Oh, Brilliant!

“Is the future gonna be all girl?” sniped John Simm’s adaptation of The Master, back in 2017. “We can only hope,” replied Capaldi’s Doctor, thoughtfully. It all seems very fitting now, with the introduction of the first female Doctor, played by Northern actor Jodie Whittaker. It’s almost as if the producers of the show took a trip in the TARDIS, enlightening themselves with an alternative to the historical norm that women may only complement their male counterparts.

As declared in the BBC trailer, it’s most certainly “about time”. In fact, it’s been 55 years coming. Finally, young girls can look at the 13th Doctor and see themselves reflected back from the screen; young girls can have a go at holding the keys to the TARDIS. Whittaker represents someone they can be, and this is so important. For so long, girls have had to settle their aspirations to be the sidekick, the pretty companion. But now, Doctor Who is thumbs up for the other 3,790,590,000.

One of the primary concerns – aside from the whole ARGH! WOMAN!? DOCTOR!? NO! MAN DO BETTER! – surrounding the casting of a female Doctor was the idea that it would mean young boys would be losing a role model. Considering this from the perspective of parents of young boys, this is absolutely understandable. The Doctor, for decades, has been one of the very few role models for boys to completely condemn violence and instead encourage kindness and love. So, without ‘him’ as a him, who do they have now? Well, they have The Doctor. Regardless of gender, The Doctor’s values remain unchanged, and Thirteen is here for us all, boy or girl.

This seemingly mutual anxiety suggests a broader issue, aside from the sex of the actor playing The Doctor at the moment. Why don’t boys have more role models promoting love over hate and brains over bullets? Almost all superhero movies feature ‘super-cool’ fight scenes to achieve a positive resolution of the overarching issue. But shouldn’t we be sending out the message to young boys that thinking tactfully and talking things through is a way better solution to their problems most of the time?

Thirteen’s line, “Don’t be scared. All this is new to you and new can be scary,” almost allowed Whittaker to reach out to those worried about the prospect of The Doctor being a woman, and how this may change Doctor Who from being the show they know, love and remember. Ultimately, it must be remembered that The Doctor is a 2,000-year-old alien being from outer space, and that Thirteen is only one version.

Looking at the BBC viewing figures, they suggest that people came around to the idea of a woman Doctor after all. It was reported an average of 8.2 million viewers tuned in to series 11’s premiere to make it the most-watched episode in over a decade.

After watching ‘The Woman Who Fell to the Earth’, Thirteen, with her turquoise culottes and brown hiking boots, was as brilliant as I’d first anticipated. Whittaker’s energy and enthusiasm shone through her performance, channelling that of the 11th Doctor, and her wit was as sharp as I’d hoped. It was also refreshing to hear a Northern accent on prime TV – and not just used for comic effect. In the position of The Doctor it helps to eliminate the formulaic ideas of Northerners as dumb. Unlike in Broadchurch, Whittaker stuck to her authentic Huddersfield accent and, in doing so, comically confusing many American subtitle transcription writers.

The episode started, as ever, with Who, in medias res, so, thankfully, there was no time for an awkward transition. The whole gender switch was humorously addressed by Thirteen in one of my favourite lines: “Half-an-hour ago, I was a white-haired Scotsman”. We were also introduced to the trio of new companions and, contrary to my concern about having four main characters, it absolutely worked. With [companions] Yaz, Ryan and Graham being portrayed as such a diverse bunch of characters, the BBC exemplified how Doctor Who is a show representing inclusivity for people of all sexes, races, and people who face disabilities – avoiding falling into the trap of defining people based upon their physicality.

Doctor, yes, absolutely girl – womanhood suits you.

Amber Dawson