You just thought you were done with Kevin and I talking all things Doctor Who. With the recent announcement of the 13th Doctor, we thought we share some thoughts—since everyone else on the internet has.
Kevin Harvey is the author of All You Want to Know About The Bible in Pop Culture and a fellow Whovian who enjoys watching and breaking down the latest adventures of the Doctor. You can follow him on Twitter at @PopCultureKevin.
If you are curious about our thoughts on last season of Doctor Who, you can read our full season 10 review and see links to our discussion after each episode.
Jodie Whittaker is the new Doctor. What do you think of her as an actress?
Aaron: I’ll be honest. I only know her as Beth Latimer from Broadchurch. I had assumed that she had done some other BBC shows I don’t watch, like Downton Abbey, but the crime drama was her highest profile show yet.
So I can only evaluate her from her role as Beth, but as grieving mother turned rape counselor, she’s been phenomenal on Broadchurch. Her acting in the first episode of the first season hooked me on the show from the beginning.
She displayed such depth and gut-wrenching emotion, I was weeping as she wept. That is partly due to the writing and cinematography, but much of it is due to Latimer’s portrayal.
I know she can pull off the emotion of the Doctor. I’m curious to see her bring out the humor and lightness of the time and space traveling Time Lord. I also want to hear her first big Doctor speech.
I don’t doubt that she can do those things, I just haven’t seen her do it yet.
Kevin: I’m in the same boat as you. I’ve only seen her in Broadchurch. Apparently she was in the trendy cult hit Attack the Block, but I never saw that.
But I echo your feelings toward her in Broadchurch. As with pretty much all the actors and actresses in that show, she has been simply amazing.
You mentioned the pilot episode, so I’ll go to the episodes in the second season as she learned to forgive and renew her relationship with her former best friend—the wife of the man who murdered her son.
I was hurting and conflicted right along with her as she reconciled her friendship with Ellie.
I will give her the benefit of the doubt, as certainly I should have with Capaldi three years ago, that she will be able to pull off the humor as well as the more dramatic scenes.
There is obviously no humor in a show where her character’s son has been murdered, so we haven’t seen that from her. But I’m betting on her, based on what we’ve seen her be able to do on the opposite spectrum.
What are the positives of having a female Doctor?
Kevin: The humor, first of all. The Doctor told Missy a couple of episodes ago that he couldn’t recall if he’d ever been a woman before, so at the very least there will be a lot of adjustments for the character to make.
Of course, those kind of jokes will only play well for an episode or two, and then the best course will be to just let the character become her own and not rely on male vs. female kind of humor.
The success of a female Doctor will rely on strong writing and delivery, as it does with any male Doctor, not potty humor and gender preaching. My hope is that they’ll just let Whittaker’s Doctor become a strong lead female character, which there are certainly not many of in the sci-fi world.
It could also be a positive to have a male companion, assuming that is the direction they choose, if he is done well also. I think of this summer’s Wonder Woman and Chris Pine’s character.
Even though they had a strong female lead as the hero, the writers resisted giving her a stereotypical goofball comic relief male sidekick, which was extremely refreshing.
I think the relationship between Diana and Steve Trevor, both extremely strong soldiers in their own rights, was a strength of the movie. My fingers are crossed for something similar in Doctor Who next season.
Aaron: Right. I’m excited about the new possibilities this opens up simply from a storytelling perspective. There is so much ground that hasn’t been covered since the Doctor has never been female.
(At that sentence, I can hear some of my fellow super Whovian nerds, cough and say, “well, actually …” and point to Donna’s brief run as DoctorDonna. I’m aware of that and as great as she was, Donna wasn’t the Doctor as in the lead of the show.)
This could be a truly groundbreaking and interesting season characterized by strong storytelling and exceptional characters.
Having a female Doctor can work for a character who can become virtually anyone. Nothing is necessarily lost by having the Doctor be female for a run. Nothing will be lost when the Doctor regenerates into a different ethnicity.
Those changes can work when the story calls for such a change and the writing capitalizes on the new situations, instead of becoming lazy by using it as a crutch.
I also don’t want to discount the benefits of on-screen representation. It does mean something for young girl fans to be able to better see themselves as the Doctor.
Obviously, that type of gender switching does not work with every character. You mentioned Wonder Woman. She should only be a woman. There are other characters that should only be male.
But a character that changes their appearance regularly and is from a race of people that have already seen gender changes, it is not unimaginable that such a character would be both male and female during the show.
It shouldn’t be a token thing, but I don’t think Jodie Whittaker is a token. I think she will be a phenomenal Doctor that pushes the show into a new, interesting direction with a writer and director who knows how to get the best out of her.
What are some potential negatives?
Aaron: There are dangers on both sides of the path. They can act as if it she was just another Doctor and not take advantage of the interesting dynamics having the Doctor as a woman presents.
They could also obsess over the Doctor being a woman and treat that as an excuse to not concentrate on the stories—resting on the newness of a female Doctor. Thankfully, I don’t see either of those as likely.
The only negative I’m particularly worried about is them using this to push a fluid concept of gender beyond the idea that a Time Lord can regenerate into a man or a woman.
Having established a lesbian companion, I don’t want to see this season center around what amounts to a transgender Doctor. I want them to capitalize on the uniqueness of a woman in this role.
If they do like Missy, it can be fantastic. She was the Master, but she was clearly a female version of the Master. That opened up new facets of the relationship between the two Time Lords.
I hope they do something similar with the Doctor and avoid using her being a woman as a crutch or focusing on her as a cause. Let her just be the Doctor.
Kevin: Amen to that. Let her just be the Doctor. I couldn’t have said it better.
My first and truly only fear since hearing the news has also been whether they would use this to make it more of a PC liberal-agenda kind of thing about transgenderism.
If this was NBC or some other ridiculous American network, I would be about 90% sure that was going to happen. But as it’s not, I’m probably more 50-50 on it.
If they do make it more about the liberal agenda, they will actually be doing a real disservice to the issue.
But if they can resist the urge to preach to us about fluid genders and just simply allow her to be the next great Doctor, then I think they could be setting themselves up for a great run with an exciting new Doctor. Only time will tell, I suppose.
Unfortunately, I do have to say that if it becomes what you and I are both fearing it could, this could be the end for Doctor Who and my family.
I’ve defended a great deal of pop culture using the argument of having good, healthy discussions with your kids, but a line needs to be drawn somewhere.
And if it becomes a platform for making fun of us who believe that God made us male and female, different, then we’ll have to say our goodbyes to the Doctor.
Any ideas on where this may lead for the upcoming season?
Kevin: Probably our first true male companion, not including Mickey and Rory who were more like tagalongs, although I did like Rory quite a bit after he stopped being the bumbling boyfriend.
Again, I’m praying that he will be a strong soldier-type, not like Mickey when we first met him in season 1.
It could also make for some great moments if we run into familiar faces who have never seen the Doctor as a female before. Of course, the jokes could get old fast, so they better not rely on them for too long.
All I ask is that they give her a strong story arc planned for multiple seasons and not make the same mistake they did with Bill, which was to just give us something we hadn’t had before, preach to us a little, and then end her character.
I mean, it’s been over fifty years of male Doctors. Surely there has to be a strong plan for the first female one, right?
Aaron: Here is where I trust Chibnall after his run with Broadchurch. Not only that, he headed Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood, a BBC comedy called Born and Bred, a British version of Law & Order.
He wrote for a high-concept time-traveling police show called Life on Mars (starring John Simms aka the Master) and he wrote some interesting Doctor Who episodes.
All of that to say, he knows the Doctor Who universe and he has demonstrated that he knows how to tell a compelling story with attention to detail. He has even written for a comedy before. This should turn out well.
Specifically, I’m with you. Partnering Chibnall and Whittaker should lead to a lot of fun and interesting stories this coming season—maybe even a male companion. (But I don’t want a love interest angle for a host of reasons.)
While I grew a little weary of everyone feeling the need to have an opinion about her casting, whether they had ever watched the show or not, the added interest cannot hurt the show.
I’m looking for a duo in Chibnall and Whittaker who are anxious to take this next step in their careers and who have proven they know how to tell a great story on screen.
I’d love to see some previous characters come back (Captain Jack, Madame Vastra, Ashildr or even previous companions like Nardole, Donna and your beloved Clara) just to give the show an added touch of connectivity, since so much else is changing.
I hope we get some decent villains. If Chibnall can create some new iconic ones, I’m OK with that, but if not, just do previous bad guys justice.
All in all, bringing Whittaker on board has made me excited about the next season of Doctor Who and leads me to classify Broadchurch now as a multi-Doctor adventure.
Here’s hoping Chibnall can sneak a scene on the show with one (or both) Whittaker and former Doctor David Tennant using a screwdriver.