I realize I am three days late in posting anything about the announcement that Jodie Whittaker will play the next Doctor, but I wanted to share something that’s on my work desk. I grew up watching the original incarnation of Doctor Who, and these two autograph cards are of “my” Doctor and his companion (who also happens to be my favorite companion, with River Song running an amazingly close second.) The fact that Whittaker playing him/her next doesn’t bother me — in fact, I’m looking forward to it.
I will never understand just how so many men continue to get butt-hurt over the recasting of male roles with women. Battlestar Galactica, Ghostbusters, Doctor Who… Yet, it is still an overwhelmingly male-dominated entertainment universe out there. Putting that aside, in the case of the Doctor this is a character that gets recast every few years — there is nothing to say that the person after Whittaker won’t be a man again. Tradition be damned. In the words of my father-in-law, tradition is just a glorified habit. In fact, Doctor Who already broke with tradition when the producers cast David Tennant and then Matt Smith to play the role — historically, with one notable exception, the character had been played exclusively by middle-aged or older actors. The producers admitted that their casting was an effort to create a new generation of fans. Is the gender break really any different than that one?
I don’t believe so. Whittaker isn’t going to change or ruin anything I’ve loved about the show, because Doctor Who has always embraced change — it’s baked into the DNA of the show. The series literally recasts all it’s major characters every few years. The Daleks and Cybermen have actually evolved during the course of the show — which the last episode wonderfully acknowledged when it depicted “original” Cybermen. They came up with reason to grant the Doctor a new set of regenerations. Hell, continuity is, at best, problematic — something the writers and producers acknowledged when they introduced the concept of “a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff” during the Tennant era. Yes, there’s an awful lot of comfortable familiarity in the show as well, but at this stage, over 50 years after the show’s debut, no one can argue that there is anything sacrosanct or vital about any of the show’s traditions.
I sincerely hope that Whittaker’s run as the Doctor is one of the show’s most successful. It’s the best way to silence the misogynists and nay-sayers angered by the casting of a woman. Regardless, however, her time in the role won’t ruin a damn thing about what I love about the show. In fact, I may come to enjoy her portrayal as much as I enjoyed Christopher Eccleston’s or Peter Capaldi’s, Even if I don’t, for whatever reason, there was nothing about Eccleston, Tennant, Smith, John Hurt, Capaldi, or anything introduced or written by the producers and writers since 2005 has ruined my love for the Sylvester McCoy-Sophie Aldred era of original Who or the series in general. It’s all still there, right alongside all sorts of bad writing, questionable changes in direction and tenor. Yet, the love and joy for the show never diminishes. Whittaker will certainly bring something uniquely wonderful to the role, and I plan to embrace it.