About damn time, right?

After over fifty years of white men, Doctor Who has taken a huge step forward in announcing Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch, Adult Life Skills) as the thirteenth incarnation of our favourite Time Lord, the first woman to ever play the part.

Since the reboot of the show in 2005, there have been five Doctors, including the late John Hurt as the War Doctor, and with each regeneration has come speculation over whether the new Doctor would be female (or, you know, just not a white man for once). Big names like Tilda Swinton, Helen Mirren, and Hayley Atwell have all expressed an interest, should it be possible, in being the first female Doctor. But, alas, the calls for a woman were unsuccessful.

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Until now.

It’s certainly been a mammoth effort on the part of Who fans in favour of a female Doctor, especially this time around. It felt natural with a new showrunner that the show should take a fresh, original turn and, what with feminism becoming more widespread in just the last year or two, there’s been a push for more female leads in TV and film.

So why did Doctor Who need a female Doctor?

From a feminist point of view, thirteen white, male Doctors versus zero women and zero people of colour is frankly embarrassing. Calls for a female Doctor date back to Tom Baker’s regeneration, and it’s been established canon since Peter Capaldi’s first series that Time Lords can regenerate between genders. Ignoring from the fact that any writer before then could have established this as canon by just hiring a female actress for the role, the time for a female Doctor couldn’t have been more appropriate, given the recent regenerations between genders.

YouTube: David Tennant on Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who Casting

It just makes absolutely no sense that an alien who travels in time and changes their body every time they die couldn’t regenerate into a woman. And there should be more women on TV. It really isn’t a huge stretch.

But even if you wanted to put feminism to one side for a minute, Doctor Who needed something new. Something new, something fresh, something so entirely original that dwindling standards could be reset, that interest could be piqued once more, that we could all so look forward to Saturday nights again.

Like I say, I did enjoy the last series. But it only takes rewatching a single scene of the Russell T Davies era (perhaps unfairly, I have been rewatching this scene, one of the finest the show has ever seen) to realise that, really, this series was only strong in comparison to the rest of the Moffat era.

Dan Goor (writer, producer, director on Brooklyn Nine-Nine) recently talked about the overwhelming benefits of a diverse cast. In having two black leads (the show also boasts two Latina leads, a gay lead, and one of the most progressive attitudes of any show on TV at the moment), the show had the opportunity to address racial stereotyping from two different perspectives (but both black perspectives, rather than an uncomfortable, whitesplaining situation).

We could see a similar advantage in Who. While each actor provides something different, there really is only so much a white man can offer and, after thirteen white men, I think we’ve seen enough for now. Having a woman (and, hopefully, a BAME Doctor in the future) offers up far more opportunities for different storylines. And no, not the ‘Tardis full of bras’ or menstruation-based stories that some dinosaurs are expecting, but storylines about historical sexism, about female friendships, about powerful female figures. That’s not to say Doctor Who hasn’t had plenty of those (Missy and Bill were absolutely brilliant last series), but the Doctor remains The Lead in the show, the powerful figure. Having a woman in that role is exciting and new, and makes the show more interesting.

Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant actor. If you’ve not seen Broadchurch, where have you been for the last five years? If you’ve not seen Adult Life Skills, that’s far more understandable, I only saw it recently (I reviewed it here, and you can buy the DVD in most places or stream it on Amazon Prime Video). Both demonstrate what a superb actor she is, and how well suited to a show like Doctor Who she is.

Doctor Who demands quality, and it demands originality. It’s a show about a shapeshifting alien who travels in time; if you can’t wrap your head around a female lead, then the show probably isn’t for you. I absolutely cannot wait for a quality, original take on the show from newcomers Whittaker and Chris Chibnall. Bring on Christmas.

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