Before Jodie Whittaker ever stepped foot in the TARDIS as the 13th Doctor, she was being inspired by a handful of classic '80s characters as a child. From E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to Labyrinth, the Doctor Who star was channeling inspiration from other characters within the fantasy and science fiction genres.
On October 7, 2018, Jodie Whittaker took over the lead role on Doctor Who from Peter Capaldi, becoming the very first female Doctor since the show's inception in 1963. She stars as the titular time traveler whose journeys through time and space often set her off on one adventure after the next. And, while this current season has Whittaker pairing up with human friends like Yasmin (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Graham (Bradley Walsh), while also doing battle with everything from spiders to trophy hunters, her off-screen childhood was very much rooted in fictional adventures as well - only, adventures she would watch in a variety of movies. In anticipation of the new season of Doctor Who, Whittaker revealed some classic '80s characters that not only inspired her as a person, but may have played a role in her approach to acting in general.
During the Doctor Who panel at New York Comic Con 2018 at Madison Square Garden's Hulu Theater, Whittaker was answering questions from fans when one member of the audience touched on the fact that the 13th Doctor is now an inspiration for female fans. This then then led to Whittaker being asked what characters inspired her as a child; and, addressing the fact that there weren't quite as many female leads in action-adventure roles during the '80s, she cited male characters like Mikey (Sean Astin) from The Goonies, Falcor and Ateryu (Noah Hathaway) from The NeverEnding Story, and Elliot (Henry Thomas) from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial as major inspirations. That said, she did point out that Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) from Labyrinth was a significant role model as well, saying:
"This is representative of the time I grew up. You know, I was born in ‘82. So, sadly for myself, in the sense that I didn’t feel sad at the time, they were all boys. And so, when I was growing up, you know, I mean, Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth. So, I had one. And a beautifully flawed character. Wonderfully flawed. You know, who has to question herself throughout."
Whittaker also mentioned that she wanted to be in The Flight of the Navigator - which, incidentally, includes time travel - and told the audience that she also wanted to be Gertie (Drew Barrymore) from E.T. "because she was ace." This led to Whittaker touching on the fact that these younger characters molded some of the inspiration behind her role as the Doctor, saying, "What I fell for was actually not the heroics in grownups, it was the heroics in the kids. And that tapped in for me, and that kind of energy that I’ve continued through life and I really wanted to bring to the Doctor because sometimes I think it’s a mythology that children are naive, and they’re not always. And very often, they’re the most intuitive and smartest person in the room, and I wanted to tap into that."
Even though it's still early on in Jodie Whittaker's run on Doctor Who, her childhood inspirations offer some insight into the direction audiences might see her take. Her upbeat whimsy and pathos already have flashes of familiar tones perfected by actors like Matt Smith and David Tennant from previous seasons, but fans now have a more narrowed view of other characteristics the 13th Doctor might reveal as her character develops.
Season 11 of Doctor Who airs on Sundays on BBC America and BBC One.