The Thirteenth Doctor: Our New Best Friend

❉ “Seeing Jodie Whittaker’s look of wonder as the hood came down sold it for me. That’s still my mate up there, my hero.”

Sure, it’s a bit of an adjustment to see your lifelong hero gender-swapped, but that’s only really through familiarity. I’m thrilled. This is genuinely new. In 2018, think of how many fearless little girls that’ll be running around, waving sonics in the playground. The future of Doctor Who just got longer, not shorter.

So, unless you’re one of those people who only watches sport on TV, you’ll be aware that something happened today. Something pretty huge for representation. Something bold, and divisive, and likely to cause a fair amount of controversy. The new Doctor, who happens to be a woman, the excellent Jodie Whittaker.

Now, as we’re all very aware (unless you’re one of those people that only watches sport on TV), Doctor Who, since 1963, has been very much distinguished by the fact that the Doctor is a bloke. Well, he looks like a bloke. He’s an alien, who looks like a bloke. Okay, he’s had stubble, sideburns, an occasionally obvious chest rug in the past. But as we know, Time Lords can change sex as well as shape. This was always coming, it’s been teased throughout Steven Moffat’s time in charge. We’ve watched it happen to other Time Lords.

As incoming new showrunner Chris Chibnall no doubt knew, he had to do something bold and different with his vision of the show. He had to do what was best for it. He went for it, and cast what he saw as the best person for the job. That is a showrunner doing their job.

Jodie’s casting is a brilliant move. She’s a fantastic actress with range, and presence. Watch her shattering performance in Broadchurch, or her heroic turn in Attack The Block. I hope she keeps her Yorkshire accent.

Full disclosure: I am a Doctor Who fan. I am a massive Doctor Who fan. I’ve been watching Doctor Who since 1979. I’ve loved it since I was a very small boy. I’ve been privileged to meet some of its cast and crew, and to write for Doctor Who Magazine, which is a joy, and I may actually adjust to one day. I can spot Pat Gorman a mile off. When my email plays up, I get test emails from the Daleks, for crying out loud. I’m steeped in the show, and have been since I was three. Put simply, I love it.

Sure, it’s a bit of an adjustment to see your lifelong hero gender-swapped, but that’s only really through familiarity. I’m thrilled. This is genuinely new. And seeing Jodie Whittaker’s look of wonder as the hood came down sold it for me. That’s still my mate up there, my hero. It’s no more of a suspension of disbelief to look at the Thirteenth Doctor and see that she’s a woman than look at an unfamiliar young guy and think “He used to look like Jon Pertwee.”

Saying that the Doctor can’t be a woman because he’s a role model for boys is like saying that you don’t know any brave, funny, clever, brilliant women. On a good day, the Doctor is your best friend. Don’t you have any female friends? Grow up, lads.

Now, unless you’re one of those people that only look at sporting websites, you’ll probably be aware right now that a fair few long-term fans don’t share my enthusiasm. The most charitable thing I can say about the way most of them are acting is that they make the true fans, the people who love the show and want the best for it, look pretty bad by association. Some of the hurling of toys has been so nastily petulant that I would be outright ashamed if I hadn’t already seen the enraptured reaction from so many fans, male and female alike, who are all cockahoop at this bold move not only from Chibnall, but the BBC.

To the naysayers, I would say this to you. If your reasons for not being on board with this are purely about gender, the show won’t miss you if you are, as you say, done with the TV show that died today. Saying that the Doctor can’t be a woman because he’s a role model for boys is like saying that you don’t know any brave, funny, clever, brilliant women. On a good day, the Doctor is your best friend. Don’t you have any female friends? What about your partners, your wives? Your Mothers and Grandmothers? Grow up, lads. Actually, I hope that’s one of Thirteen’s catchphrases.

As we prepare to say farewell to the outstanding Peter Capaldi, it’s also important to note that this doesn’t mean the Doctor will never be a man again. Far from it. It simply means that the amount of brilliant people eligible for the role just doubled.

Doctor Who isn’t about our childhoods anymore. It’s been handed down. It’s not for us. We fans just tag along. Sometimes we’re given an old monster, returning character, or continuity reference that’s for us, but we aren’t the target audience. We haven’t been really since we were children, and a lot of us know that. Many of us simply just love the show for what it is.

Jodie’s casting is a brilliant move. She’s a fantastic actress with range, and presence. Watch her shattering performance in Broadchurch, or her heroic turn in Attack The Block. I hope she keeps her Yorkshire accent. Another fairly quirky looking young man in a long coat would have been too safe a choice. This wasn’t the time for that.

As we prepare to say farewell to the outstanding, brilliantly Doctorish Peter Capaldi, it’s also important to note, lads, that this doesn’t mean the Doctor will never be a man again. Far from it. It simply means that the amount of brilliant people eligible for the role just doubled. For such a wonderful, hopeful, inclusive show as Doctor Who, that wears both its hearts on its sleeve, this is only a good thing. In 2018, think of how many fearless little girls that’ll be running around, waving sonics in the playground. The future of Doctor Who just got longer, not shorter.


 Martin Ruddock has written for ‘Doctor Who Magazine’, the ‘You And Who’ series, and is a regular contributor to We Are Cult. He lives in Bournemouth with a beautiful, very patient woman and teetering piles of records and nerd stuff. He loves writing, and may write something for you if you ask nicely.

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