‘Doctor Who’ Fans Just Got a Sneak Peek of the First Female Doctor

After over 50 years of white men, something was bound to change.

July 23, 2018
3 mins read

Last week at Comic-Con, the very first footage of the very first female “Doctor Who” was revealed.

When “Doctor Who,” the BBCs sci-fi show about a time traveling alien, announced last year that their next incarnation of the doctor would be played by a woman (Jodie Whittaker), the fanbase was split between anticipation and outrage. The show has been on air since the 1960s and has seen 12 versions of the doctor character. Each time the Doctor dies he is “regenerated” into a new body and a new actor — all of which have been played by white men.

The core fan group who is offended by this casting choice is, you guessed it, men. And, specifically, men who have been loyally watching the show since it aired so many years ago.

Peter Davison, the white male actor who took on the role in the 1980s as the fifth Doctor, expressed doubt that the part could possibly be played by a woman because just what would the boys do then??

“If I feel any doubts, it’s the loss of a role model for boys, who I think Doctor Who is vitally important for. So I feel a bit sad about that, but I understand the argument that you need to open it up,” Davison said to the Guardian. “As a viewer, I kind of like the idea of the Doctor as a boy but then maybe I’m an old-fashioned dinosaur — who knows?”

It is part of the show’s canon that, as a 900-year-old alien, the Doctor can regenerate into absolutely anybody. Rules really don’t need apply.

Twitter user @anxiouslion pointed this out when the casting announcement was first made.


And Huffington Post felt the need to clarify for anybody wondering that “‘Doctor’ has no gender in English.”

Despite the outrage at her casting, Whittaker had nothing but kind, excited words to say about taking up this epic mantle in an interview with BBC. “I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet. It’s more than an honor to play the Doctor,” she said. “It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope. I can’t wait.”

So after all this disagreement on the gender of a genderless alien, the unveiling at Comic-Con was bound to receive attention. Thankfully, Whittaker was eased into the sometimes nasty world of Comic-Con fans and cosplayers with a video created by BBC America. The video shows just how thrilled the majority of “Who” fans are to meet her.

The actual footage aired at Comic-Con was a mere 40-second teaser trailer for the show’s 11th season. It features shots of Whittaker exploring alien planets and sporting the classic Doctor Who costume, all narrated with a voiceover from the Doctor herself.

“All of this is new to me. New faces, new worlds, new times. So if I asked, really, really nicely — would you be my new best friends?”

It marks a big step for “Doctor Who” to finally cast someone other than a white male in a role that necessitates no specific race or gender. The next move is to taken it even further. A black female Doctor, anyone?

Cameron Andersen, New York University

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Cameron Andersen

New York University
Cultural Anthropology and Gender & Sexuality

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