One of the most exciting aspects of Doctor Who is the anticipation of seeing the Doctor regenerate, and one of the best parts of this is waiting to see exactly who will appear as the next Doctor. The reveal has changed over the years; thanks mainly to the advancement of social media which gives more rise to potential leaks and spoilers. When Peter Capaldi took over the TARDIS in 2013, it was announced as part of a live television broadcast that was simulcast on BBC 1 in the U.K., as well as in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Capaldi then stayed in the role until this year, announcing back in January that he would leave the show after the 2017 Christmas special, at the same time as showrunner Steven Moffat steps down.
More than ever, speculation was rampant that we'd see our first ever female Doctor. Though the idea didn't sit well with some, fans were proven correct in their guessing, and Broadchurch star Jodie Whittaker was revealed as the 13th Doctor in a brief video shown on BBC 1 and across the globe via social media. In the immediate lead-up to the reveal Whittaker had become the odds-on favorite to take over the role, beating out the previous hot favorite, Kris Marshall. So, now we have our first female Doctor, but what exactly can we expect her to bring to the role?
Firstly, it's impossible to discuss Whittaker's casting without bringing up the subject of gender. Technically, any Time Lord (or Lady) is capable of switching form at any point in time, meaning that we could have had Doctors regenerating into all sorts of weird and wonderful alien creatures, male, female, or otherwise. So in that regard, changing from male or female shouldn't be something that causes an issue (though some might disagree, of course). We've seen a gender-swap take place before, when The Master went from being played by John Simm to being played by Michelle Gomez, whose Missy was the thorn in Capaldi's side throughout. Had Gomez's succession been announced prior to it happening, perhaps we would have had the same furor over the casting, but the gender fluidity that Time Lords are capable of gives rise to endless possibility in the future.
Any incoming Doctor has a lot of pressure to contend with, but perhaps none more so than Whittaker. In taking up the mantle as the first female Doctor, she now becomes a hugely influential role model for young girls everywhere. In the past, some great writing for some great companions has ensured the younger female audience could still connect with the show, but let's be real here: most of us want to be the Doctor, and not the companion. That's now a reality for girls everywhere, and it opens up an even bigger world of casting possibilities in the future. The change in gender also potentially opens up the possibility of a man in the companion role, something we've seen briefly with Jack Harkness and Rory, but not nearly enough. Either that, of course, or it's an all-female TARDIS, which is also a new and exciting prospect.
As an actress, Whittaker is exceptionally skilled in delivering subtle, nuanced performances that really pack a punch. In particular, her turn as grieving parent Beth Latimer in Broadchurch really showcased her abilities. She perfectly captured the initial hysteria that then gave way to deep heartache, and over the course of three seasons we started to see her come to terms with her loss and begin to rebuild her life. Given her work on the show, it's understandable why incoming Doctor Who showrunner, and former Broadchurch showrunner, Chris Chibnall, wanted Whittaker to become his first Doctor.
What we haven't seen so much of in Whittaker's work, is humor. That's not to say she hasn't got a lighter side; her breakout role in Venus, in 2006, saw her play opposite Peter O'Toole in a charming comedy-drama. The character she played was uncouth, yet invigorating, and she was captivating to watch. Whittaker delivered the comedic aspect of the script well, which bodes well for her turn as the Doctor.
Each and every Doctor has their own quirks and idiosyncrasies, and it'll be interesting to see Whittaker's take on the character. Certainly it seems likely that we'll see a great show of strength from her Doctor, as the roles she has taken in the past largely display a lot of grit and determination. Whittaker also made a point of saying how important the casting was to her, because it teaches women to break barriers. A strong Doctor will be needed, given that she is female, and it's likely that we'll see her come up against prejudice and opposition in some form or other, just as Bill (Pearl Mackie) did when she visited 19th Century London with Capaldi's Doctor in season 10.
Having struggled with weak writing and declining viewers, Doctor Who is badly in need of an overhaul. That has started, with the arrival of Mackie as Capaldi's final companion. Her energy and vigor made the show seem fresh and exciting, though the writing still brought season 10 down on occasion. It's up to Whittaker, under Chibnall, to keep that energy and excitement going, and that will tie in nicely with a strong, decisive Doctor. It would also be good to see her showcase a lighter side; Capaldi was very gifted at sardonic humor, but his Doctor could be a little pessimistic at times. Though that was somewhat rectified with the arrival of Bill, it would be good to see the Doctor get back to really enjoying her travels again; her sheer exuberance and joy at traveling through time and space could really bring the buzz back to Doctor Who.
Of course, an actor is only as good as the material they're given to work with. If the rumors are correct, and Chibnall wants to start with an entirely clean slate, then now is his chance to make sure he brings on board some new writers, in order that they can deliver some thoroughly entertaining storylines for Whittaker to work with. New villains, new monsters, new planets, yes; but also holding onto the classic elements that make Doctor Who such a great show. We still need the humor, the relationships the Doctor builds with others, and all the warmth and excitement that draws families in and ensures that Doctor Who endures for another generation. Doctor Who doesn't need saving... yet. But it does need invigorating, and Whittaker could well be just what the Doctor ordered.
Doctor Who will return to BBC America and BBC 1 at Christmas 2017. Season 11 will arrive in 2018
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