I’m absolutely furious, dear reader, and I feel compelled to share that fury with you. I’ve sat on the rage for far too long, and it’s time I got it out of my system before I explode. Yes, it really is that serious.
There was a recent, significant announcement that might just have passed you today, if you had your eyes closed with all the resulting media furore. Cast your mind back to the Wimbledon Men’s Final and the very significant announcement that happened very shortly afterwards; the identity of the next Dr Who, the 13th incarnation.
I know you will share my anger at the announcement due to one single fact; the actor playing the role is, in fact, not ginger once a-bloody-gain. This is bloody ginger-phobia of the highest order, and I speak as someone who has vague hints of ginger around his temples, so I have every right to be ready to explode.
Now that I’ve time, since the original announcement, to consider my options, I’ve decided that there’s only one particular response to this whole sorry debacle; I mean, we’re in the 21st century, for heaven’s sake! My response is going to be the entirely classic British answer of passively-aggressively complaining about it at every opportunity, whilst not actually confronting anyone directly about it – well, not beyond a safely-anonymous strongly worded letter under a pseudonym; “Disappointed of Kent” or “Not in This Time Story” (NITTS), for example.
I hope, by now, you’ll have picked up the sarcasm dripping from every word in those last two paragraphs. Dr Who, it seems, is going to be played by – the horror! – a woman. An actual, real-life woman! Is that even possible? I mean, the woman even has breasts; they’ll get in the way. In any case, how do those gender-bending Time Lords actually do it? Where do all their spare body parts go? I don’t know, and I have every right to know. I mean, I’m sure there’s a particularly-Dr-Whoey-type explanation that will pop up one day, but I want to know now!
What’s particularly intriguing is how social media has exploded with passionate and vivid commentary on the decision taken by the show runners; a lot of people are applauding the choice, welcoming Jodie Whittaker to the role and saying that it’ll be an interesting and fresh choice. They seemed determined to judge her on her own merits, as well as the stories that she’s given and her acting ability; you know, the things that any actor should be judged on. There are others in the Twittersphere who seem very concerned by the change of gender, and how this will affect the series. Most of this group of people seem to think that it will only make the Dr Who canon and history entirely invalid, as well as destroy their ability to enjoy the show’s continued success.
Well, that’s an opinion people are entitled to have, of course. I’m certainly not against freedom of speech. So, with that in mind, I’ve given this viewpoint a lot of thought recently, and let me give you my reasoned opinion off the back of the debate that’s happened so far. The thing about Dr Who, you see, is that …
I hate to break it to the haters, but Dr Who isn’t actually real. That might be hard to take in; I get that. People are incredibly invested in the series, as they feel a deep sense of passion and connection to the morals and the stories of such an iconic show, but that’s just it; Dr Who is a show. It’s the product of a series of brilliantly-inventive minds over the past 50 years that I am in awe of, because I couldn’t possibly come up the plot arcs, the inter-connected storylines, the complexity of ideas, and the appreciation of language that is formed in such a fascinating way. The script writers really are very clever.
So, there’s a certain fundamental concept we all need to buy into here; Dr Who is a fictional character invented by human minds, and so they can create the role in any way they choose. There’s no good reason why the role can’t be played by a woman; why does Dr Who have to remain male? Because you want to him to be a man? That’s just thoughtless gender preference and therefore invalid; you can’t answer “just because” and expect to get away with it, and any response that begins with, “But Dr Who has always been male” will also be ignored; yes. Dr Who has been male … up to now.
The role is fiction, continually re-invented inside the heads of script writers, editors, director, and producers. So, from that simple statement, everything else follows; if then writers want to create a female character in the role, then they can. It really is as simply as that. Go for it, writers; make the next doctor a feminist as well if you feel like it. Why not? She’s their creation just like all the previous ones have been. Just do one for me, please; find a satisfyingly clever sci-fi explanation of how a male Time Lord can become a female Time Lady; there’s got to be some explanation that’ll sound vaguely plausible. I don’t know what it is, of course; I’m just a fan.
In the last few years, we’ve encountered a couple of members of the Time Lord family who have moved between genders; one even moved from being a white man to being a black female, if you can believe such a thing was possible. What am I saying, it’s possible even if you don’t believe in it, because the script writers are building and creating that world view from scratch, so whatever they say goes. I know these things, as I’ve written enough fiction and created enough worlds to be able to decide the rules of engagement as I’ve gone along. Sometimes, of course, the character takes charge and directs things, but since they since in the author’s brain (as long as the author respects them), then that becomes the storyline.
Having spent the best part of an hour trawling through social media before writing this blog – I’m absolutely sure I’ve got better things to do with my time than spend that long on social media reading rage-filled vitriol, but then again, I kind of enjoy the desperation in their increasingly-intense discussions – I found myself wondering one thing; would this level of criticism be generated if the new actor was a male, but black? What about male, but gay? Well, there’d still be an element of criticism, but quite so much as there has been? Gay or black, yes, but at least he’s a man! You can almost hear the self-justifications and reasonings now, can’t you? A fictional character changing genders? Crikey, that’s a bit much, isn’t it? It strikes fear into the hearts of a dedicated minority, and it’s even preventing them from watching the next series. Actually, I apologise; I mis-phrased that last sentence. They’re preventing themselves from watching a programme they previously loved, all because her chest is a bit different than her twelve previous incarnations.
To these people who have written off the next incarnation without even trying, I can’t bring myself to retort, not really. I’ve had a little rant just now. of course, but that’s just an excuse to get everything off my chest. In reality, if you’re that fickle, then so be it; goodbye, and please shut the door firmly behind you when you go. Just remember one thing; every doctor has been criticised for something over the years. Matt Smith was too far too young and would utterly disrespect the role that was going long before he was even born. Peter Capaldi was far too old, if you remember, and wouldn’t have the pace or stamina or something equally as patronising to keep up.
So with that history, then why not try a female? What about a woman in an iconic role is going to destroy the franchise utterly? Each subsequent doctor has reinvented the role and made it his – or, now, her – own, so why not let this … woman … give it a go? Can’t hurt, right? Can it?
She’s not ginger, though, and that makes me very cross. Ginger-phobes.