Doctor Who: It’s about the role, not the gender

So we have a new Doctor, and the internet is predictably up in arms about the casting choice being female. Here’s why that doesn’t matter.

Overnight (based on Australian time), the BBC announced the appointment of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th actor to take on the role of Doctor Who.

Or maybe about the 20th; between stage shows, films, audio adaptations and Curse Of Fatal Death, there have been more than a few Doctors, and if you count Curse as canonical (most won’t, but it was on telly, and that counts, right?) Whittaker won’t even be the first female Doctor.

Still, as I look around the Internet this morning, I see outrage after outrage as fans are (in some measure) appalled at the idea of a female Doctor. It’s PC nonsense, or it’s stunt casting, or it’s a role that “was always male”.

Sorry (mostly) dudes, but I don’t agree, for two simple reasons.

Firstly, if you want to go within the series,it’s already been established (more than once) that Time Lords can change gender and to them this is really no big thing.

Or in other words, that’s your hangup, not theirs.

But in the real world in which we live, I think there’s a more pragmatic reason. All we have right now is that tiny announce loop that the BBC sent out to judge Whittaker’s Doctor from. That’s it. No episodes, no plot synopses, no particular leaks at all. We know she’ll be the next Doctor, it’s fair to assume that there will be a few frames of her character in this year’s Christmas special, and beyond that, it’s a blank slate.

That’s always been Doctor Who’s greatest strength. As each lead takes on the role, they identify it as their own, both in their own acting choices, and the scripts they’re given. Sometimes they’re given great material, sometimes not. Many fans don’t like Colin Baker’s take on the Doctor, but that’s almost always down to disliking the costumes and the stories, not the actor himself. He’s a very nice man, by the way.

Update: And it seems he’s on the right side of this particular internet “outrage”, and with a sense of humour to boot:

I will admit that I’m not overly familiar with Whittaker’s other work (yes, that means that I’ve not yet watched Broadchurch, you may judge me now, etc), but to say that the series is doomed, or she’s a dreadful choice because she’s lacking in a penis? In what possible capacity did having something dangling from your legs matter in this series?

Short answer: It didn’t, and those projecting doom are talking around their own view of the world.

Of course, not everyone is absolutely calling for doom and gloom. A relatively prominent Australian fan who I have quite a bit of respect for has repeatedly stated this morning that he “feels the character was created as a male.” He’s actually not wrong there in one sense, because I’m pretty sure William Hartnell was male, but then again, the series was meant to be mostly historical with an edict that there would be no bug eyed space monsters in it either. That quickly went out the door, and the series embraced change and has done so every since.

Whittaker’s Who could be brilliant, and it could be terrible, but that’s got little to nothing to do with gender. Doctor Who has rewritten its rules in more major ways before, and to say the series is doomed is essentially to write off everyone (not just Whittaker) working on it.

If that’s the measure of your fandom, then I’m going to be equally judgemental and say that you just don’t get Doctor Who to start with.

Update: Loving some of the Twitter feeds I’m seeing on this, so embedding for the sheer joy of it:

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