Jodie Whittaker: Lucky Number 13

Yes. Yes. YES! Jodie Whittaker is The Thirteenth Doctor. I’m absolutely thrilled to bits.

So, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Doctor 13… is a woman! And who cares? So what if The Doctor has been a man for the last 54 years and twelve (or thirteen) regenerations. There’s absolutely no reason why The Doctor shouldn’t be a woman. Not logically, not ethically, not even canonically. If ever there was a time to make the change, it was now. We’ve got a new showrunner, a new production team, a new lead and a new companion, all on their way in for the 2018 series and beyond. Doctor Who as we know it is about to undergo its biggest regeneration since 2010 (perhaps even 2005), and this is one heck of a way to make it count.

I will freely admit, I was initially dubious about Series 11 and Chris Chibnall signing on as the new showrunner. His previous Doctor Who work (such as Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and The Power of Three) has been good-to-average at best, and while he completely knocked it out of the park with the incredible first series of Broadchurch, the show lost some of its lustre in its second and third outings. He may know his way around the executive side of television, but his actual scripts have always seemed to veer on the side of hit-or-miss.

I was also sceptical of the idea of him introducing a female Doctor. Not because I didn’t think it would work, and not because I didn’t ever want there to be one. But because I knew, as has been so obviously proven by the backlash to yesterday’s announcement, that it would split the fandom right down the middle. Of course, I’m generalising here, but the reactions tend to fall into one extreme or the other: it’s either “good on her!” or “the show is dead to me now!”. It’s been said time and time again that the new Doctor should be cast because they are the right person for the role, not just the right gender. In any other instance, a female Doctor might well have felt like a tacky gimmick, and that’s what I was scared they would do. But on this occasion, I wholeheartedly feel that not only is a female Doctor a good choice, it’s also the right one.

Chris Chibnall, all his questionable narrative twists aside, undoubtedly writes amazing characters. Moreover, he writes amazing female characters. Everyone in Broadchurch is written well, but the real standouts are definitely the ladies. David Tennant is ace as Alec Hardy, but Olivia Colman is more than a match as Ellie Miller. Similarly, Jodie Whittaker is a constant hit as Beth Latimer. The very first thing we see in Broadchurch’s opening episode is her horrified reaction to finding her young boy dead on the beach – it’s up to her to draw us in to the show and completely sell it to us in the first few minutes. She does it brilliantly, and she’s given so much more to work with from there on in. The grief and the pain as her life falls apart in Series 1. The torture of the trial, on top of being pregnant, in Series 2. The acceptance of moving on in Series 3. The quality of the mysteries may have waned as time went on, but Jodie’s performance was always consistently strong. She was one of the reasons to keep tuning in for more.

As far as Doctor Who goes, Jodie Whittaker is an assured, safe choice – not only to be the first female Doctor, but also to be Chris Chibnall’s first Doctor. Just like Russell T Davies and David Tennant, they’re a pair that have worked together before. Chris knows how to write for her and how to get the best out of her abilities. Taking control of Doctor Who is a massive, daunting undertaking for him, and he’ll want someone in the lead role he can trust. This won’t have been a casting decision he’s taken lightly. And I think he’ll have been spot on. I was convinced that they were going to go with a younger male actor again to recapture the magic of David Tennant’s time in the TARDIS, but as soon as Jodie Whittaker’s name popped up as the bookies favourite, it just felt right. She’s more than made her mark in her previous work (which also includes Attack the Block and Black Mirror) and purely from that minute-long teaser trailer, she fits The Doctor perfectly. Just look at how well she pulls off that coat and hoodie combo! I know that won’t be her official costume going forward, but damn does she ever look the part.

Completely unfairly though, Jodie is going to have be twice as good as any of the other candidates on the betting list, simply because she’s female and because she’s got to set the bar for other female Doctors in future. If she fails (though, based on her track record, I can’t see that happening) then this whole thing will be looked on as an “experiment” that’s quickly swept under the rug, and the misogynists will have won. Of course there is every chance the Thirteenth Doctor won’t be a hit, but that won’t be because she’s a woman. If she’s given bad scripts and bad direction, even the best of actors would struggle to leave an impression. That’ll be down to Chris Chibnall, or the team he hires. Not Jodie herself. She’s an actor with her head screwed on and her heart(s) in the right place. She clearly knows the significance of her casting and she won’t want to be the one to let the side down.

At the end of the day, I’m just glad we live in a world where there is so much strong female representation in film and television. Rey from Star Wars is one of the big reasons I loved The Force Awakens, and I can’t wait to see her develop further in The Last Jedi too. Similiarly, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman in, well, Wonder Woman, was probably one of the best superheroes (and superhero movies) we’ve had in forever. And now, with Doctor Who also joining those ranks? As far as I’m concerned, that’s just absolutely dandy. We’re going to be in for a treat.

Behind every great franchise, there is now a great woman…


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