So now we know what I have strongly suspected for months, the new Doctor will be a woman.
About a week ago, right after Wimbledon concluded, the announcement went out. And there were heard gasps of astonishment, moans of disappointment, and squeals of excitement.
As for me, I gasped in astonishment. Not because the Doctor was a woman - I confess I would have been slightly disappointed had it not been - but because it was Jodie Whittaker. Now, if you had asked me who Jodie Whittaker was even five minutes before I saw the Doctor Who reveal, I would have been clueless. If, however, you had asked me if I knew of "that woman" who played the mother of the murdered child on the series "Broadchurch," I would have known instantly who you were talking about.
"That woman" I had begun watching just two months ago when I binged the first two seasons of Broadchurch. In the series she is, quite honestly, amazing and powerful. The show itself is riveting. So, when I saw her revealed as the next Doctor, I was astonished.
I'll tell you right now what I know to be true; Jodie Whittaker will be an excellent Doctor.
I know this, not because I have a daughter is an ardent Doctor Who fan as well. Not because, during the AwesomeCon convention in nearby Washington DC, my daughter created a gender-bender version of the 4th doctor - which I thought, with fatherly pride, was a great costume. I know this because Jodie Whitaker is a wonderfully talented actor. And, yes, I use the term "actor" for both men and women.
I remember speaking with my daughter about the possibility of the next Doctor being a woman. I'll call her "M" for privacy reasons. M is in her early teens and she knew before I did that Capaldi was going to be leaving the show this year. She has seen every episode of the revived series at least once, and many of them more than once. So, two weeks ago - before she went off to camp for two weeks - I asked her what she thought of the rumor the next Doctor would be a woman. She hesitated. She was unsure
Why unsure? Not because she has a problem with the Doctor being a woman, but because it's a big change to a show we all love. A show that I've loved since I was only a few years older than she is now.
And she's in good company. Peter Davison, the 5th Doctor was disappointed that Whittaker was chosen. At the San Diego ComicCon he was quoted as saying, "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." Colin Baker, the 6th Doctor, disagreed, saying that it was "absolute rubbish." He went on to point out that "you don’t have to be of a gender of someone to be a role model." Can’t you be a role model as people?” I think Baker has the right of it. Davison's objection I think is more about a gender change for the Doctor and less about role models.
The Doctor is a role as well as a role model. It doesn't matter if the Doctor is male or female. The only real qualification, in my humble opinion, is the one that the vast majority of fans also really really care about.
Because it's vital. It's important to the point that, if this qualification is not meant, it will break our hearts.
We want the person playing the new Doctor to care about the series. We want you, Ms. Whittaker, to love this show. To care about its vital history, to understand that you are, in our minds, the next in line to a royal title. And it's a title that, even after you leave the show, you'll carry for the rest of your life.
While at AwesomeCon, M had her picture taken with David Tennant, a man who hasn't been "the Doctor" for the past seven years - excepting the 50th anniversary special of course. But fans thronged to the convention to see him. It was standing room only in a room equipped to handle thousands of people when he had a Q&A session.
Ms Whittaker, once you become the Doctor, You will always be the Doctor. And in many ways - along with the TARDIS key - you hold our hearts in your hands. That is where most of the anxiety comes from. At least for those who feel anxiety over the change. We only care that you care.
Assure fans of that, and I think most of the anxiety will settle.
Please love the show. Love your role, and we will love you. That's because your love for the show will be apparent, and that's all that matters to us.
Good luck Jodie Whittaker. Godspeed.
PS: I hope in some years ahead to bring M to a convention to have her picture taken with you, the 13th Doctor.
PPS: Not too soon, however, unless you're still the Doctor when you visit the convention. This habit of changing Doctors every 3-4 years drives me nuts. But that's another post.