Who Is Jodie Whittaker: 13 Thoughts on the 13th Doctor

Jodie Whittaker has just been cast as the 13th Doctor, to premiere at the end of the next Christmas Special once Capaldi has shuffled off the Doctor's immortal coil, and all day yesterday, people were sending me messages as to what I thought of the move. Well...

1. First, before anyone starts saying this is bad luck because of the number 13, let me remind you that because of the War Doctor, she is actually #14. So there's nothing to that even if I were superstitious.

2. Second, while I'm excited at the possibilities here, I honestly wish I didn't know yet. I know it's impossible this day and age to hide important casting news like this, much less not try to milk it for all it's worth over the months leading up to the new series (the costume, the companion, etc. etc.), but I'd have loved to see the Doctor regenerate into a woman and only THEN people losing their minds (for good or ill), instead of seeing it judged and debated on social media today. There were a number of times this last series where Capaldi's Doctor seemed to die, and no matter how much I enjoy him in the role, I wish they'd pulled the trigger right then and there. In other words, I crave SURPRISE.

3. So yes, it's a woman. I've been pushing for this (which implies some power on my part, to be clear, I have none) for a long time now. Perhaps ever since I saw Joanna Lumley in the role for a few seconds in Moffat's Comic Relief sketch, or at least since I heard the "Unbound" Doctor Who audio "Exile" with Arabella Weir as the Doctor. I would have trusted Moffat to do it, but was afraid the new showrunner Chris Chibnall or the BBC would chicken out. So glad they didn't.
4. NOT doing it at this point would have been anticlimactic. Moffat's floated the idea as far back as "The Doctor's Wife" and pretty much made it an inevitability when the Master regenerated into a woman. Series 10 was in fact replete with foreshadowing, from the Doctor making speeches about sexual fluidity to Missy playing the part for the length of a scene (just as Clara had for most of an episode in Series 8). People who are watching the show can't say they are surprised by the show, which leaves the ones who had abandoned it to be surprised. If a good surprise, I hope they'll come back. If outrage, the show was already not for them and I don't much care.

5. My theory was that Chibnall would cast Olivia Coleman as the Doctor, seeing as he had worked closely with her on Broadchurch, which he created and ran. She has a Doctorish look and the right sense of humor. I was half-right. He DID cast from Broadchurch, I just misidentified the actress who would get the role.

6. Whittaker has experience fighting aliens! My introduction to her was Attack the Block, which is an extremely fun monster invasion/base under siege movie filled with young actors who have gone on to bigger things since.

7. Okay, let's look at the video reveal:

There's not a whole lot we can get from this trailer. I don't know how much of her look here will be retained for the actual character, but the narrative, such as it is, is about the actress getting the TARDIS key and walking into the TARDIS. Who will actually come out?

8. I must say I was expecting an older woman, in part because of the gravitas usually associated with the Doctor, but I caught myself remembering Jodie Whittaker more from 6 years ago (Attack the Block) than more recent fare. She's 35, which is just fine, and puts her only in 3rd in the list of youngest Doctors. Younger Doctors have a vitality that plays well to action beats.

9. Here's what Whittaker said in an interview about the role: "I'm beyond excited to begin this epic journey – with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet. It’s more than an honour to play the Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope. I can’t wait." She gets it, and it seems we can expect a brighter era. For all the comedy in the Moffat era, the Doctor has become a dour, depressed, haunted man, and that has turned the show into something of a tragedy. Series 10 ended with a glimmer of hope in the darkest of times. If that's the springboard for the new Doctor, I'll be happy to see where she lands.

10. Despite Capaldi's great talent and an excellent companion in Bill, I've been hearing a lot of fans express what I'll call Doctor Who fatigue. The show's been back for 12 years and even Nu fans have learned the tropes and are having trouble mustering as much enthusiasm as they used to. The announcement that Chris Chibnall would take over didn't fill me with anticipation, since his Doctor Who episodes, like The Hungry Earth have been throwbacks to past eras and rather derivative. At best, he's been hit and miss between this work, Torchwood and Broadchurch. So casting a woman is the game changer the show desperately needed, something to create an entirely new dynamic, and just enough of a stunt to bring curious expats back to the program.
11. And face it, this is the Year of the Woman in genre circles. Wonder Woman just proved a female-led superhero movie could succeed commercially and critically, something that really didn't need to be proven except to whatever fuddy-duddies still couldn't see it. This is actually the perfect time to launch a female-led Doctor Who show, and it's been a joy seeing women and little girls react to the announcement all day on social media. I remember when they were just allowed to fawn over Tennant and Smith, but this time, they can IDENTIFY with the Doctor. And maybe we can get in on their old game of thinking of the Doctor as hot.

12. Whittaker is a good actress and a strong presence, but I dare say she's also pretty brave to do this. Unfortunately, she's signed up for the Misogyny Squad's ugly comments and hateful campaigns. We saw it with Ghostbusters and Star Wars. We're already seeing it with #MyDoctorHasaPenis and such nonsense (cuz I remember when there was a contingent of fans who screamed he didn't when RTD made the Doctor too sexual). No one deserves the GamerGate treatment. Whittaker doesn't even deserve to be pre-judged negatively before her first full episode airs. Anyone spewing hate hasn't learned a damn thing from the Doctor in the past 50+ years and they can f--- right off.

13. If I can end on the matter of Companions... That will be the next big announcement. Who would YOU like to see board the TARDIS with this new Doctor? Hard to say without knowing how her Doctorishness will manifest exactly. Will she still hang out with young girls, or is this to be a golden age for male companions? Just the single assistant, or more of a family feel (with the Doctor as more of a den mother)? The sky's the limit. I'm expecting at least one instance of a male companion being taken for the Doctor by an old acquaintance...


Anonymous said...

The one objection I had to a female Doctor was that the Doctor's traditional vibe, as essentially a trust-fund Bohemian traveling through the cosmos, might have to change a little. We have yet to see any of the writing, but her look, at least, seems not to get tripped up by the Doctor's "traditional" look. They're not just putting her in tweed and hoping we enjoy the gender-flip (like with Osgood); the outfit has echoes of the past but isn't bound by them. So far, so good.

I wonder what happens when the sexist types realize they've finally got a Doctor they can lust after. On the one hand, ewww. But on the other hand, will they even want to go back to a male Doctor after they've gotten used to one that makes them sit funny? I'm calling it, they'll gripe about her but they'll spend more time writing fanfiction where her clothes keep getting blown off like an old John Byrne "She-Hulk" comic.

dale russell said...

I like the actress and I have no problems with the casting. I just have a minor problem with the gender change. To me it just seems to diminish the contributions of the strong female characters throughout the Doctor Who series like Romana, Sarah Jane Smith and so many others. This is always an area that the doctor could not understand but now he/she got that figured out too. Of course I'll still watch the show and I enjoy it for what it is I just disagree with the philosophy

Siskoid said...

I don't see how it diminishes those other characters, no more than each companion diminished the ones before them. I don't think the Doctor was ever about not understanding women; he was about not understanding HUMANS.

Wright On Network said...

I'm excited about the choice. I can't wait to watch Attack the Block and an indie film where it looks like a failure to launch/arrested development theme. I'm too scared to watch BroadChurch.

dale russell said...

What about Romana?

Siskoid said...

What about Romana?

Gordon Richards said...

I was hoping we'd get a woman as the Doctor especially after Missy proved to be such a superb reincarnation of the Master. I had heard rumours that it might have been Tilda Swinton and I thought she would have been brilliant. Still Jodie Whittaker was great in Broadchurch...just hope she gets some good stories! Both my son and daughter are just as excited as me!

Brendoon said...

True, it WAS like unwrapping our (literal) Christmas gift early, but it didn't diminish the enjoyment of it. It'll give us six months of speculation of hows and whys even if we know the end result.
For half a second I actually WAS surprised at this reveal... ONLY because Moffat said after early rumours this doctor would definitely be a bloke.
It turns out this was only his opinion and perhaps a bit of misdirection on his part... he wouldn't have been casting for the coming series, after all!
I still hope Missy survives somehow.

I've noticed how differently the men and the women I know deal with conflict, (both good and bad, the methods APPEAR to be related to gender) half a universe we've never seen on this show.
Ugh, back to my "three wishes" of keeping adult themes to adult programmes and not on shows like this: I heard an episode of "Meet The Midwife" in the next room as I was working. Cor, not for the fainthearted. REAL adult issues, not just the pop-culture ones.
When the gal puts that on, ALL the boys find something else to do.
I'm SO glad the doctor isn't a cosmic midwife!

Brendoon said...

Six months? Er, four and a "half" months.

Simon Dyer said...

Saw someone on a forum comparing Who fandom to a child who's gotten used to one kind of sandwich and then being forced to try a new one. "Nerds are stunted and cannot make sandwiches without their mothers" is one of the weirdest arguments against change/cooking analogies I've ever read.

Brendoon said...

With sandwiches It's not just WHO, it's superheroes too.
If I'm honest I have to admit to ...possibly... being one of the stunted types. Not against our new Doctor in this case but in general: eg when it comes to priming kids for concepts of sexuality, I've still got Victorian ideas about preserving innocence.

But then the sandwich goes both ways... sure there's the er... conservative? Idea of producing kids programs for kids. Some weird adults like me still quite like the stuff which used to be aimed at 10 year olds, though I love a good expletive laced thriller at other times.
Then there's the more er... liberal? Idea of saying "I loved this so much when I was a kid that I want it to grow up with me. Bugger the rugrats anyhow! They'll never miss it."
(Ha! Dredd was an R18 but was originally created for an average age of 10)

Re the the NEW Thunderbirds, Gerry Anderson's estate quite famously told the old school fans at a convention that they're very welcome but are not the target audience anymore. They were told to sit down at the back and not muscle their way through the kids to the front.
I SO LOVE the courage it takes to do that... after all, the dollar usually makes all of our decisions, not a desire to protect kids rights.

Simon Dyer said...

They weren't saying any of those things. They were trying to disguise their own misogyny by saying the people they were speaking for ARE stunted. Not just cowardly, but incompetent.

Brendoon said...

Heh, always got time for a bit of incompetence as long as it's not someone else's.

Jerry Harris said...

Oh, I was pulling for Maggie Smith for a female Doctor. I can see it now. She rolls up on a Hoveround and confronts a bunch of angry Dalecks after she's just thwarted them. "What have I done? Why I've defeated you lot as usual. Surely this is not an unfamiliar sensation."

(Actually, I was perhaps more realistically hoping for Carey Mulligan.)

With this female Doctor, I am officially advocating for an American Doctor. Don't say it can't be done after this. I'd like Ben Browder in the part. I demand his Doctor drop at least three pop culture references in every episode. (Claudia Black as his intrepid companion is also a must.)

My only request for this new Doctor is to NOT act like any previous Doctor. That would defeat the purpose of this level of change, or else everyone will just see it as cheap publicity casting.

Brendoon said...

>My only request for this new Doctor is to NOT act like any previous Doctor.
Yeah! Dang right. Todays actors really do spoil us.

American? Bound to happen, unless Gallifreyans are naturally plummy. Do we know that for sure? Or not?
But we could look into a NON English speaking Doctor to REALLY get into the spirit of diversity too. (this is both true and currently impractical)
What if the TARDIS translated everything into... Mandarin, or even better, Phlondutrian or Grexxnian. Considering our broadcasts go off into space, we may one day wish we were less parochial.
The watchers on planet earth could ALL test our subtitle skills. It also becomes terribly educational, which, as you well know was the original purpose of the show. Ha. Imagine.

Brendoon said...

I SO wish there was more Capaldi.
Do you remember the fresh faced lad in LOCAL HERO? The film for which the soundtrack was more well known than the slow, sweet, quirky movie itself. Such a good one.
Check Capaldi out at about 1:18 on the trailer. Only JUST out of acne, I'd say...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for pointing out the elephant in the room, Siskoid. The series does indeed need a shake up after 12 years.


LiamKav said...

I don't think there's any chance of there being an American Doctor anytime soon. That would cause way more outrage than a female (or POC) Doctor.

I do wonder if/when they'll go for a non-white Doctor. Will they do that next? Will they revert to a white guy to reassure people before trying something new again?

As to 1. Anon's comments... they've already said that that is not her costume. The actor reveal gas come before the costume reveal for several Doctors now. It's a way of stringing out the PR.

Brendoon said...

I'm just glad it wasn't the Valeyard.
Colin's Doc 6 can relax now, the court hearing will never happen.

Anonymous said...

"With this female Doctor, I am officially advocating for an American Doctor. Don't say it can't be done after this. I'd like Ben Browder in the part. I demand his Doctor drop at least three pop culture references in every episode."

Those incessant pop culture references used to bug the hell out of me, like the writers were trying too hard to reach out to the audience. But then I eventually stopped being dumb and realized it was Crichton's feeble, futile act of defiance against an environment he knew nothing about. Referencing "X-Files" or whatever brought earth to him just a bit, and more, it brought other people down to his level a little by making them not understand him. So it was actually much better writing than I initially realized.

So what's it going to take to make Siskoid watch "Farscape" and review it episode by episode? Two lead characters have a hand up their asses at all times, surely that's a draw?

Anonymous said...

Here's Capaldi using an early sonic weapon:


Capaldi using his best paying sonic weapon:


And of course, Capaldi's most devastating sonic weapon:


Brendoon said...

Man, what PIPES the man has.
So what's next, I wonder?

Does he have a voice for Radio Drama, one wonders?

LiamKav said...

"Those incessant pop culture references used to bug the hell out of me, like the writers were trying too hard to reach out to the audience. But then I eventually stopped being dumb and realized it was Crichton's feeble, futile act of defiance against an environment he knew nothing about. Referencing "X-Files" or whatever brought earth to him just a bit, and more, it brought other people down to his level a little by making them not understand him. So it was actually much better writing than I initially realized."

That's certainly a lot better than the Guardians of the Galaxy alternative, where all these people from different planets are inexplicably fascinated when this one guy keeps comparing them to people they don't know called Mary Poppins and Kevin Bacon. I can only assume they are doing it to keep Quill happy for some reason. (Although I do find some of the jokes hilarious, so maybe it's allowed under Rule of Funny."

Brendoon said...

The rule of funny also allows us to hang on to the irony that, though some species SAY otherwise, Earth and its people are TOTALLY AWESOME!!

Siskoid said...

What if the TARDIS translates incomprehensible pop culture references into ones we can understand?

Brendoon said...

Man, you're freaking with my mind.
How FAR can this GO?

Siskoid said...

The rabbit hole is bigger on the inside.

Siskoid said...

Anonymous said: "So what's it going to take to make Siskoid watch "Farscape" and review it episode by episode? Two lead characters have a hand up their asses at all times, surely that's a draw? "

I'm staying off the daily review grind for now to concentrate on other projects - haven't finished DCAU yet, and Battlestar Galactica in all its forms would probably be next - but Farscape wouldn't be an impossibility in some more remote future.

Brendoon said...

It'll be interesting to hear your reviews of the newer BSG.
You can probably guess that I never gave it a shot!
The old one held every bit of affection imaginable though, at one time.

I never watched the new series because of the impression the ads gave: there looked to be a lot of sneaky intrigue, politics and backstabbing: the three things at the very top of my avoid list. (in essence, daytime soaps in space.)
I'm more of a sponge-hearted action adventure guy.

I hope my impression of new-BSG was wrong cos I'd love a bit of fun viewing... I also hear there's a movie or two showing Adama's back story, that'd be gold.

I also hear that what were essentially lizard-men-turned-cybermen are now man-made AI and not an alien race? Is this true? Ar we alone in this universe?

Is New BSG still a Glenn Larsen brainchild or is this from a different mind?
Ach, I guess all these things can be answered when you do your reviews.
I'll try to wait.


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