Jodi Whittaker will now replace Peter Capaldi as the 13th doctor in the Doctor Who series. Speculation regarding the new Doctor being a woman had been going on from around a decade ever since The Doctor’s nemesis “The Master” was recast by Michelle Gomez. And while Whovians across the world celebrated when the news broke, there was a fair amount of outrage and resentment as well. Many regarded this as an encroachment upon the sanctity of what their idea of Dr. Who was. Here is why this is problematic – because unlike Sherlock Holmes or James Bond who are very much human – shape shifting by the time lord is the accepted norm across the storyline. And therefore the Doctor becoming a woman really is neither impractical nor impossible. The outrage around Jodi Whittaker’s announcement is similar to, if not as extreme as, the outrage around the Ghostbusters being remade with an all female cast.
Here is why this outrage, regarding women playing traditionally male characters is problematic – it highlights a deeper problem that runs within the psyche of the viewer. The idea of women playing these action packed shows makes many uncomfortable because many worry that women won’t be able to do justice to their favourite characters.
And this is exactly why making the thirteenth doctor a woman was a brilliant idea – because representation of women in powerful roles is still extremely less. Life imitates art and popular culture affects our opinion to a vast extent, more than we know. ‘Women in power’ as a concept is still alien to many people and there is no better way to familiarize them with it than by making a character that is as beloved as The Doctor, a woman.
Jodi Whittaker has proved she is an amazing actor worth her salt throughout her career and it is only fair that finally after fifty-three years since the show aired, a woman gets to play the Doctor. The outrage around Whittaker is ridiculous – because if people cannot accept a shape-shifting time lord becoming a woman then we have got a problem that runs deep.
Characters change and develop across time – Steven Moffat’s Sherlock was floppy haired, younger and emotionally more vulnerable than his predecessors; James Bond in Skyfall chose a Heineken over his “shaken-not-stirred” martini and Spiderman keeps getting younger with every new film. Some of these changes win the hearts of their fans, as was the case with Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock, while others don’t go down so well, as occurred with the whole Bond-sipping-beer controversy. But here is why change is important – because change is the only constant and if shows that are more than half a century old don’t keep up with the times, they would find it hard to stay relevant. These storylines were written decades ago and since then, a lot has changed. The survival of a show depends on how it is able to adapt with the changing times and how it can engage with a newer generation of audience with every passing year. And there is no other way to reflect on what 2017 was all about than to announce that a woman, might I add one as talented and acclaimed as Jodi Whittaker, would be playing the thirteenth time lord.
Image Credits: BuddyTV