About Dr Who – the latest incarnation
There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth this week over the long-awaited return of a certain popular TV show. Newspapers, social media – every form of media in fact – have deliberated over it, and surgically picked apart the perceived rights and wrongs.
No, it’s not Game of Thrones. I’m referring, of course to the old time-traveller himself, Dr Who, returning for his 13th series.
Oops, did I say HIM-self? Have I been left behind in some distant galaxy? The nub of the current furore, the weeping and wailing of the past week, has surrounded the decision to cast a female, Jodie Whittaker, in the role of the Doctor, a character that has been portrayed as a man since the beginning of time – well, 1963.
The resultant uproar has thundered across the airwaves. Devotees have yelled, ‘I’ll never watch Dr Who again’ or ‘it’s political correctness gone mad’ or ‘It’s a change too far’ or the classic ‘We’ve lost a male hero’.
All of which, with due respect, is baloney. Total nonsense. If you truly are a Dr Who devotee – which I am not – you would know better to suggest or believe that the leading character in the saga must always appear as male.
Sadly, I’m old enough to remember the first Dr Who, William Hartnell. In fact, I remember the first episode, which was broadcast in the UK the day after JFK was assassinated. I also distinctly remember my parents humming and hawing about whether this other-worldly new show was suitable for a young lad like me.
Dr Who was the televisual sensation of the year. Us kids all played daleks in the primary school playground. The timelord and his assistants were out of this world – quite literally. It was classic good guys vs bad guys – with the good guys always winning.
The question of who the Doctor really was and where he, she, or it came from never mattered. Until William Hartnell decided to call it quits. The newspapers were full of the dilemma facing the show producers. Either call a halt to the wildly popular series or somehow replace the leading character in a way that enabled some form of continuity.
And so, the extra-terrestrial doctor gained the ability to ‘regenerate’. Hartnell, an elderly, grey-haired man, was replaced by the younger, dark-haired Patrick Troughton, then the dapper and flamboyant Jon Pertwee, and so on. All this was explained away by the doctor not being a human, but an alien being who could transmogrify – or change appearance – when circumstances dictated.
All of which means that Dr Who can just as easily be a female as a male. In fact, the Doctor could conceivably appear as anything from a giant rabbit or a Darth Vader-like alien to a Scottie dog or even an inanimate object. Colour is no barrier, neither is ethnicity.
There is no justification for the complaints about the choice of Jodie Whittaker being too much of a change. The doctor has always been changing, this is simply the latest incarnation, no change is ever ‘too much’. Political correctness doesn’t enter the argument, since it was never specified that the Doctor was male. And losing a male hero? Seriously, people!
If it was a female James Bond or a male Miss Marple, I could understand the argument. Much is possible in the name of art, but these were literary characters with a clear and identifiable gender. The good Doctor is different.
For my money, the best Dr Who portrayal was by Tom Baker (pictured) and his very long and colourful scarf. I thought his namesake Colin Baker was atrocious and lost interest in the show at that point. To be honest, I had been rooting for Tilda Swinton as the first female but it will be interesting to see how Jodie Whittaker deals with the role.
If you really are a Dr Who devotee, you’ll take this change in your stride, safe in the knowledge that nothing has really changed. That this is the latest step on a long, time-travelling journey. And, I would suggest, time to end the wailing and gnashing.