Sunday 16th July 2017. I'm watching the Men's singles Final of Wimbledon (Federer and Cilic) and I'm getting more and more nervous. Not about the result, I was pretty sure that Fed would win, but about the announcement of the 13th Doctor casting. Lots of reasons to be nervous: I don't want Capaldi to go - his incarnation hasn't been given ample time and certainly not consistently good scripts or even a consistent characterisation that I feel an actor of his ability deserved - particularly as he so wanted to play this part.
I am also anxious about the list of actors/actresses' names that have been bandied about in the press. Some so ridiculous I don't wish to repeat them here - people who felt that Ed Sheeran was the correct choice for the role really need to ask themselves if they've been watching the same show that the rest of us Whovians have for over 50 years.
And, for a person who has loved this show all their life and have mainly embraced its changes - it's a show that survives on change - I'm worried that a female Doctor will finally happen. Especially as odds on Jodie Whittaker (a name not previously mentioned) overtook the front runner Kris Marshall on the Saturday before the announcement - a repeat of Capaldi back in 2013.
I don't consider myself sexist and/or misogynistic - I have never had a problem with female leads in tv, film, theatre, bands etc.
So why then, when Whittaker was confirmed, did it feel like the end of Doctor Who for me?
"Who Am I? Who Am I? Who... Am... I?"
I've been reflecting upon the events of Sunday and why I am resilient to a female Doctor and why I stated (on various social media) that I wouldn't be watching the show I've followed for all my life.
As I've said I have never felt I am sexist or misogynistic, this casting has really made me question my own sense of self and values.
The next few points are what I have been trying to unpick in my head for the last 48 hours since the announcement and how I have been trying to make sense of why I couldn't bring myself to agree with the choice of the Doctor's gender swap.
- The biggest bugbear is that I feel what is perhaps in my head as canon (or as been implied many times) in the original series is being rewritten - this has been done a lot in DW I know but over the last few years under Moffat there has been even more disregard of the original in many ways whilst looking back for ideas far more then Russell T. Davis did during his run.
The 2nd Doctor was asked to choose from various (badly drawn) male faces when the Time Lords forced him into exile. There was no female face to be seen.
Romana undergoes seemingly voluntary regeneration, in which she tries out several different forms - all female- before choosing the appearance of Princess Astra. One is clearly a blue humanoid which seems to indicate that they can copy different races.
- The use of Time Lords and Time Ladies. I am beginning to wonder if Romana is ever referred to as a Time Lady? I would like someone to confirm this one way or the other. Is it just that press releases named her this rather than it being said in the series?
- The use of Rani (Kate O'Mara's villainous renegade) meaning Queen seems to indicate a Time Lord/Lady who has named themselves with a particular gender specific title. I know there is a band called Queen (yes I am a fan and yes I have their albums!) but it tends to make you think that this is a Time Lord/Lady who has remained in female form over various regenerations.
- Again names - Missy. Why rename herded from The Master other than to fool the Doctor? It indicates gender specific use of a name. Noticeably she didn't call herself The Mistress (thank goodness).
- We see other Time Lords throughout the original show in regenerated forms - mainly male it has got to be said - always regenerate into another male form. Lord Borusa and Rassilon spring to mind.
- I feel a regeneration into a female would have made more sense at the end of Matt Smith's tenure when it had been made into an entirely new cycle beyond the first 12 lives - this would have been a perfect point to rewrite the rules or at least re-present them and re-frame them. I wouldn't have questioned it because it would've been a new beginning and a fresh start.
Moffat, despite his bravado with so many other elements, didn't have the bottle to do it.
"It's The End... But The Moment Has Been Prepared For."
The next two points are not really to do with gender swapping or what has or hasn't been implied or made canon and these have been bigger factors in why I felt so aggrieved about the 13th Doctor announcement:
- My love affair with the show has been on the wain since Matt Smith's final series. I was/am sick of the lazy characterisations, forgettable aliens/villains/monsters, seeming pandering to try and capture various audiences, the fact that Moffat regularly had to explain a point/plot hole in the script via the magazine or whatever after the show had aired, overuse of Daleks and Cybermen, the Doctor constantly telling everyone he is the Doctor as a form of threat, sidekick (usually Clara) solving the problem rather than the Doctor, Clara, Cyber-Brig, flagrantly rewriting what, again, I and many others consider canon...I could go on. All
- I Fear that Chris Chibnall is the wrong man to run the show. His scripts thus far have been average at best - when he was announced I was disappointed. I almost think the show needs someone who isn't a massive fan to run it as they might not pander to fans who think they know what they want.
People always say their childhoods have been ruined when some show or film is remade or rebooted and is not as good as the original. This doesn't wreck mine, I wouldn't go that far.
What I will say is that the Doctor was a male role model that inspired me.
He was quirky, he didn't conform, he didn't always use a violent method to beat the villain, he solved problems, he was clever and he did action as well. He was authoritative but a man of the people. He cared and he made a stand. I learnt a lot from him.
As a teacher I've seen so many boys find this same role model and seek to imitate these traits and values since the series returned in 2005.
For some it is a father figure that they don't have in real life.
My feeling is that there are not many positive male role models portrayed on TV in this vein and by making the Doctor a woman a lot of boys will lose this male influence.
"What Are You Doing? No, Stop, You’re Making Me Giddy…! No, You Can’t Do This To Me! No!….. No!…. No!"
The other thing that has occurred to me is that I really dislike it that some people only came onboard with DW because they fancied David Tennant and Matt Smith.
They soon became known, mostly, as fangirls.
I have already heard a few men say that they will be watching the show because Jodie Whittaker is "fit".
I know that Jodie Whittaker is a good actress. I don't doubt that at all.
Part of my problem is that I caught myself thinking "she is very attractive." And that's why I then begin to question whether I am in fact as sexist as the people already making jokes about a woman parking a TARDIS.
I don't want my favourite show to become all about a fan base that watches purely for eye candy.
I want my Doctor to continue to be a role model for me too.
I'm sure Jodie Whittaker will be a great role model for many fans.
"Doctor No More."
I feel saddened at myself for vehemently stating I wouldn't be watching the show ever again. I think that the biggest issue for me has been the writing and inconsistency I've seen over the last five years.
I want to be wrong about Chibnall. I want the next series to recapture my interest and rekindle my love for the series that has been with me from childhood.
I want the Doctor to be back to his/her best and be the one who takes control and solves the problems and saves the day. I want him/her to be that mentor and friend. I want the Doctor to be consistently the Doctor.
I'm hoping that I can get beyond my initial prejudice and support Whittaker just as I have the previous twelve actors to play the iconic role.
Only time will tell.
Deinde usque ad tempus