“Doctor Who? Surely now it’s nurse who?!”
Contrary to what my recent trawl through the misogynistic bowels of Twitter and Reddit have suggested, the decision to cast Jodie Whittaker as the thirteenth iteration of the Doctor is something we should all celebrate.
I’ll admit to being a lapsed fan of the program (and by lapsed I mean I haven’t watched it since 2007), but re-watching some of David Tennant’s episodes reminded me of the hugely gendered nature of the show as it existed then. In every single episode I viewed, the inexplicably dim-witted female sidekick does something daft to complicate the matter of defeating the baddies, only for the godlike Doctor to breeze in and pompously save the day.
The elevation of a woman to the leading role is significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, it sends a positive, empowering message to young women that they can be the ones to drive success rather than being reliant on any supposed male intellect.
Perhaps more significantly, the bright, complex, well-humoured character profile of the Doctor that Whitaker inherits allows her to break from the recent cannon of underwhelming female Sci- Fi leads. The last few years have seen a proliferation of female protagonists in movies like Wonder Woman, where initial promise has been let down by poor writing and underdeveloped characters.
But perhaps the most confusing argument from the online resistance to a female lead is that it makes no sense in the universe in which the show operates.
Maybe in the context of a franchise grounded in some kind of physical reality it would be possible to convincingly argue that the protagonist shouldn’t undergo a sudden change of gender. I’m thinking here of James Bond, whose character seems almost entirely built around a brutish, womanising masculinity.
But this is simply not the case with the Doctor; a 900-year-old time travelling alien with two hearts who is capable of completely changing the appearance of the body in which he/she/they/it exists through process of regeneration.
Given the Doctor’s blatant neglect for any of our fundamental laws of science, I don’t think it is too far-fetched that on one occasion out of thirteen the character’s physical body appears to resemble a human female rather than a human male.
Those ‘fans’ who continue to deride the change only serve to highlight their own characteristically-earthly small mindedness.
Image: Karen Borter