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The thirteenth Doctor Who


I suppose we need to start with the elephant in the room - the thirteenth Doctor Who is a woman! Now, this is not a particularly radical departure for those who have been involved in Who fandom as long as I have - the idea of the Doctor changing genders has been mooted for over forty years (even if possibly it was initially suggested as a joke) - and it had even already happened in some of the more apocryphal spin-off media - and yet to some fans, it might as well have been the end of the world. Yes, such a move might have been inconceivable when the show was originally created, but times have moved on. In retrospect, we can see that the idea of a female Doctor had been seeded in the show over preceding seasons, culminating in the Master regenerating into a female form, something which didn't seem to bother fandom all that much, so I'm not sure why it should be such an issue for the Doctor to do it. Actually, I'm not convinced that the fan backlash was as strong as some would have you believe - it was just a vocal minority stuck in a social media echo chamber, which shut out the opposite viewpoint so they could convince themselves that their opinion was widely held - this unfortunately is one of the curses of twenty-first century life. Jodie Whittaker's casting also coincided with the rise of a largely right-wing anti-progressive agenda infesting genre fandom, in which any attempt to portray diversity in media was attacked as "woke". (It wasn't just Doctor Who that got targeted by this bias.) A female Doctor with ethnically diverse companions, stories addressing racism, environmental collapse, historical extremism, mental health - all provoked a backlash that the show had replaced escapist entertainment with a social justice agenda. It just amazes me - if you don't think Doctor Who is about social justice, then I have to ask what the fuck show do you think you've been watching for the last fifty-odd years? (Deep breath, Andrew...) With regard to the casting, the main question for me was whether it would be just a cheap gimmick. Whittaker is a good actor, but I can't in all honesty say that she is ground-breakingly amazing as the Doctor. The thirteenth incarnation is written as something of a generic "Doctorish" figure: bright, talkative and enthusiastic - but Whittaker perfectly inhabits the character, imbuing her with a likeability and a love of life. There are also some good moments of social awkwardness and sometimes a lack of human empathy, because she is an alien after all. The gender swap doesn't take away the character's agency, which was surely the whole point of doing it. She is very much the Doctor.

Best and worst TV stories

Adventures of the thirteenth Doctor Who