Dear Doctor Who fans: you can't always have what you want, so stop complaining
Doctor Who announced – Jodie Whitaker (Picture: BBC)

It says something about a fanbase when they can criticise a creative decision that affects their favourite show before they know anything about it.

But that’s exactly what happens every time there’s a Doctor Who cast change. Whoever gets the role, there are fans queuing up in droves to tell the rest of the world that the producers have made the wrong choice.

Note that this sort of behaviour doesn’t just happen once the announcement is made. It’s in the build-up, the speculation, the online chatter – and then when the news finally hits, the internet explodes.

It’s exactly what happened today when Jodie Whittaker was publicly unveiled as the 13th Doctor, making her hooded debut outside the TARDIS.

And that’s the problem. We live in a society where the fans think that their opinion actually counts for something – and I’d like to explain to you exactly why it doesn’t.

MORE: Doctor Who: Fans react to casting of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th doctor

Sexist? Moi?

If it sounds like I’m being harsh, it’s because I’ve been reading arguments about this for the best part of a solid year, and I’m a little tired of it.

Really, the fans have behaved despicably throughout this entire exercise – on both sides.

It’s wrong to assume that anyone who is unhappy with Whittaker’s casting is sexist. There are any number of reasons for opposing a female Doctor, and not all of them have their roots in misogyny.

Sometimes it’s just about what people think might happen to the show – as I’ve argued elsewhere, the idea that things will never be the same again, and not in a good way.

A female Doctor is arguably the biggest transformation the central character has had to endure since the moment Paul McGann snogged Daphne Ashbrook under a tree.

That sort of thing is always going to polarise people, but at the heart of much of the indignation is a deep-rooted fear of the new.

‘Change is never fine,’ Sheldon Cooper once said. ‘They say it is but it’s not.’

That’s completely understandable – although the show has been through so many big changes that we now take for granted (UNIT, the Time Lords) it’s strange that this one is being treated with quite so much disdain.

Still, we’ll let it go – for the sake of the argument let’s focus in on the people who are looking at this purely through the gender filter.

Right woman for the job

It’s frankly insulting to think that an actress of Whittaker’s calibre and reputation was hired because she was a woman – and that’s something you could say of the cheering feminists as well as the angry sexists.

There are two sides to this debate. On the one hand you have those who complain about ‘agendas’ – who assume that every creative decision made by the BBC is to tick the diversity boxes.

On the other hand, there are the fans who get cross when this doesn’t happen – and who consider that Doctor Who has a ‘duty’ to cast black / female characters because it’s morally and socially responsible.

This is ridiculous. The role of Doctor Who is, above all else, to entertain, and to tell engaging stories, with the best and most appropriate cast it can. It is not to be a beacon of social responsibility.

I’d be happy if the new Doctor were black, Asian, female, androgynous, gay, young, old – or a straight white male in his late thirties. I really don’t care, as long as they choose the right person for the job.

Dear Doctor Who fans: you can't always have what you want, so stop complaining
Actress Tilda Swinton was in the frame as a possible 13th Doctor (Picture: Ray Tamarra / Getty)

Is it at all possible that Whittaker was hired entirely on her own merits, and on the basis of what Chibnall believed she could bring to the table? I mean has that honestly occurred to anybody?

Or are both sides going to assume that she got the part – deserving or otherwise – purely on the basis of her gender?

Because that sort of assumption is appalling, whether you support Whittaker’s casting or oppose it.

It insults her. It insults Chibnall. And most of all it insults the BBC – something that’s sadly pretty fashionable these days.

The Doctor – whether you like it or not

Here’s something else: since when did the viewing public get to have any say over content or direction? Really?

You can blame the internet for this. It gave the fans a public voice and unified us in ways we couldn’t imagine.

It also turned us into the worst kind of people – those who got an inflated sense of their own importance, and assumed they knew the creators’ jobs better than they did themselves.

There’s a place for professional criticism and there’s nothing wrong with singling out bad writing or acting when you see it. That is not the same as assuming that the decision you would have made yourself is informed, sensible or correct.

Snakes On A Plane is a notorious example of what happens when you let the fans have creative control – it made an already bad movie even worse through numerous pointless additions that were there purely to keep the fans happy.

So to the fans who violently oppose the idea of a female Doctor, or a gay companion, or whatever, I’d say this: vote with your feet.

Use the off switch. Go back to the old episodes, or find something else. Refuse to watch out of principle – we both know you’ll at least tune in out of curiosity, whatever you say right now.

But don’t assume that you have, or are entitled to any creative control over the way your favourite show is written and produced.

You don’t. That’s not the way it works, and it’s better that way.