Broadchurch star Jodie Whittaker has been announced as the 13th Doctor.

The latest in a long line of recognisable British film and television stalwarts thrust into the international spotlight following their casting as the titular Time Lord, Whittaker will make her first appearance in this year’s Christmas Special.

Too sharing with predecessors an accomplished career on the English stage, as widely reported in the press, Whittaker is also a woman.

This fact would not be noteworthy but for her being the first non-male actor to be cast as arguably the single most beloved character in modern British television. A welcome move according to many fans and an objectionable decision for some others, there are a few different issues at play here that don’t deserve to nor benefit from being conflated.

  1. Can the next Doctor be a woman?
  2. Should the next Doctor be a woman?
  3. Should Jodie Whittaker be the next Doctor?


Let’s have a look at these one by one then.


  1. Can the next Doctor be a woman?


In short, yes. Whether you’re a fan of the Capaldi era or not, following the casting of Michelle Gomez as Missy, previously ‘The Master,’ it is now established canon that Time Lords can regenerate into different genders.

The addition of Gomez, one of the better innovations of Capaldi’s tenure, meant that a woman being cast as the Gallifrey native was not a gimmick or one-off, but just another aspect of a world where an alien of indeterminate biological constitution who flies around in a blue box somehow manages to turn into a young, old, grey, blond, English and or Scottish madman at will, or when events so demand.


  1. Should the next Doctor be a woman?


One of the stronger arguments for the non-traditional casting call is that it would inevitably create a different dynamic to that which has come before – with Capaldi being fairly criticized for treading the familiar stylistic ground worn by his predecessors of decades-past.

Opening up the opportunity to performers irrespective of traits such as gender would mean well into our timey wimey wibbly wobbly future that the best candidate will fill the role when the time comes. Whittaker is now in the unenviable position that the cavalcade of press and attention that has accompanied her casting has not focused largely on whether she merits the role or what she might bring to it, but the fact that she is not a dude.

If the coverage of the announcement is anything to go by, Whittaker, at least for the time being, may be widely regarded not so much as the 13th Doctor or for her particular skills as a performer necessarily inherent to why she was chosen, but as simply the first woman to hold the role. I say the coverage because its not apparent that the outrage is so significant amongst fans of a series that bears implicit criticisms throughout regarding exclusivity and uniformity of character so as to constitute such a widespread backlash of the faithful so widely trumpeted.

Among a large base of contented fans there are certainly those less pleased with the decision and more than willing to express themselves, yet comparisons to the reaction to the recent Ghostbusters casting draw an inexact equivalence to the widely covered responses to the additions of Kristen Wiig et al. The casting of a woman as the Doctor, and Whittaker’s casting for that matter, came as no surprise and was strongly mooted for months if not years, following on from Gomez’s entrance and widespread fan calls for a new face to the icon.

If the producers’ faith in Whittaker is not misguided and she in fact the best choice for the role, it will be a sad state of affairs if she’s remembered among commentators for all the wrong reasons.


  1. Should Jodie Whittaker be the next Doctor?


When I wrote for The New Daily two years ago that Doctor Who could always be cast with a female lead after Capaldi left, I was, and am still of the view that a number of strong contenders, Bel Powley among them, could more than adequately fill the Doctor’s very big shoes.

Full disclosure – I have not seen Broadchurch (though plan to watch it in its entirety prior to Whittaker ensuing her tenure) and am not familiar with Whittaker’s work beyond two of her earlier outings. I’ll leave it to others to judge her suitability for the role and will gladly make my own determination once she has the helm of the Tardis.

As for now, I’m just as excited for the Christmas special as I have been for over a decade and hope that, in the event followers don’t take too kindly to Whittaker’s Time Lord, that it’s because of a bad casting decision, not her gender.

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