I am a woman of a certain age – 52, to be precise, and my first Doctor love was Tom Baker.
I was in college, and I watched on a small black and white television set with my nerd boyfriend (who also introduced me to Dune, so he’ll forever have a place in my heart.) It was something to look forward to each week in an era before DVRs, and we rarely missed an episode. But then, as The Doctor does, a regeneration occurred, and I was devastated. My beloved Doctor was gone. He had been replaced. It was inevitable, I know, but I still felt betrayed.
That was over 30 years ago. The high school students I teach brought me back to the good Doctor, and my family and I binge watched the series until we caught up with the 12th Doctor. You know what? Every single doctor was our favorite doctor until about one third of the way into the new Doctor’s first season. Change is HARD. Adjusting to attitude differentials, degrees of snark, new mannerisms and preferences in dress are all things that take time. Some of the Doctors are simply more charming than others. Some of them are whimsical, some are all business, and some are a mixture.
This weekend, they announced that the thirteenth Doctor would be played by a woman, and all hell broke loose on the internet. The producer was caving into demands to be politically correct. A female Doctor was just WRONG, and shouldn’t happen. The feminists were taking over the world. Missy had been a horrible mistake, and it shouldn’t be repeated with The Doctor. Women were complaining as well. On the other side, a hearty “It’s about time!” Billie Piper was among the most vocal supporting the casting of a female Doctor. I don’t know about you, but I’d trust her with just about anything. A fair number of people had pretty much the same reaction that I did: you can buy into a time traveling alien from a destroyed planet who has a “bigger on the inside” police box time machine, and who can fix just about anything with a sonic screwdriver and wits, but you cannot buy that gender is meaningless to Time Lords? It’s been well established that regeneration can lead to a gender change, so there is no continuity issue; no change in the canon. For me, the beautiful thing is that if you are a Time Lord, gender doesn’t matter. Clearly, we mortals have not reached that point yet, based on some of the commentary about the switch.
Let’s start with the fact that Jodie Whittaker has earned her acting chops. If you haven’t watched Broadchurch, you really should. It’s an excellent show: you get to see David Tennant in a remarkably different role, and you will get to see Jodie Whittaker play a grieving mother going through several hells during the course of a police investigation into the death of her son. She is brilliant. She’s done an episode of Black Mirror as well as several other television series and movies. You can look here, if you’d like to see for yourself. As a matter of fact, had they let her hair remain natural, she could have been a ginger Doctor as well as a woman, but I guess that would have led to apoplexy and possible deaths, so they had her go blonde.
For the women who are complaining about a female Doctor, I have a secret: there is such a thing as a girl crush. This means that you can have a crush on the new Doctor and no one will judge you for it. Really. It’s like when you were in elementary school and had a crush on your female teacher. No one judges people for crushing on awesome. After all, isn’t that the point?
Regeneration after regeneration, The Doctor has been awesome. We might have our favorites, but The Doctor is always awesome. I have no doubt that this regeneration will be any different. We will gripe, we will moan, we will mourn Peter Capaldi, we will go back and watch all the episodes available with our favorite Doctor (be grateful if yours is from this latest series – the really old ones aren’t all available.) Then, if we are true fans, we will watch the Christmas episode with bated breath, ready to be drawn into yet another world of The Doctor’s. If the fact that the actor is a woman is enough to turn you off of the show, you weren’t ever truly a fan to begin with.
Post Script, regarding The Sun and Mail Online’s publishing of nude photos of Jodie Whittaker in the wake of this announcement:
Mr. Murdoch, your editorial staff is the lowest of the low. What’s this? A woman has been given a television role that should be reserved only for men? Well then, let’s embarrass her out of the role by posting nude pictures of her in your newspapers. I’m sure that will be a successful strategy. Except that there is one minor flaw in the newspaper’s plan: the pictures were all taken from Ms. Whittaker’s previous film and television work. No paparazzi shots of Jodie frolicking on a nude beach with an undisclosed lover, no long range telephoto lens shots taken through a hotel window, just stills taken from Jodie working. Nothing new here, please move on.
Nanea Hoffman, founder of Sweatpants & Coffee noted: “It’s interesting how a woman’s own body is always the first epithet hurled against her. Especially if she tries to occupy a space men don’t think she should. It’s like her very existence is an insult, so they have to objectify it. Jodie Whittaker is already pissing off the right people. Good for her.” All of this nonsense has given me a brilliant idea, however. I think that all previous incarnations of The Doctor should support Jodie Whittaker and create a Doctor Who nude calendar. It would be the perfect gift for the Christmas wish list, and sure to quell all the discomfort of the women who will be pining for their male Doctors. Me? I’ll get the calendar, but I’ll be crushing on the thirteenth Doctor as well.