Monday, 17 July 2017

The Gallifrey Times team on Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor

So, the cat's out of the bag, the dust is settled, and our metaphors have been mixed up. The Thirteenth Doctor is Jodie Whittaker, the first woman ever to play the Time Lord, and it's safe to say that her casting has provoked some pretty strong opinions.

The Gallifrey Times team happen to be great at making opinions, so here are their thoughts on Whittaker's casting:

Louis (Editor)

I genuinely thought four years back that we’d never see a female Doctor, but here we are, with Jodie Whittaker confirmed as the Thirteenth Doctor.

This is a really big deal. It’s hard to understate that. The role has been male for 54 years, and for obvious reasons, it’s become entrenched in the minds of the public that it has to be male. For it to be a woman is to blow up that widespread perception entirely, and that’s huge; you’re redefining one of the most iconic characters this country has created in a way that has never been done before.

I can’t claim to be an expert in Whittaker’s work, but she was terrific on Broadchurch given how difficult and searingly emotional her part was, and she aced her guest appearance back in the first season of Black Mirror. She was also a big part of Attack the Block, co-starring with new Star Wars lead John Boyega, which I guess makes that tiny little cult favourite a breeding ground for two of the biggest heroes in pop culture right now. And just look at her in that above photo – she just looks like the Doctor.

We're only five months away from Whittaker fully taking on the mantle as Peter Capaldi regenerates into her at Christmas, but as Ben points out, it's going to be a long time until she's fighting monsters and zipping around time and space on a regular basis; as long as that eternal gap between Capaldi's casting and Series 8, and perhaps longer. 

In the meantime, there's a lot to untangle. What kind of Doctor will Whittaker play? Does a female Doctor mean a male companion (and keep an eye out for that announcement in the next couple of months, as Whittaker's first series will be filming in October or November)? Does it mean multiple companions? What will her costume be? Will she keep her Yorkshire accent? What colour?

Beyond the nerdy things, though, I'm happy above all that my favourite show has been flipped upside down 54 years into its run. Regardless of your particular thoughts, the fresh conversation around the show that the casting has sparked has to mean something. 

Ben (Editor)

Despite the obvious foreshadowing in the show and the hints from the bookkeepers… I’m in shock.

Part of me always knew that the Thirteenth Doctor would be a female, but I hoped it wouldn’t be for a couple of reasons. Firstly, with the rise of focus on gender equality in the past couple of years, it feels like this has been done at this time to be part of a ‘movement’ rather than a creative decision in the show. Secondly, Missy wasn’t the Master to me. Although she was a good character, it never felt like she was the Master for me and I’m worried that’s what will happen with the Doctor now.

However, I’m willing to be wrong. In fact, I hope I am wrong. I wasn’t particularly keen on Capaldi being cast as the Twelfth Doctor, but now he’s up there as one of my favourites. After all, the show revels in change and the positive nature of the show says we as fans should be open minded to such things.

I always said if it was a female, I would still watch the show. I’ve not seen any of Whittaker’s work, so I can’t judge her acting ability and it wouldn’t be fair to dismiss her because of her gender, so I will definitely keep watching with an open mind.

I think Colin Baker summed it up pretty well with his tweet that read: Change my dears and not a moment too soon - she IS the Doctor whether you like it or not!
And he should know. I don’t think even this casting choice will be as controversial as his costume choice!

So there we have it, Whittaker IS the Doctor now. We’ve got a year to come to terms with that, so let’s just wait and see what happens and try to embrace the change. And let’s not forget, we’ve still got one more episode from Capaldi to enjoy yet!

Suman (News)

Back during the speculation surrounding Matt Smith's replacement, I was adamantly against the suggestions of a female Doctor. I felt that it would be wrong for the show to co-opt an established male lead just for the sake of casting a woman in the part, and that effort should instead be put into creating more original sci-fi lead roles for women, including those of the Doctor's companions.

Four years later, I am genuinely delighted by Sunday's announcement. A lot of credit for this goes to the extensive groundwork that Steven Moffat laid for this eventuality during his time as showrunner, most notably the introduction of Missy. Initially unsure, I grew to be completely convinced by Michelle Gomez's flawless portrayal of a female Master, with her appearance alongside John Simm's incarnation in _The Doctor Falls_ leaving me with no trouble buying into the fact that they were the same person.

That's what it feels like with Jodie Whittaker's Doctor. Far from the role having been hijacked for reasons of political correctness or to generate hype, Chris Chibnall's undeniably brave casting decision nevertheless now feels like a natural choice for the character. In addition, Whittaker's casting opens up exciting new avenues both for the Doctor and the show itself, whilst her impressive talent in both comedic and dramatic roles reassures me that the role remains in safe hands, regardless of gender.

And whilst a female Doctor makes sense to me within the context of the show, I've also been struck by how I've reacted personally. It somehow means a lot that a character I've long admired for his courage, compassion and integrity will now be played by someone of the same gender as me, but to my own surprise I didn't realise just how much it mattered until it became a reality.

As for anyone reading this who is still anxious about a female Doctor, hang in there. Your feelings are certainly understandable - I've been there myself - but I can only hope you give Whittaker the same chance you would give any male taking on this most iconic of roles. And who knows, you might even change your mind along the way. I did.

Suzanne (Opinion Pieces)

When excitement disputes it to disappointment… For over 50 years, the Doctor had worn a masculine face and I was pretty content about that fact. If you remember, he started as a grandfather figure and was referred to as “he” by Susan, his own granddaughter. Today, this picture shattered into pieces as the Doctor is about to wear a new face. The Doctor is no longer a grandfather figure; he is an alien who can take any face and gender available. He knew how to dance as a male; he will learn how to dance as a female.

Truth be told, I’m saddened to see that the notion of gender has spoiled ‘Doctor Who’. To me, it feels like the show is desperately trying to stick to certain standards and expectations in order to make the buzz and gain as much viewers as possible. Sure, it’s been going on for years, entertainment being a business like any other, but which Whovian hasn’t dreamt that their beloved show was immune to such trivial considerations?

But as a friend stated after the announcement:
“Either Chris revolutionises the show or he kills it.”

Time will tell… In the meantime, congratulations to Jodie Whittaker for getting the part!

Patrick (News)

Wow. Just wow. Even the day after, I'm still buzzing over the idea of the first female Doctor. Even just saying that feels utterly surreal. From just that teaser I get the feeling Jodie Whittaker will be a groundbreaking Doctor in performance alone. Shame then, but not unexpected, about the level of vitriol following her reveal. The short-mindedness of some people is pretty sad, but already Jodie seems to be taking it in her stride, so credit to her for gearing up. We really are on the cusp of an entirely new era of Doctor Who; not just in actors or writers, but potentially the entire direction of the show. I could not be more excited to be honest.