You may have noticed that, after the Wimbledon Men’s Final on Sunday, a short trailer was shown on the BBC to announce the 13th actor cast to play the lead role in Doctor Who. Even if you haven’t watched the show or seen the clip (embedded below), you can’t have escaped the reactions to this news from a very vocal group of men on the internet. Who would have thought that one single minute of television would cause so many man-babies to throw their toys out of the pram? Apparently, for some grown men, the world is going to end because a fictional time-travelling alien on what is essentially a kids TV show is going to be played by an actor who doesn’t identify as male.
It’s not even as if the character is the last bastion of toxic masculinity on our screens. There are plenty of shows and movies for these guys to continue enjoying – after all, someone’s still paying Clarkson & Co to make television and the Bond movie franchise is still alive and kicking – but somehow changing the actor on a show well known for its silliness is the end of the world. Back in 2011, I wrote a piece about Doctor Who for feminist website Bad Reputation where I commented that the show doesn’t conform to the tired old gender roles we’re used to seeing on television:
I’m not saying that the programme fulfills every feminist want and need, as it’s still chock full of cliches and stereotypes in places, but this is a story where the parts could theoretically be played by anyone. River Song could be Nathan Fillion and the Doctor could be Helena Bonham Carter. How great would that be?
For those who don’t know, when the first actor cast in the role decided to leave the show, the writers came up with a brilliant idea to get around casting someone new. They came up with a concept called regeneration, allowing a severely injured Time Lord to transform their body into a new healthy one and, since the show began, we’ve had only male actors in the role of the Doctor. However, we’ve already seen the other remaining Time Lord, known as the Master, regenerate into female form so it’s not as if fans of the show are being pedantic because the casting goes against canon. Clearly none of these internet complainers are actual Whovians!
In 2014, I blogged about how everyone needs a Doctor and managed to avoid using gendered pronouns when referring to the main character (not the actors) of this long-running BBC show. I’d hoped that a female Doctor was going to be in the show’s future and am extremely pleased that the new showrunner has not gone down the usual casting route. I’m very much looking forward to seeing Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor in this year’s Christmas special. Also, never forget…
‘Doctor’ has no gender in English.
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) July 17, 2017
Image via radiotimes.com