The 13th Doctor is Jodie Whittaker, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. The Broadchurch star is the latest actor to take on the iconic role of a time travelling alien with a peculiar affinity for modern day London, who occasionally changes bodies to avoid death. Every one of those bodies has been male – until now. Jodie Whittaker is the first woman to play one of the most iconic characters in British television.
We have finally broken the TARDIS glass ceiling, and while sexist men throw temper tantrums on Twitter, I’m over the moon and heading through time and space. This is long overdue. The fact that a woman hasn’t played the Doctor before is galling when you consider some iteration of the programme has been airing on and off for over half a century.
The unwillingness of some people to accept a woman doctor is indicative of misogyny and nothing more. If you can suspend belief to accept a body-changing alien time traveller married Elizabeth I then you should be able to accept that women, too, can be heroes.
True, the Doctor has had a host of compelling companions over the years, but these women were always defined not solely by themselves but by their proximity to the Doctor. It’s a subtle distinction, but one that matters. Martha Jones would never have been given the chance to save the earth if it weren’t for the Doctor, and Rose Tyler would still be working in that shop if it weren’t for him. These women – all fully competent and brilliantly written – were still defined by their relationship with, or at least proximity to, a man. They were there to support him, to correct him, to challenge him even, but in the end it as nearly always the Doctor – a man – who saved the day.
Well not anymore. The earth will be saved by a woman come next year. After half-a-century of being “assistants” and “companions,” women will finally be in control of not just their own destinies aboard the TARDIS, but of the destinies of entire worlds, including our own. The Doctor routinely saves humanity from invasion, natural disaster, and ourselves. That this person is now a woman means that little boys and little girls will watch this show and see that yes, women can quite literally be everything a man can be – including the saviour of the earth.
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The Doctor doesn’t need saving, she saves us. And just as the series’s Jack Harkness helped open the minds of a generation to different sexual orientations, a woman Doctor can help this generation accept women as strong, capable heroes.
In an age when an unqualified, unrepentant misogynist defeats a capable woman for the most powerful office on the planet, I think this is something worth celebrating. While the President of the United States continues to spew vitriol at every woman he encounters, a woman Doctor will be saving humanity. While overgrown manbabies tweet sexist abuse at female MPs, a female Doctor will be kicking ass and taking names from ancient Rome to Gallifrey.