I love the TV show Doctor Who. Hands down, it is my favorite television show. As Craig Ferguson aptly stated, it’s a show about “the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism”. This week the BBC announced the next actor to play the titular Doctor it is Jodie Whittaker. This is a big deal. After 13 white men playing one of the longest running characters in television history a women gets to do it.
This really should not be a big deal, but it totally is huge. I was texting with a friend who said that her nerdy tween girls are out of their minds ecstatic. Of course they are excited. That doctor is someone to look up to, to emulate, and to enjoy. I’m excited too!
When the Matt Smith (11th Doctor) started sporting a bow tie, it may have persuaded me to buy a half a dozen bow ties off of ebay. When my partner bought me a fez, my first thought was “fezes are cool.” When David Tennant (10th Doctor) revealed the fury of the Time Lord, it made me reflect on the raw emotions I was dodging because it just seemed easier to do that then confront. Over the years I have found it very easy to connect this fictional character.
More than likely it was easier for me to identify with these characters, because they looked like me. I could imagine myself as them. If that is the case, than I want women and girls to watch Doctor Who and connect with the Doctor as easy as I have (and will.) I love that the next actor is not played a cis-gender male. I had hoped that Parminder Nagra would get the role, but Jodie Whittaker was fantastic in Broadchurch, so this is still a win.
Maybe you are going to read this and say “gender shouldn’t matter, it should just go to the best actor.” Well, it does matter. People want to see themselves on television, in books, or on the stage. I am so happy that the BBC has made this choice. And thanks to the Whovian activists who have been beating this drum for longer than I have been watching.
The Doctor travels with a companion, and most of the time that is woman. There have been a number of male companions, but it is female dominated role. There are a dozen variations on the relationship, but at the end of the day it always feels a bit paternalistic. A wise old man and silly young girl who needs to learn from him. It’s one of those things that is hard to get away from in TV. Whether it was Jack and Liz on 30 Rock or Giles and Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the mentor frequently seems to be played by the guy and the mentee simply played by a woman. Guys, I’ll have no problem continuing to identify with the Doctor, but maybe it is time we all start identifying with the companions a little more. It wouldn’t hurt us to try learn as the mentee.
When you love a show you will always complain about things. There are plenty of ridiculous plots, unsatisfying endings, and campy sets, but I still love it. Please go out and watch Doctor Who. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and the dumbest looking aliens in the world will leave you utterly terrified. Stupid Daleks.