The time Doctor Who fans have waited for has come, as the BBC announced today that after this December’s traditional Christmas special, 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi is passing the torch on to the show’s 13th Doctor: Broadchurch’s Jodie Whittaker, who will officially be the first woman to take on the role.
The announcement of a new Doctor — which came out after the Wimbledon’s men final — is part of a longstanding tradition for Doctor Who fans, who see a new leading man take on the iconic role every few years or so as the Doctor regenerates into a different form. And for the past few years, fans have called for the storied franchise to cast someone — anyone — who isn’t another white man, with names like Richard Ayoade, Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and even Helen Mirren being some of the favorite fantasy candidates.
Can't wait to find out if I'm Doctor Who! Fingers crossed!— richard ayoade (@RichardAyoade) July 15, 2017
But even if showrunner Steven Moffat (who is passing the show on to Chris Chibnall after Capaldi’s run is over) didn’t seem averse to the idea of a female doctor, the idea of the franchise — which has been a seminal part of television history for over half a century — casting a woman in the role still seemed unlikely.
Whittaker might not have been the most prominent name on everyone’s radar. Nevertheless, the actor — known for Broadchurch, Attack the Block, and Black Mirror — has nonetheless arrived to subvert a 54-year-old tradition of the legendary Doctor being a man. Even just a quick glance at the replies to the announcement makes clear that giving the Doctor a female form will be a controversial choice to some, even though the entire point of the Doctor is that the character is a thousand-year-old alien who’s free to take on any form it chooses.
This time, it seems, the Doctor has had quite enough of British men for an unusually long lifetime, leaving room for Whittaker to interpret the story in a way that’s never been done before.