I’m Not Writing an Article on Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who, or How Groundbreaking (or Devastating) Her Casting Is to the Show
There. I said it. I’m not going to write an article about Jodie Whittaker’s casting as the Doctor. Nope. Not at all.
I’m not going to sit here and type out hollow sentences about how her casting is groundbreaking. Or about how she is going to ruin a show that has been running for half a century.
Because it is pointless. It is pointless to judge anything about her. We haven’t seen her play the Doctor! We’ve only seen her face, learned her name! We’ve no idea how she will tackle the role, how she will play this age-less time lord, what inspiration she will bring from the previous twelve actors who filled this role before her, or what she will do that is new. It’s like when Heath Ledger was cast to play the Joker: we have absolutely no idea what to expect from her.
And that’s a good thing. When Peter Capaldi was cast, I didn’t know what to expect from him, either. But he was definitely an intriguing casting decision, simply because he was different from what came before him. He was older, where his predecessors, Smith and Tennant, were not. Likewise he ended up bringing a new (and angrier) dynamic to the role.
Jodie Whittaker has the potential to do the same thing. Her casting intrigues me, and I am super excited to see what she will do with it. She has the opportunity, like every actor in the role before her, to dynamically change the show. Granted, the fact that she is a woman already has changed the dynamic to some extent, but as of now, we don’t know what this will do to the character and the story. Not only because of her, but because of the new show runner coming in. When Doctor Who returns next season, it will be a completely different show. And that’s what Doctor Who is all about.
But we have no room to judge her casting. Not yet. We haven’t seen her in the role, we haven’t even heard her speak a line of dialogue. Like I said when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman, I’ll reserve any critique for when I’ve seen her in action. Until then, it is all speculation.
And for me, I don’t have much to go on. I haven’t watched Broadchurch yet (one of five people on the planet who hasn’t, but I did see the American remake, Gracepoint). I’ve only seen Jodie in one thing, an episode of Black Mirror, and while that was a fantastic episode (“The Entire History of You”, one of my favorites, and she was great in it), it is not the kind of performance to judge how she will play the Doctor. In fact, there are no characters that any actor or actress could play which would really give us any glimpse of how they would play the Doctor. Capaldi had never played anyone like the Doctor. Matt Smith had never played anyone like the Doctor. When I first saw Tennant, I had only seen him in Goblet of Fire. For most actors, there really isn’t anything in their previous works that would hint at how they’d tackle the role of the time lord.
So, really, it is pointless to argue about Jodie Whittaker’s casting. There’s nothing to go on, except that she is a woman. And that is not enough for me to like or dislike her Doctor. But it is something to make me very intrigued, and intrigued is a great place to be. I’ve never found myself intrigued by the next actor in line to play the Doctor before.
When Eccleston left, I swore I wouldn’t watch Tennant. When Tennant left, I didn’t even want to look at Matt Smith’s face. And when Matt Smith left (who is my favorite Doctor, by the way), I wasn’t ready to let him go, and I was more concerned that the old man replacing him was going to be too drastically different from Smith that I’d lose interest in the show. And, now with Capaldi leaving (who is probably my second favorite Doctor behind Matt Smith), and while I am horribly sad to see him leave, this is the first time that the incoming Doctor has me eager to see what happens next. Because I’ll guarantee, this next season is definitely going to be a very interesting story. And I’ll guarantee, her Doctor will be unlike any we’ve seen so far.
And, once more for the audience, that’s a good thing. That’s what this show is all about.
As for the fans who can’t stand the idea, keep in mind that this isn’t a departure for the show at all. It is well established in canon that a time lord can change gender with regeneration. You have to look no further than Michelle Gomez’s Missy, the first female incarnation of the Master (and probably my favorite version of the Master). Beyond Missy, we know the Corsair once regenerated as a woman, and the General of Gallifrey was a woman who regenerated into a man (and then back to a woman). Indeed, even in Moffat’s satirical “Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death,” the Doctor even regenerated into a woman. So, no, this doesn’t break canon, this isn’t a new concept (not even in the wider world of sci-fi), and for anyone who can wrap their head around wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff but can’t work their way around to Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor, well, I guess there’s no saving you.
But on the flipside, this isn’t a groundbreaking decision either, like many others seem to think. While definitely a fantastic new angle to tackle the character, and a direction I’m looking forward to seeing, this is 2017, having a female lead for a sci-fi production isn’t exactly a new thing. In the last two years, we’ve had Rey and Jyn Erso lead their respective Star Wars movies. Joss Whedon usually has female led shows, like Dollhouse and Buffy. And, of course, Star Trek did it 22 years ago with Voyager’s Captain Janeway (and is going to do it again this year with Star Trek: Discovery). If anything, Doctor Who is just catching up with its contemporaries in regenerating the Doctor into a woman.
As fans of this show, we owe it to Jodie Whittaker to give her a chance to be amazing, as Capaldi, Smith, Tennant, and all the others were before her. In fifty years, they haven’t failed at bringing us amazing people to portray our favorite time lord, so why start worrying now?
It doesn’t matter whether the 13th Doctor is a man or a woman, black or white, young or old; there are characteristics that anyone needs to make sure they bring to the role when they take it on. The fundamentals of the Doctor, the kindness, the quirkiness, the intelligence, the ferocity. The unwavering stance to protect and save people, and to have adventures through time and space. These are characteristics that define the Doctor. His or her gender isn’t one of those characteristics. Jodie Whittaker definitely has just as much potential as anyone else to make a great Doctor.
But, as fans, we shouldn’t be judging or praising Jodie’s casting, not yet. We still have a long time before we get to see her Doctor on screen, and see exactly how good her performance will be. As for me? I really hope she will be up there with my other favorites. At the end of the day, all I want is for Doctor Who to continue to be an amazing show.