Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker has lifted the lid on the decision to keep her thick, natural accent for the Thirteenth Doctor. With Peter Capaldi making his final appearance as the iconic Time Lord last month, a new figure was required to take over the TARDIS and, for the first time in history, a female was cast as the central character in Doctor Who. Since Whittaker was revealed as the Thirteenth Doctor, the BBC have also unveiled her shiny new set of companions (including British TV host and actor Bradley Walsh) and the Doctor's updated outfit.
Whittaker's Doctor made her (very brief) debut following Capaldi's regeneration in "Twice Upon A Time" and despite not being featured for long, the new incarnation garnered a positive reaction from fans. After the Doctor spied a reflection of her new physical appearance in the TARDIS scanner, she uttered the now-immortal line "Aw, brilliant." Perhaps the most notable thing about the scene, however, wasn't what the new Doctor said but how she said it, with the Gallifreyan sporting a thick Northern England, Yorkshire accent. Although this is the actress's natural dialect, she has demonstrated the ability to speak with various accents in previous roles.
Whittaker has now explained how the decision was made to give the new Doctor a broad accent. Speaking with Doctor Who Magazine, the actress states:
“All the Doctors’ voices have been different. There have been various dialects and I knew coming into it that there wasn’t a rule that you had to speak a certain way. Obviously anyone who’s seen me knows that this isn’t the only voice I’m comfortable doing. If it hadn’t worked during the scenes in the audition process I’m sure they would have picked up on that immediately. So in a strange way, I don’t know how much of an actual decision it was. I think [the decision] happened before I was even cast.”
For some actors, a thick natural accent may be thought of as a hindrance but Whittaker's comments suggest that, by auditioning with her natural accent, new showrunner Chris Chibnall may have seen the actress as the Doctor far more vividly than if she'd have put on a more generic British dialect. Of course, it's also possible that due to Doctor Who's intense shooting schedule, the show's producers opted to let the actress use her natural voice so as to avoid the added work of constantly speaking in an unfamiliar way.
As Doctor Who fans will know, Whittaker's Doctor isn't the first to sound like they come from the North of England, as Christopher Eccleston's incarnation of the Time Lord spoke with that actor's natural Mancunian accent. The character even provided an explanation as to why someone from the planet Gallifrey would sound like one of the Gallagher brothers: "Lots of planets have a North." Interestingly, Eccleston's successor, David Tennant, decided to forego his natural Scottish tones.
Both Whittaker and her accent were largely well-received on social media following her short Christmas debut and there's no doubt that the voicing will give the new Doctor a certain level of Northern charm. However, Doctor Who is far more of a global property than it was during the Eccleston era and there may be a small chance that the Doctor's new accent could deter some international viewers.
Doctor Who is set to air in late 2018.
Source: Doctor Who Magazine Issue 521