almost definitely be another Doctor after Jodie Whittaker. Just enjoy it!