What Just Happened? – Doctor Who

Note: This one is from July 2017

Well, if you’ve been tuned in to entertainment news in the day, you would have most likely seen or heard about the latest individual to be cast into the role of The Doctor in the hit BBC sci-fi television show, Doctor Who. After 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi made the announcement earlier this year in January that he would be leaving the show, coupled with the shock announcement that head show runner and screenwriter Steven Moffat would also be departing the program, the world of Doctor Who was left in waiting and anticipation as to who would become head show runner, but more importantly, who would be taking on the role of The Doctor. Shortly after Moffatt announced his departure, the new head show runner was announced to be that of Chris Chibnall, another director and screenwriter at the BBC, who has recently finished writing and directing his own television crime show, Broadchurch. After his appointment to the role, the stage was set for a new Doctor to be found and announced to the world. And so the speculation began.

Many names were thrown into the mix for months on end after Capaldi announced his departure. There was IT Crowd actor Richard Ayoade, Sherlock actor Andrew Scott, Bond actor Ben Whishaw, and Death In Paradise star Kris Marshall. There was also major speculation that Chibnall would bring in someone he’d previously worked with, an actor, or indeed actress, from his previous television work, Broadchurch. This also brought with it speculation that a woman may indeed be cast into the coveted lead role of The Doctor. Names wert thrown into the mix such as Olivia Colman and Jodie Whittaker. Actresses from other shows and films were also included, such as Tilda Swinton and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. There was even the suggestion that a previous Doctor may make a return to the role, that Doctor being David Tennant’s much loved 10th Doctor. This choice in particular ran rife with rumour as Chibnall had worked with Tennant on Broadchurch, and there have been references in the past that previous Doctors may return, in particular that the First Doctor played now by David Bradley (previously played by William Hartnell, who sadly has passed away since) has come back into the show for this year’s Christmas Special, and in that in the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day Of The Doctor, when Tom Baker appeared towards the end of the special episode and said to The Doctor that he may see the return of some ‘familiar faces.’ And in all honesty, as a fan and avid viewer of Doctor Who, I would have loved to have seen the return of a previous Doctor into the iconic role. But it wasn’t to be.

So on Saturday just gone, it was announced that the new Doctor would be announced after the men’s Wimbledon Final on Sunday (afternoon in Britain, Sunday night/early Monday morning here in Australia), and the world of Doctor Who, all those who, like me, have been waiting for the announcement for months, waited in great anticipation of who it would be, a promotional video for the announcement was also released, displaying the number 13 on iconic landmarks and areas/places such as 10 Downing Street and the Statue Of Liberty, and a crackling TARDIS key (for those who don’t know, the TARDIS, or Time And Relative Dimension In Space, is the Time Travelling Blue Box in which The Doctor travels, usually with a female companion by his side). And so, on Sunday night/Monday morning, after Roger Federer had won the Men’s Wimbledon Final in straight sets, after seeing the trophy’s being presented and Federer’s name being inscribed onto the honour board, after seeing him parade that trophy around for what felt like forever, the time finally arrived for the new Doctor to be announced. A promotional video was finally displayed on televisions and social media for all those who had waited so long to see. The 13th Doctor was finally revealed to the world and wow did it surprise us.

Now before I go on and spoil things for those who haven’t seen the reveal but wish to, the video is attached, so you can watch that first before you continue reading if you so wish. Click link for video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=q1IczjLYCIM

And just a disclaimer: many opinions will be displayed in the next few paragraphs, however I will be taking an unbiased opinion in order to keep a balance.

I’ll begin with this: For the last 54 years, The Doctor has always been a male. There have been 12 main incarnations/regenerations of The Doctor, portrayed in order by William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, and finally the most recent, Peter Capaldi. The First Doctor has also been more recently portrayed by David Bradley. As well as that, another Doctor, known as the War Doctor, was portrayed by John Hurt in the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day Of The Doctor. Now on top of this, The Doctor has always had a female companion, be it Sarah Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen, Dorothy ‘Ace’ McShane, portrayed by Sophie Aldred, Rose Tyler, portrayed by Billie Piper, Martha Jones, portrayed by Freema Agyemen, Donna Noble, played by Catherine Tate, Amy Pond, portrayed by Karen Gillan, Clara Oswald, played by Jenna Coleman, or more recently Bill Potts, played by Pearl Mackie. The format of the show has always been a male Doctor with a female companion. And sure, there have been male companions as well, like Ian Chesterton, played by William Russell, Mickey Smith, portrayed by Noel Clarke, Rory Williams, played by Arthur Darvill, and Nardole, portrayed by Matt Lucas. But I will reiterate that the format has always been a male Doctor with a female companion, with the male companions usually being in some way related to one of the female ones, or in Nardole’s case, being there to watch over The Doctor. And so we continue.

The announcement made within the promotional video released to the public on Sunday/Monday revealed The Doctor to have changed significantly. For the first time in 54 years, for the first time in the history of Doctor Who, the Doctor would regenerate, and the 13th incarnation of this time travelling alien from Gallifrey would be a woman. And inevitably, this major change to the format of the show brought with it a mass amount of uncertainty.

When Jodie Whittaker, who had previously worked with Chris Chibnall in Broadchurch, was announced as the 13th Doctor, the world of Doctor Who went into a spin. Social media was alive with the opinions of thousands of the show’s fans, and somewhat of a war of words broke out amongst them. Two main sides of the many arguments began to show. On one side, there were all those who were greatly excited by the prospect, by the reality of a female Doctor. And on the other side were those who believed the format of the show shouldn’t be changed after 54 years of the use of the same successful format, a male Doctor with a female companion. But there was one main point that was continually brought up, the issue of sexism and gender bias.

Now sexism is generally a prejudice, stereotyping or discrimination against one particular sex, be it male or female. And sexism was one of the main features brought into many of the arguments that broke out on social media, but in many cases shouldn’t have been. I’ll say it like this: many of the points various people were making were opinions, and common ones at that in reality, that in all fairness should be allowed to be made without issue. Many individuals who were opinionated in that The Doctor has always been a male and should stay that way are merely saying that this format has always been around for Doctor Who, and it has always been successful, so why change it now? But for some reason, people kept bringing up the idea of sexism to debate these arguments. And in all honesty, I don’t think it’s necessary. Here’s why.

Within the world of Doctor Who, we’ll call it the Whoniverse (to which it is commonly referred), there has never been an issue of gender bias. The show has been running for 54 years, which is pretty spectacular, and in that time, that very long time, it has never been biased towards one specific gender or sex. There has never been an imbalance in gender/sex. It has always been a male Doctor with a female companion. The two roles are equal, one does not dominate over the other. There have been male companions too, although minor, and there have been female aliens and time lords (a time lord is the race from which The Doctor originates) alike. Even recently, we’ve seen the likes of a female incarnation/regeneration of The Master (The Doctor’s arch-nemesis who is also a time lord) in a character called Missy. There have also been other female human time lords (or, as they are commonly referred to in the show, time ladies), such as River Song (who turns out to be the daughter of Amy Pond and Rory Williams). In retrospect, it is possible that the regeneration of The Master into Missy was a preemptive to The Doctor also becoming female. However, getting back to the point, there is no evidence within the show that it has ever been biased in any way towards one gender/sex.

And now on to another issue that also seems to be popping up quite often in the opinions of many individuals, political correctness. Some people seem to think that this somewhat significant change in Doctor Who has stemmed from and has come as a result of political correctness. And I only really have one thing to say about this. In the world of Doctor Who, there is usually a reason, however significant or insignificant, for something occurring. And I’m quite sure that there will be a reason given for The Doctor becoming female. In reality, The Master became Missy in order to gain some sense of redemption, or at least that’s the reason for the change that I could gather. And on the other hand, in reality, this is a television show, so it doesn’t necessarily need a reason for the change/s that is/are occurring. And on another note, if the show does not give a reason for The Doctor’s change in gender/sex, then we may witness further increased opinions on how the change has only come about as a result of conforming to political correctness in the 21st century. And this is all most likely an unnecessary argument to put forth. This is, after all, a new idea from a new head show runner/ screenwriter, and it should at least be given a chance.

The final thing I want to focus on a little bit is how this change will, in turn, change the dynamic of the show itself. Currently, those who have seen Doctor Who have only borne witness to a male Doctor travelling time and space with a female companion. The Doctor has, in some forms, been a bit of a flirt with people, and has indeed become emotional at points, in particular when The 10th Doctor loses Rose, and when he doesn’t want to change forms. In fact there have been a few Doctors in recent times who don’t want to regenerate and change form. The latest Doctor to do this (if you haven’t seen the finale of the latest season of Doctor Who and wish to do so before reading this part, then please skip over it and read on from a few sentences ahead) was The 12th Doctor, who blatantly refused to regenerate, doing everything in his power to stop/prevent the regeneration sequence from occurring. The reason behind this is that, when regenerating, The Doctor loses a part of himself, however large or small, and changes into a fairly new individual. And the regeneration sequence/process isn’t necessarily a painless one. In fact, it has been described by show runners/screenwriters and past Doctors alike to be quite a painful process, and why wouldn’t it be? The Doctor is, after all, changing shape and form in order to live on. But back to the main point of this part of the article. As I mentioned, The Doctor has always only ever been male, with a female companion (although, as mentioned previously, there have been male companions, however they are generally related in some way to the main female companion). Now that The 13th Doctor has been announced as a female, there will most likely be a change in the dynamic of the show. Now it is somewhat still unclear as to whether Pearl Mackie will be reappearing as The Doctor’s companion, Bill Potts, (and again, if you haven’t seen the finale and wish to, then skip over this bit) however, it is most probable that she is now, in a sense, dead, and will not be returning, at least as a regular, to the Whoniverse. This means that new head show runner Chris Chibnall has been left with a casting choice to make once again. Now let’s have a bit of a look of what could occur depending on the choice of companion. If Chibnall casts a male into the role, this may be the beginning of romance in the world of Doctor Who. More specifically, romance between The Doctor and his companion. Now in retrospect romance of some variety has occurred between a Doctor and his companion before, that being The 10th Doctor and Rose Tyler. So it’s not to say that this would necessarily be a negative for the show. However, in more recent times, this has not really occurred, and although The Doctor has been quite caring of his companions, he has not in particularly been romantic in any sense towards any of them since Rose. On the other hand, if a female companion is cast, then it would create a new dynamic in that two females would be travelling throughout time and space, rather than a male and a female. Now for some, this would seem like an imbalance in the roles in Doctor Who. However, this again may not necessarily be a bad thing, seeing as The Doctor has always had a female companion. In fact, maybe the casting of both a male and a female companion might be the best way to go. Whatever happens though, we are bound to still be watching Doctor Who.

And so to wrap up. Sure, the world of Doctor Who has been put into somewhat of a spin. Changes are being made to a show that has been on our television screens for 54 years. And so it comes as no surprise that there have been so many opinions expressed in the past few days. Sure, a female has been cast as The Doctor for the first time in the show’s history. And sure, there might be even more changes on the way. But change can be a good thing. And whilst this might be the start of a new era of Doctor Who, we should at least give it a chance. And at the end of the day, no matter what happens, we will still be watching Doctor Who, the same show, just a little bit different to usual.

I know this is a long one guys, but I just wanted to do a bit of an analysis on this big news. Thanks for reading, hope it’s alright, and as always, please leave any of your own ideas or opinions in the comments.

JJ

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