Fri
Aug 4 2017 1:00pm

Doctor Who Breaks the Time Lord Glass Ceiling: Introducing Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor

Doctor Who's Jodie Whittaker

Where were you on Sunday, July 16, 2017, when the news broke that the 13th incarnation of The Doctor would be a woman played by actress Jodie Whittaker? In the coming years, we will likely look back at this time and ask ourselves that question, especially since we are participating in a character regeneration announcement heard round the world.

Given the show's premier stature, it's all the more potent that Doctor Who accomplished something many female fans, never, ever, ever expected to encounter in our lifetimes: the breaking of the Time Lord glass ceiling with the installment of a woman as the 13th Doctor (the existence of secondary female Time Lord characters notwithstanding. While important, their roles don't carry the same amount of weight.)

It's a momentous occasion, prompting many female fans to share their shouts of joy online. This lady Doctor Who may very well have a wide-ranging impact. For the very first time, girls everywhere will be able to see themselves (gender-wise, at least) represented in one of television's most popular and beloved roles. Let me say it again for those in the back—beloved. This isn't just any gender-bended role—it's Doctor Who! Female fans of all ages now have a chance to imagine themselves as a Time Lord jaunting across time and space to have glorious, action-packed, and wacky adventures. For once, we can step into a woman's shoes instead of a man's.

Being a genre fan of a certain age, my first introduction to the BBC's long-running saga was during the Tom Baker era. One episode, “The Horror of Fang Rock,” scared me witless, but the show was so fun I couldn't look away. Doctor Who is an iconic show, a king among kings. It means an enormous amount to Whovians both in terms of its wildly imaginative content and global pop culture impact.

The Powers That Be heard the desire of fans for a female Doctor and, more importantly, demonstrated how a show's canon can be flexible and fluid rather than resistant and rigid. Such a choice is more diverse and inclusive. Our new Doctor Who has the potential to broaden the show's appeal (not to mention increasing those all-important ratings!) by embracing female viewers and giving them another reason to watch. The show might even gain new female fans as a result.

The flexible approach to canon is important for another reason—boy Doctor Who fans will now have a chance to admire and be entertained by a female Doctor. It's a shame the show has been denying them such an enriching experience all this time, but better late than never. Subverting the traditional narrative will send a powerful message to male viewers, namely, that a female Time Lord as the main character is as valid and as necessary as a male one.

The 13th Doctor's gender also raises an important question—what will the shipping possibilities be?! What new dynamic will a lady Doctor Who introduce into the show's romantic-leaning mix? I can't help but wonder if Whovians will have a stronger expectation and/or need for her to become romantically involved with someone—or even just a hint of the potential for it—simply because she's a woman. Or maybe, like the other Doctors before her, she's fair game!

Regardless of expectation, here's an intriguing thought: might we anticipate some delicious sparks between the 13th Doctor and another female character? If she's lesbian, bi—or even pan—that could prove quite delightful.

Speculation is swirling that actor Kris Marshall (Death in Paradise) may play her companion. Maybe it's too soon to speculate about a potential love interest for him…or maybe it's not! What kind of pairing(s) are you looking forward to during this new, groundbreaking season of Doctor Who?


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Heather Massey seeks out sci-fi romance adventures and writes about them for Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly. She’s also an author in the subgenre. To learn more about her published work, visit heathermassey.com.

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5 comments
Jennifer Proffitt
1. JenniferProffitt
I think the casting of a female doctor was almost expected at this point, once they gave us the possibility of "Missy." I would have loved to see a person of color in the role so I'm hoping that for the NEXT Doctor I could see someone like Chiwitel Ejiofor or Daniel Kaluuya.
Heather Massey
2. HeatherMassey
>loved to see a person of color in the role

Same! Speculation was big about Chewing Gum's Michaela Coel being up for the role and I was like, "I am *so* here for that!"

Maybe from now on we'll be lucky and lots of people will get to see themselves represented in the Doctor!
Jennifer Proffitt
3. JenniferProffitt
@HeatherMassey, that's always the goal--or at least should be. But oh my gosh I would have LOVED to have seen Michaela Coel as The Doctor. I know names like Helen Mirren and Lupita Nyong'o have been bandied about for years. I just want to see some Class A flirting between Missy and The Doctor now... That's all I want from this life ;)
Sandra Schehl
4. Sandra Schehl
I've seen this actress knock it out of the park on the last three seasons of Broadchurch. I think that after the first few episodes all the nay-sayers will be eating their words, and be converts due to her talent. I do agree that there does need to be more diversity, and I hope that this will be addressed with other characters on the show
Jennifer Proffitt
5. JenniferProffitt
@SandraSchehl, I hope so! I think she's amazing. It's just a matter of if the writers treat a female Doctor the same as a male Doctor because that's where it gets interesting!
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