Let me tell you a story. I was working in a nursery a few years back. Tiny little place, class size of 8 children if we were lucky. One day I turned up to work as usual, then about half way through the morning I realised I had a sonic screwdriver in my pocket. Matt Smith’s sonic to be accurate. I completely forgot it was in there, and as I went to put it away one of the young lads came running up and asked “Is that from Doctor Who?” I was amazed. Even when you think Doctor Who is failing, it’s still Britain’s biggest TV institution. It’s still utterly recognisable. Peter Capaldi was this kid’s first Doctor. The morning was spent with that little boy playing Doctor Who, and he loved every second. I see this all the time, young lads pretending to be Batman or Iron Man or the Power Rangers or any other super hero you’d care to name. And from experience the young girls are less inclined. They’ll join in certainly, but they won’t initiate the role play.
It’s been a fundamental problem for as long as media has existed. Little girls look to the television and see woman as what? Lead characters? Or side characters, swept away for the big boys to do all the work. When 75-80% of protagonists in movies and TV are male they rarely see anyone like them being in charge. It’s disheartening.
If you’re mad the BBC have cast a woman to play an alien with the ability to alter every cell in their body – rethink your life. Are you a young girl? If not you have no right to even care that much. The show isn’t made for you. Millions of young girls will look to the TV every Saturday night and see this woman as their hero in the same way millions of young boys have looked for 50 years and seen theirs. Yes she may be let down by scripts or directing or whatever like every Doctor has, but at it’s heart this will be a moment to look back on. The Doctor is now a character with endless potential, able to shift into anything and anyone we think is capable. And that is the most exciting thing to happen on TV for decades.
Doctor Who is another super hero on that list for young children. And now look at it. This decades old show watched the world over is about to revolve exclusively around a woman. Jodie Whittaker is becoming THE Doctor. A hyper intelligent alien with practical immortality teaching kids they can help using intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism. Young girls everywhere can BE DOCTOR WHO NOW! Let me draw some parallels with 1963. A Canadian brings the BBC an idea for this time travel show, he gives the job of producing it to Verity Lambert. She became one of the BBC’s first female producers. There was uproar naturally from the old blokes who thought it was a job exclusively for men. The show was a monumental success even then and we wouldn’t be here today without Verity Lambert. Jodie Whittaker is a change on that level, stepping in to do a job blokes have done for too long. The show also had a gay Indian director for it’s first few seasons so we’ve always been ahead of the times…
Doctor Who is a special show for those that get invested. Every Doctor has fans that will defend them to their last breath. Every Doctor is THE Doctor for a whole generation of kids and adults discovering the show for the very first time.
Hartnell. Troughton. Pertwee. Baker. Davison. Baker. McCoy. McGann. Hurt. Eccleston. Tennant. Smith. Capaldi. Whittaker.
Good luck Jodie.