Time Lord invention permitting, Whovian Leap reacts to the Thirteenth Doctor.
When a Doctor Who fan is about to discover who the new Doctor is, it is a probably bit like how Harry Potter feels when he is sitting beneath the Sorting Hat, as he anxiously waits to find out which house at Hogwarts he will be assigned to.
I sit underneath my own imaginary hat, Troughtonesque drain-pipe to be precise. Weary of Wimbledon, I gaze at my tellybox. The hooded Doctor is walking through a leafy glade towards the not so high resolution Tardis, the face still a mystery and I murmur my heartfelt wishes, “Please be… Beep! Beep! Beep! Evidence excised by order of the High Council!
The camera shows the Doctor’s hands. Are they male or female? A female Doctor is for the first time a real possibility – after all, the bookmakers’ favourite is now Jodie Whittaker. But it is the eyes that give it away. And quite unexpectedly, instead of disappointment, I feel a sudden burst of excitement. They have actually gone and done it. Decades after Tom Baker made a provocative joke about his successor being a woman, Chris Chibnall is now shaking the Whoniverse to its core and casting a female Doctor!
The fan excitement, the joy, the much-maligned “squee” running through me in that split second means that a female Doctor must be right. It just has to be. It is the same thrill I felt when Doctor Who came back in 2005, when Professor Yana revealed himself the Master and when the Eighth Doctor made his unexpected return to the series.
When Thirteen raises her hood to reveal her glorious new physiognomy, it is settled. I am a fan of the new Doctor. And I am just as surprised at my own change of opinion as at the Doctor’s new gender.
Wanting Beep! Beep! Beep! to be the Doctor probably meant that I was playing it safe. His Doctor would have been both strong and quirky with an added dose of heartthrob. A traditional NuWho Doctor, somewhere between Tennant and Smith. I would have undoubtedly breathed a sigh of relief if his Beep! mop had been revealed from underneath that mysterious hood. But hope is so much bigger an emotion than relief. And that is the emotion I now feel when I think about Jodie Whittaker’s casting as the Thirteenth Doctor.
Doctor Who is all about change. Fans always say how Doctor Who’s formula is so flexible and that is why the show has lasted so long. The Tardis can land in any time or place in history or the universe. Similarly, making the Doctor a role that can be played by any gender is nothing more than injecting more flexibility into the series’ format. And that prolongs its shelf life even further.
Doctor Who has to be a hit with the general public for it to survive. In recent years there has never been so much media attention and online interest among non-fans towards Doctor Who as there is now. The upcoming “Twice Upon a Time” and Episode One of Series Eleven will inevitably score very high audience figures. Skilled writing and fresh ideas from Chris Chibnall will then keep new fans on board and create a new generation of Whovians. What’s more, just like Rose Tyler, the Thirteenth Doctor will be a major pull factor for the female audience.
How will the relationship with her companion and other characters play out? What new non-male traits will the new Doctor display? However, any gender talk pales into insignificance perhaps if we consider the rather more important fact that we have a top-notch actor playing Thirteen. What’s more, in the long term, casting directors will have twice as big a pool of talent to choose from.
Whovians have all always had plenty to argue about, but this time, the usual heated exchanges of opinion have been rather more bitter and unpleasant. There is a strength of feeling on both sides which has turned into a total lack of respect for others’ opposing points of view and sadly nastiness too. Peter Davison has even quit Twitter because of the acrimony involved in the gender debate. And when the Doctor leaves the room, it means that he can’t be happy with us at all.
As soon as the Thirteenth Doctor proves a success, all will be well again in the Whoniverse. In Whittaker and Chibnall we trust. I am optimistic and fully support Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor. Beeeeep! would have been fabulous, but potentially not exciting enough for the general public. He would not have provided the shake-up that the show needs to survive. I am interested in the long-term future of the show. I don’t want Doctor Who to be made for me, but for future generations. After all, I will always have my City of Death and Caves of Androzani.
The Christmas episode will be one last hurrah for Doctor Who as we know it. Mondasians, Tenth Planet, multi-Doctors, Polly, oh my! Then, Phoenix-like, Doctor Who will be reborn, a shiny and new version of its former self.
In conclusion – to awkwardly misquote the First Doctor – I would say to the new production team – “Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I was mistaken in mine”!