I am still cross with the last episode of Doctor Who. For so many reasons, chief among them that it squandered all the ingenious concepts and twists of World Enough and Time
in favour of a tired "The Doctor defends a village from the monsters" non-story; the lazy conlectus ex machina
ending; and the Doctor's inexplicable refusal to regenerate.
That last one is a real shame. How fantastic would it have been to learn the identity of the 13th Doctor by actually watching her regenerate during the show
, rather than through a pointless media circus and dialogue-free trailers?
Ah well, we are where we are.
So, Jodie Whittaker. As I said over on that Facebook, it's nice that we finally have a Doctor who's from Yorkshire. ;o)
My immediate reaction to the casting was the same as it has been for most of the recent Doctors (Peter Capaldi excepted) - "That's interesting. Who's she?" I neither think this is the best thing ever to happen to the show, nor the worst thing. As always, I reserve judgement until I see what she's like in the role.
The reactions to the change in gender have been entirely predictable. But you'd have to have been seriously not paying attention if you hadn't noticed any of the many ways this moment has been prepared for.* Frankly, it would have been a surprise if they hadn't
cast a female Doctor this time. But complaining about the choice of new Doctor is nothing new. I'm not sure the sexism about the 13th being female is fundamentally any different from the ageism about the 12th being too old or the 11th being too young. People will always find something to whinge about, especially online.* No, it's not the end, any more than it was in 1981. ;o)
I am absolutely certain that in four years' time or whenever it's announced, the choice of 14th Doctor will be met with either:
"How could they cast another woman? Does this mean we'll never have another male Doctor again? It's an outrage!
"How could they go back to casting another man? Does this mean we'll never have another female Doctor again? It's an outrage!
Heh. This is what I said in 2013
in response to complaints that the 12th Doctor wasn't cast as a woman:
- "The Doctor is firmly established as a male character. There have been one or two throwaway lines, but I don't think there's ever been a serious suggestion that Time Lords can change sex when they regenerate. None of those we've seen in multiple regenerations (the Doctor, the Master, Romana, River (part Time Lord!), Borusa, etc.) appear to have ever done so."
Funny in hindsight. I have (and indeed had) no objection to there being a female Doctor; the important thing is that they cast someone who's right for the role. But I didn't buy into the view that casting another man was some sort of snub, when it had never been firmly established that, in-whoniverse, changing gender during regeneration was actually a thing which could happen. (Those who wanted it to be clung strongly to the Corsair, but one throwaway line by a guest writer is not a lot to go on, especially given Rule 1...).
The show has, of course, moved on a long way since then. Re-gender-ation is now a firmly established part of the mythos. The fact that we hadn't come across it previously is explained in that remaining the same gender still seems to be the most common outcome. However, changing gender happens frequently enough to be cause for no more than mild surprise (see the General's regeneration in Hell Bent
as evidence for both these points). That's more than fine with me. And it did build the case that there should
be a female Doctor sooner or later.
Am I nervous about the next series? Of course I am. There's a new Doctor and
a new head writer at the helm, and that's always cause for uncertainty. I am sorry to see Peter Capaldi go, as he has been an excellent Doctor. And while Steve Moffat seems to have been running out of ideas for a while now, Chris Chibnal's record as a Whoniverse writer is rather mixed, to say the least - 42
? Superb episode. The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood
? Hmmm, not bad. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship / The Power of Three / Pond Life
? A bit too soapy for my tastes. Torchwood series 1 and 2? Probably best forgotten...
I also worry slightly about how the change in gender is going to be handled. I really hope they don't make some dreadful attempt to "feminise" the character. So long as Whittaker's Doctor continues to be eccentric, reckless, brilliant, alien, the smartest person in the room, filled with a powerful sense of justice, ruthless to those who deserve it, compassionate to everyone else, full of wonder at the universe, young and old all at once, and a mad woman with a box, she'll do alright. :o)
My other worry is that we get a whole series of "girls are better than boys" gibes. One is fine, as a humorous way of acknowledging the change in gender, before moving on (see Missy, and the General again). But I fear they may decide to make it a running gag, which would just end up pandering to gender stereotypes and offending everyone. Let's hope not.
As I said earlier, we shouldn't pre-judge. Change has been an essential part of the show throughout its 54 years. The dawn of a new chapter in its history is always cause for excitement as well as trepidation. This one is no different in that respect. I wouldn't have it any other way.