Well, something happened in the Whoniverse recently. No, I’m not talking about the Christmas Special trailer (which looks awesome, although I am worried that Bill’s return will be another Hell Bent). In fact, I’m referring to this-
Yes, we have a female Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker. What do I think? I’m fine with the Doctor being a woman and it’ll be interesting to see Chris Chibnall’s vision of the show. However, this isn’t what this post is about. This is going to be about the fandom and how we all need to calm down.
This is not the first time we’ve had a change in Doctor, and not the first time the change has been controversial. Remember when Peter Capaldi was allegedly “too old”? Or the shock people in 1981 must have gotten when the Doctor changed into the young Peter Davison? Or how about way back in 1966 when without warning William Hartnell changed into Patrick Troughton? A character played by the same actor for over three years has suddenly become a different person without explanation? What is this sorcery?
I’m being sarcastic of course, but the fact is that this new announcement is nothing too controversial within the context of the show. We know Time Lords can change gender, we know the Doctor changes face after every regeneration. This is nothing new. There should be nothing controversial about a female Doctor, especially after Missy proved to work so well. Except there has been controversy.
Ignoring the usual bunch of people who will moan about any form of diversity in any media, the fandom has blown this announcement out of proportion. It’s even extended to attacking former actors who played the Doctor- Sylvester McCoy, who had previously spoken against a female Doctor (which is fair enough), changed his mind and supported this news, leaving many people to criticise him for apparently betraying the fandom. What? Can people not be allowed to change opinion? Peter Davison has had the opposite happen- whilst he hasn’t criticised the casting, he has spoken of his disappointment that the Doctor will no longer be “a male role model”. Now, whether his argument rings true or not is a matter of whose side of the debate you’re on. Yes, the Doctor is a male role model that doesn’t use violence and physicality as opposed to most other male heroes. However, with female roles like Rey and Wonder Woman, heroes of both genders are being more physical and action orientated. The Doctor is still a unique, mostly pacifist hero no matter what gender he is (I’ll use male pronouns until after Christmas). Either way, Peter Davison has a point and it’s a valid one that you may or may not disagree with. So why has the fandom suddenly treated him as the designated villain of all this and harassed him to the point he leaves Twitter? People are allowed opinions and it’s not like he went “a female Doctor is terrible”, he merely had concerns about how young boys may have lost a unique hero, which is a perfectly good reason to not be 100% supportive of a female Doctor.
Obviously this is not everybody in the fandom. Most people I’ve spoken to have either been positive or mixed and want to wait and see. I just feel like a lot of people on both the pro and against sides are acting in a way that instantly antagonises the other. Without trying to politicise this, it really does remind me of this recent UK election, where supporters of all sides behaved in a way that made it so that you couldn’t be supportive on one side without being viewed as a complete and utter villain to all the other sides. No wonder I don’t know who to vote for when I’m finally old enough.
Once Series 11 hits our screens and we hopefully have a brilliant Doctor, we’re all going to be wondering what the fuss was about. So why are we making a big fuss now when we could just listen to what everyone has to say? To prove this, I’m going to argue with myself about both why a female Doctor is good and why a female Doctor is bad-
Good: It shows that the character can change gender. A female Doctor can act as a role model to young girls as well as give boys a female hero to look up to (essentially how Sarah Jane was to my generation. Man, I feel old). It has given the show a new boost and new story potential (how will she cope in a historical setting? Will the primary companion be a male and will he have a similar dynamic with the Doctor than with the male Doctors with their female companions?)
Bad: Children will lose a unique male hero who runs instead of fights and who never tries to be a sterotypical male (this is the argument Peter Davison used. It has flaws but it’s a valid argument). The writers might use this as an opportunity to force her gender change in every episode (I have faith Chibnall is smart enough not to do this). If the next Doctor is male then the Thirteenth will be seen as a gimmick (true, but let’s worry about that when she regenerates).
See? I have presented arguments for both sides. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate both sides of the debate and see what people have to say. Obviously people who go “ZOMG! 13th doctor is a female! show dead rip!” without presenting any valid arguments or being against her purely because all the other Doctors are male are acting immaturely, but at the same time treating anyone who has any doubts at all, even the slightest, about a female Doctor as being sexist is putting them on the level of the ZOMG people and equally immature. I have doubts despite being supportive of this change overall. I am concerned how much of her incarnation is going to be the fact that she’s the female Doctor and not anything else. But these are concerns that come with any change in the show, just like how I was concerned about Nardole becoming a full time companion last series (before being proven wrong) or how I’m concerned Bill reappearing this Christmas will diminish her ending in The Doctor Falls. There’s a difference between being sexist and being concerned about how a major change in the show will be handled.
So, after all that, my conclusion is just to calm down. No matter what your view is, it’s important to listen to what others have to say. This isn’t the end of the world and there are far more important issues in the world than a fictional alien (emphasis on the word alien) changing gender in a TV show. Let’s all just wait to see what happens and be glad this show is still around and still being relevant after all these years. And besides, we’ve got a Christmas special to watch-