After 12 actors and 54 years, the popular British sci-fi series “Doctor Who” will finally be lead by a female star. Jodie Whittaker will play the next time traveling Doctor for its 11th season, slated to premiere in the fall. This week, Whittaker is making her first Comic Con appearance as the Doctor.
Yesterday, the show debuted a trailer previewing the new Doctor’s travel companions on the time traveling Police Box, which Digital Spy identified as Ryan (Tosin Cole), Yasmin (Mandip Gill) and Graham (Bradley Walsh).
Judging by what we know from the few photos and her debut at the end of the 2017 holiday episode, Whittaker’s Doctor is going to be a departure from Peter Capaldi’s more serious Doctor.
Whittaker’s outfit is colorful, much more so than any other Doctors from the reboot years (since 2005). If anything, her clothes look more like a nod to the original run of “Doctor Who,” with suspenders borrowed from the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and a colorful retro shirt that looks at home in the time of the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy).
Whittaker’s era will also usher in a new showrunner for “Doctor Who,” as Stephen Moffat stepped down with Capaldi at the end of Season 10. Most of the last series regulars and guest characters seem to have stepped aside as well. With Whittaker’s former “Broadchurch” collaborator Chris Chibnall at the helm of the show, this leaves the story of “Doctor Who” ready to go just about anywhere in the Universe. It can explore a tone not seen before in the series, and hopefully give female characters on the show as much complexity as their male counterparts.
“Doctor Who” was a surprise success for the BBC back in the ‘60s. When its lead actor, William Hartnell, fell ill and was forced to retire from the show, the producers came up with a solution for its alien character’s new face (replacement actor): give him the power to “regenerate” into a new form.
As time and regenerations went on, it became stranger and stranger that the Doctor’s companions became more diverse, but the Doctor remained steadfastly a white man. There were plenty of in-canon examples of Time Lords changing races and genders, even when just looking at the new “Who” seasons. The Moriarty figure to the Doctor’s Sherlock Holmes known as The Master (John Simms) was introduced during David Tennant’s era of the show before he was apparently vanquished. Instead, he regenerated into Missy (Michelle Gomez), a more coquettish foil for both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s tenures. The mysterious River Song (Alex Kingston) is kidnapped as a white baby and later, returns to the series as a black woman looking to kill Hitler.
While most fans are eagerly awaiting what’s next for the Thirteenth Doctor, some criticism on social media echoed the arguments against against casting Idris Elba as the next James Bond, claiming that the originally white characters should always be played by white actors. However, “Doctor Who” has always been a show about change. The characters’ attitudes, fashion and the show’s special efforts reflect the eras they were created in just as much as the story they tell.
Strong women were always a part of the “Doctor Who” universe. Sarah Jane Smith was an intrepid journalist who joined the Doctor on his adventure in the ’70s, and Martha Jones was both a doctor and a companion in the aughts. Donna Noble and Amy Pond were brash women who bravely went forth into the unknown with their Doctors. Now, it’s a woman’s turn to lead the adventures through space and time.