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Opinion: So where does Doctor Who go from here?

Jodie Whittaker has been named the 13th Doctor

Jodie Whittaker has been named the 13th Doctor (image: BBC Worldwide)

The views expressed in this opinion piece are that of the author. Polite discussion is welcome.

I have been a Whovian since the age of 7, thanks to my brother coming home from college and introducing me to this “great new show” he found on PBS. Yes, I’ve been watching Doctor Who since the only place you could get it in the U.S. was on PBS. That being said, this is probably the most disappointed I have ever been by a choice of Doctors. I wasn’t that big a fan of Matt Smith, given his age, but I said, “Let’s wait and see how he does.” I have said that with each new regeneration. I was tickled to death they picked Capaldi as the Doctor, because it had been so very long since we had an older Doctor. They had gotten too young for my tastes.

And now this…

Where to start. I am beyond disappointed in the BBC. They have given in to a very loud, but very small group and ignored the rest of the fan base. The minute you start jimmying around with a show’s dynamic spells the death of a show. How many times have we see seen this play out? And the fans? That’s even a bigger disappointment. A person can’t be disappointed in the choice without suddenly being slapped with the label: a misogynist.

Excuse me! I’m a woman and I’m disappointed! The Doctor has been the one stable character in my whole life. HE was always an alien, not given to quite getting HIS human companions. HE’s been out saving the galaxy from all manner of crazy aliens in bad costumes and silly accents. Now–all bets are off. I have already had several people know say they won’t be watching and one says she’s just going to be watching Classic Who with me from now on.

Geek Girl Rebecca as a genderbent 4th Doctor with Geek Girl Allie and her hubby Rod genderbending Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan

I do cosplay a genderbent Doctor, but I like my Doctors male. Seriously, are they going to turn it into Torchwood now and having the Doctor get bedded on every planet? Please, stop. NO, just no. This is supposed to be billed as a “children’s’ show.”

Granted, it had been telegraphed all series. So many hints dropped nearly every single episode, but especially with this last arc. I will admit, I got in on the Missy bandwagon and actually liked her at the start of her run. I did know it was a step to test the waters to see if Whovians would tolerate turning a beloved/hated character into the opposite gender. I liked Missy right up to the moment we had her nose to nose with John Simm’s Master and it was suddenly so blazingly obvious what a pale comparison she was to the “real thing.” It was absolutely gobsmacking to see just how pitiful the female version was to the male… how inferior. I’m not saying Michelle Gomez’s performance, but the character herself was so disappointing compared to the true form of the character.

This is what we are going to have with the New Doctor. Yes, she is a great actress and will do well with the role, but this is not a role for a woman. This is The Doctor, not Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman.

There are so very, very few shows out there with strong male leads any more. Nearly all shows focus on the woman and put the men to the subordinate role: Major Crimes, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow (season 2), Once Upon a Time, Orphan Black, Jessica Jones, Orange is the New Black, iZombie, Veep, Stranger Things, Jane the Virgin, and nearly all “comedy” shows cast men as slobs, stupid, and lazy to the point the woman must keep them in line.

I opened this up on my personal Facebook to see if I could get a nice list of “Strong Male Lead Shows.” I got a nice lists of shows, but even a lot of the ones listed are more ensemble than strong male lead, but a few do fit what I was looking for: Luke Cage, Daredevil, Iron Fist (Netflix does have a market cornered there and they are thriving), Arrow, The Flash, NCIS, NCIS: New Orleans, Turn, Walking Dead, Criminal Minds, (but then, these are all ensemble cast shows), Blue Bloods, Supernatural, House of Cards, and Night Shift.

Coming up with these lists, I have noticed that strong male leads have made a bit of a comeback now, than the list I made the last time I tackled this subject in Gender on the Screen: Where Have All the Strong Men Gone?

That still doesn’t change that only time and viewers will tell what will happen with Doctor Who. Part of this makes me wonder if BBC is trying to kill the Doctor again as they did in the 1980s when they cast Collen Baker and then gave him the most horrible scripts and outlandish outfits and slashed Sylvester McCoy’s budget to the point of some of the silliest looking aliens. I do not wish Jodie Whittaker a bad run, but I’ve not been fond of the roles I’ve seen her in. I won’t be surprised if Doctor Who’s ratings tank after the first episode. Just switching up a gender or an actor doesn’t help ratings after an episode or two of people tuning in to see who the new person is. It will take good writing and plots that the last few series have lacked.

We shall see.

For me, I’ll be watching Classic Who… at least until Christmas.

From the Editor: Get to know Jodie Whittaker in her own words here.

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4 Comments

  1. *Seriously, are they going to turn it into Torchwood now and having the Doctor get bedded on every planet? Please, stop. NO, just no. This is supposed to be billed as a “children’s’ show.”*

    How did you do the jump from a woman’s body to a sex-filled show unfit for children?

    That’s one of most obvious argument pointing to misogyny feeding your reaction. The other is how you seem offended by the idea of a woman in a position of leadership, like if it should be reserved for the men.

    Do you think Oliver Queen is less of a man, less strong, if Sara Lance share his space while acting and being treated as his equal?

    You define A Strong Man as someone at the top and the rest automatically ‘subordinate’. Doesn’t it say something that it seems more reassuring, more needed to you than the reverse?

    Try Brooklyn Nine Nine. You’ll have women and men characters on equal footing, and all of them Strong.

    • Rebecca Miller

      Actually, the comment came from Matt Smith’s run as the Doctor and in several episodes, it was implied the Doctor did have relations with quite a few characters and now the Doctor has had time to move on from River via Capaldi’s Doctor. Also, plotlines have been taking a much more adult themed and plots the last couple seasons.

      Actually, I like shows with strong female characters. Many of the shows I put in the “female” category are personal favorites. I inhaled “Stranger Things” in less than 24 hours.

      I also like Sara from Arrow and Legends. I was simply using the “guy in charge” as a quanitative method. The list spawned from a discussion in very diverse male and female friends on my Facebook.

      And actually, my big beef is I don’t like it when they take my favorite male characters and make them female. This was a major issue I had with Battlestar Galactica. I so wanted to like the show, but the changes we so jarring and my actual dislike of so many characters. Love Katie Sackhoff and will watch practical anything she is in, but I wanted to put Starbuck out an airlock!

      I do hope it proves me wrong and I like it. I will be watching. Shoot, I’ve been though 10 Doctors and I’m still around..plus going back for 1, 2, and 3.

  2. I think there are two misconceptions in your opinion:

    Misconception the first: that the showrunners or BBC “caved” to public pressure.

    I’ve never found British showrunners or writers to act like US ones. While they do enjoy hearing from their audience, they don’t really let that inform their writing unlike some US shows (*coughLOSTcough*). Doctor Who has always been thinly veiled public commentary. Episodes like “Rise of the Cybermen,” “The Idiot’s Lantern” and “The Lazarus Experiment” are a blatant discussion on our reliance on technology (Bluetooth ear pieces make us all robots, the TV is going to suck out your brains… face.. you know what I mean, we may be able to extend our lives through tech but SHOULD we?). I mean we had a whole thing about how car pollution will kill the entire world. Then there are other episodes like “Vincent and the Doctor” that speak beautifully to human plights like depression and mental illness. If you didn’t know this was a more liberal viewpoint based TV show, I’m not sure you were watching the same show I was.

    If the showrunners were just catering to the audience – they’d be making a Matt Smith look-alike. Doctor Who’s revenue exploded with Matt as the Doctor.

    Gender and orientation has never mattered on Doctor Who. The Doctor doesn’t care if you’re blue, red, human, male or female. The most amazing thing about regeneration from a story telling point of view is you get to give a 50+ year old show a new direction.

    2. I think there’s a misconception that “strong” characters (whatever the gender) have to be the hero. I think strong female characters are ones that are moms and show their bad-ass-ness that way (I’m thinking of Martha Castle on Castle). Game of Thrones is a great example of that, I think that Samwell is as strong (if not sometimes stronger) character wise as Jon Snow. Despite his fear, he saves Gilly and Little Sam.

    I think there’s a dearth of characters of any gender like the Doctor who tries to promote peace first, violence second. When I was digging through the shows I like, the only similar character I could find was Captain Picard. So, really let’s push for those.

    • Allie O'Neal

      I think there has definitely been a cultural shift away from the strong, silent hero that was so popular in the old westerns. Certainly Captain Picard was a huge part of that shift, and then Captain Janeway was another huge shift. While I agree that a well-spoken diplomat makes a great role model, there has to be room for different tastes in entertainment.

      I was thinking of Supergirl, a show that is certainly focused on a female and her sister. That show has two male leads whose personalities are stronger than even Superman’s: James and Hank/John. Both can be reflective at time, and both know that force is sometimes required. The show isn’t about either of them, but they are still examples of healthy masculinity, a concept that is very much in flux right now.

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